Determining the Best Retirement Age

Americans use a number of different methods to determine their best retirement age – but “discussions with an advisor” barely cracked the top five.

According to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index, of the seven different steps non-retired investors taken to help determine their best retirement age, fewer than half (47%) have talked with a professional financial advisor. On the other hand:

  • 63% discussed it with friends and family;
  • 59% estimated their retirement income using different retirement age scenarios;
  • 51% manually crunched the numbers;
  • 50% used online tools to estimate their retirement income;
  • 44% read up on retirement-age considerations in financial publications; and
  • 30% reviewed their options for retirement age on the Social Security Administration website.

Only 28% of non-retired investors say they have given a lot of thought to the best age to retire. Another 30% say they have given this a fair amount of thought. Still, 31% say they have given this only a little thought and 11% admit they have given a potential retirement age no thought. Not surprisingly, older workers have given this more thought. However, only 4 in 10 (39%) non-retired investors age 50 and older say they have given retirement age a lot of thought. This number drops to 20% of those under 50 who say they have given it a lot of thought. Overall, the average age retired investors say they started thinking seriously about the best age to retire was 44.

That said, only a slight majority of non-retired investors (54%) believe that knowing the age at which they plan to retire would make a difference in their financial behaviors today; 45% say it would not.

Although, more than half of retired investors (52%), wish they had started thinking about their retirement age earlier than they did, whereas 46% say they gave themselves enough time.

Still, all in all, the new poll finds 78% of investors, up from 69% in the prior measurement in 2014, feeling confident they will have enough money to maintain the lifestyle they want throughout retirement, perhaps a byproduct of the continued bull market. This includes 31% feeling “highly confident,” up from 26% in 2014. Meanwhile, the percentage not confident has slipped from 31% to 22%.

Plan ‘Ahead’

As other surveys have found, a significant factor in underpinning that confidence is having a written plan. Forty-three percent of investors with a written plan for retirement say they are “highly confident” they will have enough to maintain their lifestyle. Even among investors with similar asset levels, confidence is higher among those with a written plan.

By contrast, just 23% of investors with no written plan feel highly confident.

Just 37% of non-retired investors and 40% of retired investors report that they have a written financial plan, similar to what the investor survey found in 2015. Investors with $100,000 or more in investments are more likely than those with less than $100,000 invested to have a written plan: 48% vs. 26%. And married investors (42%) are more likely to have a written plan than unmarried investors (29%).

Investors are less worried today than three years ago that they will outlive their savings in retirement: 36% now vs. 46% in 2014 think this is a real risk. As is typical, a higher percentage of non-retired (39%) than retired investors (28%) are worried about outliving their savings.

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