If aging Americans need to work longer because their retirement funds are small, then the average age of retirement should rise accordingly. And, according to new research, it has.
A new Gallup poll shows that:
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.
Much of the blame for the increase likely falls on three things. The first is that Americans have not been aggressive in putting aside savings. Even many middle-class Americans have little money in the bank, and many live from paycheck to paycheck.
Another reason is the housing price collapse. For decades, Americans relied on the equity in their homes as a critical means to fund retirement.
The final reason is that more and more Americans are living past 80, and even 90. The sum of money needed to support these extra years of retirement has grown with the median age at which people die.
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Some of Gallup's conclusions support these three theories:
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.
Finally, there is one unintended consequence of this increase in retirement age. Traditionally, as Americans have retired, the vacated jobs have gone to younger people. This "replacement factor" likely does not happen at the same pace as older people continue to work. That may be among the reasons that young Americans, those in their late teen or twenties, have found it increasingly difficult to find work, even as the recession has ended.
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