More Americans plan to work past retirement age, Gallup says

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BOSTON — More working Americans — 31 percent — believe they will retire later than the minimum age to collect their full Social Security benefits than held that expectation 20 years ago, a recent study from Gallup shows.

By comparison, already retired Americans say they stopped working at an average age of 61. Today, only 23 percent expect to knock off before turning 62, or before they would be eligible for Social Security benefits. Thirty-eight percent expect to retire sometime between 62 and 67, according to the study released late last week. Eight percent are unsure.

The age Americans have expected to retire has been on the rise since 1995, when the average American figured on leaving the workforce at 60. Now, the mean age of expected retirement is 66. U.S. Labor Department figures show that of almost 34 million Americans 65 or older, about a quarter are either working or looking for work. Out of that group of about 8 million, 238,000 were unemployed in April.

Gallup posits several reasons for the upward tick in expected retirement age. According to the polling company, some Americans may choose to work later in life because they recognize that doing so helps them stay healthy. But for others, the decision has more to do with necessity than preference.

“Many working Americans simply can’t afford to retire,” Gallup said in a statement about its survey results. “Many have been unable to save sufficiently during the economic slowdown of the past decade.”

After the Great Recession, which technically ended in June 2009 but which has continued to plague parts of the economy years later, Gallup says its research shows many Americans cite economic difficulty if they retired early or even “on time” to receive full Social Security benefits. As fewer people rely on defined-benefit pensions to support their later years, Social Security has become increasingly important.

Gallup also reports that 7-in-10 Americans worry that they haven’t saved enough to be able to retire, meaning more feel compelled to continue working to be sure they have enough money to survive.