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Will You End Up Retiring at 80?

By Maurie Backman – Oct 15, 2017 at 9:36AM

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A growing number of Americans think they'll take the concept of working longer to an extreme. And that's a problem on many levels.

Though there's no such things as the perfect universal retirement age, many Americans hope to call it quits by the time they reach their 60s. In fact, if we go by Social Security's retirement calendar, today's older workers will reach full retirement age by the time they hit 66, 67, or somewhere in between.

It's therefore somewhat concerning to hear that more than 33% of middle earners think they'll need to work until age 80 or later before they're able to retire comfortably. Not only that, but the number of workers who anticipate retiring at or before age 65 has plummeted from 84% to 46% since 1991, or so says the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

In a green sweater and white undershirt, a smiling man with arms crossed stands on a lawn lined by large evergreens.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Now in some regards, retiring later in life isn't a bad thing. In fact, studies have shown that working longer has been linked to living longer. And there's no question that retiring late can pay off from a financial perspective -- namely, because it limits the number of years you're dipping into your savings, thus allowing them to go further.

The problem, however, is that many workers don't want to retire late, but rather, feel compelled to keep working as long as possible to make up for a lack of savings. And those are the people who might miss out on some of the best benefits retirement has to offer.

Can you really enjoy a late retirement?

Though retirement can be a fulfilling period of life at any age, most folks have more energy, and are in better health, during their 60s and 70s than in their 80s. Retiring at 80 or beyond means not only potentially compromising your health by working past your prime, but also missing out on those younger years of retirement where our bodies are better equipped to travel, explore new activities, and enjoy some much-earned downtime.

Here's another concern. While more than one-third of Americans might plan to work until age 80, they may not actually get the choice to do so. That's because an estimated 60% of workers wind up retiring earlier than planned, according to Voya Financial, and the reasons run the gamut from falling too ill to work to getting laid off to needing to care for a loved one. This means that those who are actually aiming to retire at 80, whether they like that idea or not, need a backup plan -- pronto.

Salvaging your retirement

If the idea of retiring at 80 or later sounds downright unappealing, there's a relatively simple solution: Start making smarter budgeting choices that enable you to cut down on your spending, and begin saving the difference immediately.

So how much of a nest egg might you manage to build if you prioritize retirement savings above all else? Let's assume you're a middle-earner making $50,000 a year, you're 50 years old, and you have absolutely no savings to date. If you manage to sock away $5,000 a year, which is 10% of your salary, and you invest that money at an average annual 7% return (which is quite doable with a stock-heavy portfolio), by the time you reach 70, you'll have $205,000 to your name.

Will that be enough to sustain you for what could be a 20-year retirement? Probably not by itself, but if you're willing to work part-time, then that income, combined with what you withdraw from your nest egg and collect in Social Security, will probably enable you to live a modest but comfortable lifestyle. And while this scenario does require you to work, we're talking 10 to 12 hours a week, as opposed to spending the majority of your waking hours on the job.

If you're younger and behind on savings, you have an even greater opportunity to salvage your retirement. Say you're starting at $0 and earn $50,000 a year, but you're only 40. If you set aside $5,000 a year for 30 years and manage an average annual 7% return on investment, you'll wind up with $472,000 by age 70. Throw in some Social Security income, and you probably won't have to work in retirement at all.

Before you resign yourself to a super-late retirement, think about what it'll take to free up more money for savings today, and decide whether giving up a few luxuries is worth the sacrifice. Or, to put it another way, think about how tired you tend to get by the end of your workday now, and imagine yourself upholding a similar schedule into your early 80s. If that's not an appealing picture, then start building that nest egg. Immediately.

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