62 is currently the minimum age to collect Social Security in the United States while 66 is considered “full retirement age”.
Next, we’ll show the average retirement age for men and the average retirement age for women and alternative retirement age measures. Data for this post comes from the 2017 Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking from the Federal Reserve.
Average Retirement Age for Men in the United States
In 2017, 22,295,155 retired men lived in the United States – 45.26% of all retirees.
On average, these men retired at 59.62 years old. The median male retiree left work at age 62, and 62 was the most common retirement age… just like the retirement population in whole.
Average Retirement Age for Women in the United States
In 2017, 26,965,901 retired women lived in the United States – 54.74% of all retirees.
On average, these women retired at 60.11 years old. Following the same pattern, the median age women retired at was 62 years old and 62 was the most common age.
Cumulative Retirement by Age for Retirees in the United States
According to the 2017 SHED, there were 49,261,056 retirees in America in 2017. Interestingly, 61.9% of currently retired Americans waited until their 60s – or later – to retire. 15.1% waited until at least 66 years old to retire.
It’s important to note here – we’re only looking at retired men and women. Even at older ages, many Americans are still in the workforce – see, for example, FRED’s data on the subject. Of the retired population, here’s the cumulative percentage of retirees who were retired by a specific age:
When Do People Retire in the United States?
Although the data above does state the average ages for the various American retiree populations, it might not be the full answer. While this methodology is correct it’s still a slightly biased picture.
If you’re still working or you’re concerned with policy and demographics you probably want to know the average retirement age for all workers. Using the data above includes responses from the long-retired who left work under different economic conditions. Additionally, due to ill health and death surveying current retirees displays survivorship bias towards retirees healthy enough to respond to the survey. Succinctly: the deceased can’t respond to surveys.
We attempted to control for this with a couple screens: looking at the recently retired as well as those who didn’t retire for health reasons.
What Age Did People Retire Recently?
Although people in poor health may die within a year or two of retirement, one screen that helps is to look at people who retired in the last 1-2 years*.
Of retirees who responded with a retirement age, around 9.2% retired recently. (Applying that to all retirees means approximately 4.5 million people retired recently).
This population had an average retirement age of 62.66. Median retirement age was 63. The most common retirement age for recent retirees was 65.
*We can’t give an exact timeframe. Due to survey timing and whole number ages these folks may have retired up to 1 day under 2 years ago. This introduces bias due to birth month matched with survey timing – but it is unarguably a better population for some questions than ‘all retirees’.
What Age Did Healthy People Retire?
Although poor health isn’t the only factor that can force retirement, it was a big factor. Of living retirees, 34.7% reported that their health was very or somewhat important for retiring.
Taking only retirees who reported health as Not Important to their decision, 62 was the most common retirement age. The average retirement age was 60.69, and the median retirement age was 62.
What Age Did Healthy People Recently Retire?
What about for people who retired recently and didn’t consider health reasons in their decision?
For this subset, the average age was 63.16 and the median retirement age was 63. Proving that health matters quite a bit in retirement decisions, the most common retirement age for this group was 70 years old. From the not-a-coincidence department, 70 is also the maximum Social Security age… and comes with the highest monthly payment.
What Do We See in the Average Retirement Age Data?
While setting out to do this research, I noticed that almost all the authoritative sources displayed the same survivorship bias we detailed before our last few measures. If you’re recently retired and are wondering about your peers it’s the correct view, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Sure, this post sometimes borders on pedantism. It was worth it, though – here are a few interesting observations from this retirement data:
- After (attempting) control for survivorship bias, recent retirees have a higher retirement age than all living retirees
- Healthy retirees worked longer than unhealthy retirees
- Social Security makes a huge difference in retirement planning (as we’ve seen in our retirement savings and net worth posts)
- 62 years old – the minimum retirement age to collect – comes up again and again in retiree slices
- Recently retired healthy individuals most commonly chose to work until 70