The decision to retire from your career isn't one to be taken lightly. With retirement comes a world of repercussions, from the financial to the emotional. It's therefore crucial to put a reasonable amount of thought into when you retire. If you're not sure where to begin, these three questions can help narrow down your ideal retirement age.
1. Is medical care a concern for you?
First, let's be clear: No matter the state of your health, the answer to this question should be a resounding "yes." But if you have a known health condition, you should especially take it into account when figuring out when to retire. Recent projections tell us that the average healthy 65-year-old couple today will spend $400,000 or more on medical care in retirement, not including long-term care. This figure includes all of the (many) things traditional Medicare doesn't cover, from dental services to vision care.
That said, Medicare does provide critical health coverage to countless seniors, and without it, you may be on the hook for even more out-of-pocket expenses. Coverage under Medicare, however, doesn't kick in until age 65, so if you retire before then, you'll need to cover the cost of a health insurance plan and the deductibles it comes with.
Here's another angle to consider. If you retire at age 65, you'll most likely be limited to whatever coverage Medicare offers, unless you buy a supplemental plan. But if you keep working until your late 60s, you'll get a few extra years on your employer's plan, whose benefits may be superior to those offered by Medicare. Or, to put it another way, if you think Medicare will suffice with regard to your healthcare needs, you might jump to retire as soon as you're eligible. But if you need better coverage, you might choose a later age to retire so you can hold onto your employer's health benefits.
2. Are you prepared financially for retirement?
Though Social Security will help pay the bills in retirement, the average senior can't get by on those benefits alone. Yet an alarming number of older Americans aren't saving independently for the future. In fact, 41% of households aged 55 to 64 have no retirement savings to show for, according to the Economic Policy Institute. And older workers aged 56 to 61 have a median savings of just $17,000, which is hardly enough to make a huge dent in the grand scheme of what retirement costs.
When you think about nailing down a retirement age, you'll need to take an honest look at your nest egg and see how well it's likely to hold up over what could easily be a 20-year period or longer. While the idea of retiring at, say, 62, might sound lovely, if you only have $30,000 in savings at that point, that's probably not an option.
Also keep in mind that if you retire prior to your full retirement age for Social Security purposes (which, for today's older workers, is 66, 67, or somewhere in between), and claim benefits simultaneously, you'll lower the amount you get each month for the rest of your life. On the flip side, working past full retirement age can help boost your benefits so that you get more out of Social Security. If you're behind on savings, retiring at age 70 can not only give you more time in the workforce to sock away money but help you increase the amount you get out of Social Security.
3. Are you ready to leave your career behind?
Though countless Americans consider themselves unhappy at work, if you happen to enjoy what you do and the environment you work in, you may want to stay at your job for as long as you're able to handle it. Not only will working longer give you extended access to a paycheck, but it might even help you stave off health issues, like depression, which retirees are 40% more likely to suffer from.
Furthermore, if you've finally hit a point in your career where you've been promoted and are enjoying some well-deserved success, there's really no reason to give that up just because you reach a certain age. If your commute isn't particularly stressful, and your job isn't negatively impacting your health in any way, working longer might set the stage for a happier and more fulfilling retirement.
One final thing: Though many workers strive to narrow down an exact retirement age, you may be better off settling on an age range rather than a specific single year of your life. For example, you might aim to leave the workforce between 62 and 65, or between 67 and 69, and that sort of decision could allow for more flexibility within your retirement plan.