It seems only natural that with people living longer and expenses rising, the average retirement age would increase. For decades, 62 and 65 were the popular ages to leave the workforce, but now many have a more-distant finish line in mind, and some don't plan to ever retire. A recently released survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that 55% of women and 53% of men plan to retire after 65 or not at all.

This is reasonable for those struggling to save enough for retirement, but it also comes with risks. You might plan to work indefinitely, but a family, health, or job crisis could force you to retire early. If you hope to remain in the workforce as long as possible, you need to take the following steps today.

Senior businesswoman talking on the phone

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Prioritize your health

People usually experience more health problems as they age, and this might prohibit you from working even if you want to. It could also cause you to run up costly medical bills that drain your savings faster than anticipated. You may not be able to shield yourself against unexpected injuries, but you can reduce your risk of illness by prioritizing your health at every age.

Eat nutritiously, exercise regularly, and make sure you're getting enough sleep. Kick bad habits like smoking and learn some healthy ways to beat stress, especially if your job puts you under a lot of pressure. When you become eligible for Medicare, take advantage of its free health screenings to assess your risk for various diseases and identify areas for improvement. Pay attention to oral hygiene, too, to cut down on costly dental bills. 

2. Keep your job skills up to date

Technological innovations sometimes push workers out of their jobs, and downsizing could also threaten your job security. You can't guarantee that this won't happen to you, but you can make it less likely. Make yourself valuable to employers and keep your skills relevant, especially if you work in a rapidly changing industry.

Stay on top of changes in your industry and consider going back to school or taking professional development courses. This can make you a more valuable employee and may help raise your pay, which can help you save more for retirement.

Don't forget about networking, either. It can lead to better positions and it may help you find a new job if you're forced out of your old one. 

3. Have a backup plan

You still need savings and a plan to fall back on even if you don't intend to retire. You never know if you'll have to step out of the workforce to care for a sick family member or for some other reason. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you don't need retirement savings or that your Social Security benefits will cover everything your job doesn't. That might be true, but you'll pay a steep price if not.

You should still have a retirement account and contribute to it regularly. You can plan to retire after 65 if you want, but understand that if you're forced to retire sooner, you'll have to stretch your savings out over more years; you may have to skip some travel or discretionary purchases to cover your living expenses.

If you'd like to avoid this, handle your finances as though you want to retire a little earlier than you actually do. You don't have to actually retire at that age, but if you feel like you're ready once you get there or you're forced out of your job, you'll have your nest egg to fall back on.

Consider a part-time job if you'd like to continue working but are unable to stay at your current job. Part-time jobs may enable caregivers to continue working, and they let you slowly transition into retirement, which may be preferable to leaving the workforce all at once. Think about the skills you have and the type of work you'd like to do and seek out opportunities that match that. 

You could also start your own business. It doesn't have to require a lot of time or money; if you have extra property or a spare room to rent out, it could provide several hundred dollars of income each month with little to no effort on your part.

Working into your late 60s, 70s, or beyond is possible, but you have to invest in yourself now for the best shot. If you've neglected your health, your job skills, or your retirement plan so far, do something before it's too late.