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Average US Retirement Age Is 61 — And Rising

Amy Langfield, TODAY contributor
Thursday, 16 May 2013 | 4:50 PM ET
VM | E+ | Getty Images

The average U.S. retirement age has climbed to 61, up from 57 two decades ago, and it's likely to age higher, according to Gallup's Economy and Personal Finance survey.

The average non-retired American now plans to retire at 66, up from 60 in 1995, according to the Gallup survey.

"Because most of the uptick came before the 2008 recession, this shift may reflect more than just a changing economy," Gallup's associate editor Alyssa Brown wrote in her report on the study. "It may also indicate changing norms about the value of work, the composition of the workforce, the decrease in jobs with mandatory retirement ages, and other factors."

The trend to retire older started in the 1990s, said Richard Johnson, the director of Urban Institute's Program on Retirement Policy.

"I think this trend is one of the most important changes we've seen in the labor force in the last quarter of a century," Johnson said. "I think it's a really positive development. A lot of people are working longer because they want to work longer. The incentives to work longer have increased."

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Until the 1990s, the retirement age for men had actually been trending younger as pension plans, Social Security benefits and personal savings accrued at a healthy rate, Johnson said.

"That trend stopped and then reversed in the early 1990s," he said. The trend is similar but more complex for women, he said, because they were entering the workforce at greater numbers as well as working later than before.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also show that for workers 55 and over, the labor force participation rate, which includes both the employed and those who would like to be employed, changes its direction in the early 1990s. About 30 percent of those 55-and-older were working in the early 1990s. Since 2008, about 40 percent of the 55 have remained in the work force.

In the early 1990s, about 11 percent of those 65 and older remained in the workforce. By contrast, this April, 19 percent remained at work, according to the most recent monthly calculations from the BLS. The pattern continues for those 75 and older. In the 1990s, 4 percent of the population over 75 remained in the workforce. Since December, it has been above 8 percent each month.

Those polled in the Gallup survey agreed they will be working later in life, a sentiment most strongly voiced by the oldest workers. More than half of the non-retirees in the 58 to 64 age bracket expect to retire after they turn 65, compared with 36 percent of non-retirees aged 50 to 57, 38 percent of people between 30 and 49, and just 26 percent of those younger than 30.

The Gallup poll is based on telephone interviews conducted from April 4 to 14 with a random U.S. sample of 2,017 adults. There is a sampling error rate of ±3 percentage points for the full group and a ±5 percentage point rate for the sample of the 636 retirees.

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