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How Baby Boomers are Picking a Retirement Age

Emily Brandon

Baby boomers have a variety of ways of deciding when they are ready for retirement. Almost half (45 percent) of the oldest baby boomers have already retired, according to a recent GfK Custom Research North America survey commissioned by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. The telephone survey of 1,012 people born in 1946 found that only about a quarter (24 percent) of these baby boomers are still employed full time, while the rest are working part time or seasonally, on disability, self-employed, or looking for work. Here's how the oldest baby boomers are choosing when to retire:

A specific age. Retired baby boomers left their jobs at an average age of 60 for men and 57 for women. Over a quarter (29 percent) of those surveyed retired between ages 56 and 61, and 20 percent retired at age 62. Just over a third (36 percent) of these boomers say the main reason they retired was because they reached retirement age and wanted to. But about half (51 percent) of retired boomers report they retired earlier than they originally expected to.

Baby boomers currently working expect to retire at an average age of 69, and over a third (37 percent) hope to retire in 2012 at age 66. The planned retirement age of baby boomers born in 1946 has increased by over two years since they were previously surveyed in 2008. Working baby boomers say they are planning to delay retirement because they need to continue receiving a salary to pay for day-to-day expenses (27 percent) and they enjoy working or want to stay active (24 percent).

Health problems. A health problem can force you into retirement ahead of schedule. Some 18 percent of retired boomers left the workforce primarily due to health problems. And over a third (37 percent) of people who retired earlier than they planned to cite health-related reasons for doing so.

Job loss. Some boomers started calling themselves retired after they were laid off and couldn't find work (6 percent) or accepted a retirement incentive from their employer (4 percent). Many people who retired ahead of schedule did so following the loss of a job (16 percent). Some boomers also left their jobs because they were tired of working (14 percent).

Social Security eligibility. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the oldest baby boomers are already collecting Social Security benefits, including 17 percent of respondents who are still working full time. Among those who already claimed their due, about half (51 percent) signed up for Social Security at 62, the age eligibility for benefits begins. The second most popular age to claim Social Security was 65 (19 percent). Half of those who have already begun collecting Social Security indicated they did so earlier than planned, often due to health problems, a disability, or difficulty finding a job.

Many baby boomers who haven't signed up for Social Security plan to claim at age 66 in 2012 (38 percent) or at a later age (32 percent). Baby boomers born in 1946 need to wait until age 66 to collect the full benefit they are entitled to. Those who signed up before age 66 received reduced payouts. Benefit payments further increase for each year of delayed claiming up until age 70, and 16 percent of working boomers say they want to wait to increase their entitlement.

An inheritance. Some baby boomers received a boost to their retirement savings from their parents. Almost a quarter (23 percent) of baby boomers have inherited money, averaging $110,000. Many people who inherited money say it helped them to meet their retirement savings goal. Some 64 percent of boomers who inherited money say they are on track to retire, compared to 44 percent of individuals who haven't received money from relatives.

Spouse retired. Married couples sometimes like to coordinate their retirement. Some 3 percent of the baby boomers surveyed left their job to join a spouse in retirement.

Financially prepared. Only a small minority of baby boomers left their jobs upon hitting a retirement savings goal. Just 6 percent of the baby boomers surveyed retired primarily because they had enough money and could afford to.

Twitter: @aiming2retire

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