15 Reasons Why 65 Is No Longer the Ideal Retirement Age

Don't focus on retiring at 65, but rather retiring when you're emotionally, physically, and financially ready to do so. Here's how to know when to retire.
Updated May 8, 2024
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For many people, 65 seems like a magic number. It represents the year that many people decide to retire. Yet, it’s just that, an age that works for some people.

If you are planning for retirement, empower yourself to retire when it works for you, whether that’s at 65 or sooner. You might be wondering if you can retire early or if you need to wait longer. The answer depends on your situation.

Here are some of the best reasons you don’t have to wait until 65 to retire.

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You’ve reached your savings goal

kuznetsov_konsta/Adobe couple on a yacht

For some people, early retirement is an option because they have saved for retirement, worked to meet their financial goals, and are ready to not see their boss every day. 

If you’ve done the hard work and have what you need to be saved for retirement, don’t feel obligated to stick around longer. Remember, you worked this hard to fund retirement, not to leave behind money for others.

You need economic stability

luciano/Adobe senior woman in the supermarket checks her grocery receipt

Many people hit 65 and think Social Security is going to be enough to meet their financial needs for the rest of their life. While that was the promise of it long ago, that’s not enough for most people today.

Many people need to continue working beyond 65 because they need the economic stability it provides. It’s not exactly easy to fund a 30-year retirement, and living until age 95 isn’t all that unrealistic any longer.

Working longer is good for your health

didesign/Adobe smiling senior doctor in the hospital

While this isn’t true for everyone, those who work at least part-time during retirement tend to be healthier. 

They have fewer major diseases, likely thanks to remaining both physically and cognitively active later in life. Social interaction is good for you, too.

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Your full retirement age could be older

Monkey Business/Adobe family celebrating 70th birthday together

In 1983, Congress put in place a law to extend retirement age beyond 65, pushing off full retirement until the age of 67 for those born in 1960 and later. 

At that age, you qualify for Social Security benefits that aren’t reduced. You can receive the highest amount of your Social Security payments if you wait until age 70.

A smaller check is good enough for you

Natalja/Adobe couple is sitting at the dining table in winter clothes at home

If you save for retirement now and work to build up your nest egg, you may not have to worry about your full retirement age but instead be OK with retiring early. 

You can retire as early as age 62, though you will not receive as much money as if you waited until your full retirement age. Yet, if you have enough tucked away, why wait?

Your work adds value to your life

peopleimages.com/Adobe businesswomen

Some people don’t see 65 as “old enough” to hang up their hat because there’s still work to be done. You may find value in working longer, and for some, the work they do is a direct benefit to the community or other people.

If you are healthy and don’t want to stop doing what you love, there’s no rule that says you have to do so. Many people find that being able to stay engaged in what they have worked hard for throughout their lives is a wise decision well beyond age 65.

You’re 59 ½ years old

auremar/Adobe mature businessman asking for something

If you have a traditional 401(k) or an IRA that you expect to use for retirement funds, your magic number is 59 ½. That’s when you can start pulling money from these tax-advantaged retirement accounts without paying a penalty to do so. 

If you’re ready to retire then, or any time after, and you have enough saved to do so, there’s no reason to put off retiring early.

You can wait and want to cash in

Krakenimages.com/Adobe Old woman with clock

If you are at your full retirement age and not ready to retire yet, you could keep working and earn more for doing so. 

For example, if you delay taking your Social Security benefits until you reach the age of 70, you’ll get more money each month. That’s because your check increases by 8% each year you delay taking your retirement up until age 70.

You plan to travel now, not later

Fractal Pictures/Adobe cool old couple smiling talking about travel destinations

Some people have big travel plans for their retirement, which means they’ll need to have a significant amount of money tucked away to meet those goals. 

However, other people would rather travel now, while they are empty nesters or just more financially capable of affording to do so.

Traveling now may mean you are using would-be retirement savings for your travels. But if you’re OK with working longer and want to see the world while you’re young and fit, delaying retirement makes sense.

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You hate your job and want something more

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For some people, working until they reach retirement is good enough because they don’t like the work they do. Work may be emotionally or physically damaging. 

In this situation, you may wish to begin taking Social Security benefits and find a different way to stay engaged with your life that’s more fulfilling, interesting, or otherwise beneficial to you. 

That could be socializing more with friends or taking a part-time job.

You can continue to receive health insurance through your spouse

Jenny Sturm/Adobe happy senior couple

Another reason 65 is a magic number for so many is because it’s when you can first qualify for Medicare. 

If you reach this age, though, and your spouse’s health care coverage from an employer is enough to meet your needs, you could retire earlier and not have to worry about having access to Medicare.

At 65, you’re still building your business

Robert Kneschke/Adobe senior businesswoman presents contract to business partner

Whether you’re still building your business or you haven’t achieved your goals just yet, don’t view 65 as the final year you can work. 

Many people are still quite capable and desire to work longer to achieve the objectives they’ve set out to achieve. If working longer helps you to reach your business growth goals, go for it.

Your mortgage isn’t paid off yet

leszekglasner/Adobe senior couple holding small home model

One of the turning points for many people planning to enter retirement is paying off their mortgage. At the age of 65, you may have paid it off years ago, or you may have a bit more time to do so. 

A mortgage payment is such a big financial component of your monthly spending, you may want to carefully consider retirement based on the mortgage payoff.

Your investments are solid

Krakenimages.com/Adobe middle age couple holding dollars doing ok sign

Investments can sometimes go very badly, leaving you with a depleted retirement account and a limited portfolio. 

Other times, they go really well. If your investments more than meet your needs in retirement, don’t feel compelled to keep working. 

On the other hand, if that bet you took was the wrong risk, you’ll need to consider working a bit longer.

You’re in the right emotional state

insta_photos/Adobe happy senior couple drinking juice and laughing

While most people focus on the financial aspects of retiring early, being in the right space emotionally and mentally are important as well. 

Time becomes a much more valued commodity once you reach your 50s and 60s, and how you spend your time may mean more to you. When you’re doing well financially and you’re emotionally ready, make the decision to retire.

Bottom line

WavebreakmediaMicro/Adobe side view portrait of a mature couple toasting drinks over food

There are plenty of ways seniors waste money. That could be eating out too often or funding too many of their children’s financial needs. 

Yet, you’re not wasting money when you decide that now is the right time to retire. Don’t use 65 as a number to guide you in this decision. Instead, follow a path that makes sense to you personally.

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Author Details

Sandy Baker Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.

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