Average Retirement Age in the United States

Is retiring at the average age a smart move?

Woman carrying belongings with happy retirement sign and balloons
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U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the retirement age in the United States averages 65 for men and 63 for women. Retiring at the average age can be a smart move if key factors have lined up in your favor.

The factors that affect your age of retirement are your personal circumstances such as health and residence, the recognized retirement age to receive Medicare and Social Security, and how well you have planned financially.

Circumstances Determine Your Retirement Age

The age you can retire at varies according to your circumstances. In states with a higher cost of living, such as Hawaii, California, or New York, you may not be able to retire early or at the age you want because you need to save more money to continue living in those areas.

People with college degrees generally have higher-paying jobs, which means that they can retire at the average age if they plan well. A person's retirement age also depends upon their standard of living.

If two neighbors make the same amount of money in a year, but one saves and invests while the other spends, the saver might be able to retire earlier than the spender.

The map below shows a breakdown of the mean retirement age by state.

Social Security and Medicare Retirement Ages

Many people have to rely on their Social Security benefits as a primary source of retirement income. To retire comfortably, you can plan to use your Social Security benefit as a supplemental retirement income source.

However, you have to wait until you're 66 or 67 to receive the full amount, depending up your birth year. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a person's age and birthdate to determine the amount of Social Security retirement benefit they will receive.

The SSA calls this age the full retirement age (FRA), which represents the age at which you can take your benefits and receive 100% of them. If you take them earlier, you receive less, and if you take them later, you receive more.

Your birth year determines your FRA. The chart below shows the ages, birth year, and the age you need to be to receive your full retirement benefit.

Social Security Benefit Birth Year
Birth Year Full Retirement Age
1943–1954 66
1955 66 years, 2 months
1956 66 years, 4 months
1957 66 years, 6 months
1958 66 years, 8 months
1959 66 years, 10 months
1960 and later 67 years

If you retire before your FRA, you'll receive a reduced benefit that will be your permanent benefit amount.

If you retire before age 65, you'll need to have a healthcare plan in place until you are eligible to enroll in Medicare—Medicare benefits begin at age 65. The SSA requires that you register three months before you turn 65, otherwise, there can be a delay, and you may be subject to a late enrollment penalty.

You may not always be able to set aside money for everything you want to. It's essential to make sure your health and financial future are taken care of first, then help your children if they need it, for instance. If you don't, you risk burdening them later with your own care and expenses.

Planning for Your Retirement

Long before you want to retire, you should look at building up cash reserves and develop projections based on various ages to start Social Security. Then, figure out how much you'll need to spend each year of your retirement. Depending on how you plan and prepare, you could spend between 10 and 40 years in retirement. Some expenditures you should take into account are:

  • Housing and utilities
  • Food
  • Health care costs and premiums
  • Children's college savings
  • Entertainment and traveling goals
  • Maintenance/replacement costs on homes and vehicles
  • Emergencies
  • Taxes
  • Spending on grandchildren
  • Leaving money to family

As you are looking for ways to fund your retirement, consider letting your money work for you by investing it. Investing uses the power of compounding interest on money to make more money. Try to build enough to cover your retirement expenses and goals. Individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k) plans, mutual funds, and many other investment instruments exist that can help fund your retirement.

Retirement accounts, mutual funds, and the various investment types all have different return and risk rates. A financial advisor can help you decide what to use to fund your retirement if you're unsure.

For example, if you start contributing $500 per month into a Roth IRA with a 6% rate of return when you're 25 years old and don't miss a single contribution, you'll have about $1.1 million in the account at age 67. You'll be able to make withdraws of close to $4,000 per month tax-free, plus receive your FRA Social Security benefit.

The same Roth IRA and contributions made until your 55 years old will net you about $500,000 in the account—at 60, it would have about $700,000, and at 65, you'd have close to $990,000.

The return in the later years of a retirement account net more because of compounding; more money is generating interest. The longer it is left in the account, the more it will generate.

Can I Retire Early?

While it's nice to think that you can retire early, it isn't always possible. Sometimes life throws things at you that can swerve the best plan off track. This is why it's essential to develop your retirement plan with realistic goals and lots of flexibility so that you don't miss a contribution payment.

The decision to retire early can be a smart move if you've planned and can afford to. Knowing how much you'll need, when you can receive your benefits, and saving for retirement can help you reach your goal of retiring early.