WASHINGTON — The average age at which U.S. retirees report retiring is 62, the highest Gallup has found since first asking Americans this question in 1991. This age has increased in recent years, while the average age at which non-retired Americans expect to retire, 66, has largely stayed the same. However, this age too has slowly increased from 63 in 2002.
These trends in Americans’ actual vs. expected age of retirement are from Gallup’s annual Economy and Personal Finance survey, conducted April 3 to 6. As part of that survey, Gallup asks retired Americans to report the age at which they retired, and non-retired Americans the age at which they expect to retire.
Americans’ average self-reported age of retirement has slowly moved upward. Gallup conducted several polls in the early 1990s and found that the average retirement age was 57 in both 1991 and 1993. From 2002 through 2012, the average hovered around 60. Over the past two years, the average age at which Americans report retiring has increased to 62.
Retirement age may be increasing because many baby boomers are reluctant to retire, Gallup discovered. Older Americans may also be delaying retirement because of lost savings during the Great Recession or because of insufficient savings even before the economic downturn.
Meanwhile, the average age at which non-retired Americans expect to retire has also increased over time, from 60 in 1995 to 66 this year. Furthermore, in 1995, more non-retired Americans expected to retire younger — 15 percent expected to retire before age 55, compared with 4 percent in 2014.
The age at which Americans expect to retire has been consistently higher than the average age at which they actually retire since Gallup began tracking both. This likely reflects changes in Social Security eligibility as well as the more challenging economic circumstances working Americans currently face, Gallup noted. Today’s workers are also less likely to have an employer-sponsored pension, and they may still be recovering financially from the Great Recession.
Young Americans Most Likely to Expect to Retire Before Age 55
About 30 percent of non-retired Americans in all age groups expect to retire before the age of 65. But 11 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds expect to retire before age 55, a much higher percentage than other groups. This could be because younger Americans, given the many years they have until retirement, may not understand the financial realities and challenges of funding retirement that middle-aged Americans are more familiar with.
The majority of all age groups expect to retire at age 65 or older. This includes 62 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, 62 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds, and 58 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds. At the same time, an optimistic 15 percent of the youngest age group expect to retire before age 60. Adults closer to that age are naturally less likely to think they will be ready for retirement by that point.
The pressure to be financially prepared for retirement is evident in the recent Gallup finding that saving for retirement is Americans’ top financial worry.
According to a 2011 Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index survey, the value of investments is the key factor determining when pre-retired investors say they will retire, followed by their health, the cost of healthcare, and inflation. However, according to a more recent Wells Fargo/Gallup survey, U.S. investors are highly cautious about retirement savings, saying they would prefer secure investments with low growth potential over investments with high growth potential and a risk of lost principal.
Although Gallup has always found a consistent gap in the age at which retired Americans report retiring and the age at which non-retirees expect to retire, both averages have crept up over the past decade. This likely reflects the changing landscape of retirement, including longer life spans, changes in Social Security benefits and employer-sponsored retirement plans, and lifestyle choices such as a desire to keep working after reaching the traditional retirement age, Gallup noted.
Given these trends, Americans’ average retirement age being lower than their expected retirement age may reflect today’s retirees hailing from a different generation. In the future, the average retirement age and expected retirement age may converge as current workers retire later in life, the survey found.
SOURCE: Gallup Research press release