What is your ideal retirement age?

Do you know your ideal retirement age? Should you retire today? While that might sound good, most people are not prepared to retire today. So, let’s rephrase that…Should you prepare to retire today? And the answer to that is a resounding, YES!

Keep in mind, many people like working. While you might continue to work into retirement, we’ll define retirement as not having to work…or working more on your terms regarding hours, location and availability.

Choose a date:

Granted, there are a ton of factors that go into preparing to retire. But one of the most important, that will alter most other decisions, is when do you want to retire? That can be a tough one to answer.

Your estimated retirement age will likely include considerations like:

  • Current age
  • Pension availability
  • Spouse’s retirement
  • Finances
  • Contentment level of your job

So, start with what you think will be an ideal retirement age. Then you can adjust that date as you determine some of the other factors in the equation. Let’s just talk a bit about those main considerations.


Age is just a number, right? You’re only as old as you feel. So, where do you land on the “how I feel” spectrum? Will your health require you to quit work sooner? Or maybe you’re in great health and want to retire before your health deteriorates so you can enjoy it. No matter how you shake it, you need to estimate your retirement age.

Maybe your age is tied to your pension, availability of Social Security or qualified retirement plans (think 401k, IRA’s). You must be over 59-1/2 to withdraw funds from your qualified plan without incurring a 10% penalty. Income tax will have to be paid, on qualified accounts, regardless of age.

There are some special circumstances that you can withdraw funds prior to age 59-1/2 without a penalty. But that is a whole other article. But if that is a burning question, the IRS has some guidelines here.

For your planning purposes, choose the age that best supports your access to your retirement income streams. You can adjust it up or down when you do the calculations to see if an earlier date is appropriate.

Pension availability:

Not everyone has a pension outside of their 401k or IRA. But if you do, make sure you know the rules on how and when you can take it. A common rule is the points system. That involves your number of years of service at that company added to your age.

Example: if the required points to draw your pension is 85 and you are currently 59 years old, you would have had to work there for 26 years (26+59=85). Know your numbers. If you don’t, get with your HR department to be sure you have the correct information.

Fewer and fewer companies are using true pensions like that. Most are using 401k’s. Those are more straight-forward and mostly fall under IRS rules as opposed to company rules.

  • Side note: if you have 401k accounts with past employers, it is usually best to roll those over (tax-free) into a personal IRA. That way you can manage the funds directly. Consult your financial advisor if you need to.

Know what your Social Security pension is. You should get an annual report from the Social Security Administration. If there are any errors it will give you time to fix them before you start drawing. You can also check out the various retirement ages here.

think differently

Spouse’s Retirement:

If you have a spouse, it will be important to factor in their age, finances, health and expected retirement age as well. So, everything you think through and calculate for yourself you should do with your spouse.

Is there an age difference between you? Are their funds accessible at different times than yours? Will that be an advantage? Will their health impact your strategy for timing and financial planning?

One of our friends’ husband had just retired…a little unexpectedly. He had worked and traveled quite a bit. She was not used to him being home ALL THE TIME. One day she called me and said. “Will you come take him to lunch or something…he’s driving me nuts!”

It was funny, but a real consideration if you and your spouse are not used to being around each other 24×7. Depending on the research you read, most of us spend less than an hour of quality time with our spouses a day. Change that to 12+ hours a day and you’ve got some things to think about!

That’s one reason volunteering, hobbies and part-time work can be so important into retirement. Put some intentionality behind this. What are you going to do on the second Tuesday (or the 3rd or 5th or 10th) that you’re retired? Relaxing sure sounds good after years of employment. But that only goes so far.

Talk to your spouse about it. Your expectations of what it looks like and theirs might be totally different. But like most anything, expectations that are managed properly will make for a happier reality.


This one gets lots of attention. And it is important. The single biggest question usually involves “Will I have enough?”. That’s a hard question because we don’t know exactly how long we’ll need it. We might know how much we want per month to live on, but how many months will we need it for?

None of us can answer that. But we can use best and worse case scenarios to give us an idea or estimate. While these two resources aren’t foolproof, you might use them as guidelines for longevity planning.

You don’t want to run out of money. You need to factor in all of your income streams and investments. Financial planners can be a big asset in helping form the proper investment strategies for your situation. The amount you contribute in your pre-retirement years, taxes, investment vehicles, inflation and rates of return all affect how much money you will have and if it will last.

"I want the last check I write to bounce."

~ Chuck Feeney-American Businessman

If you are several years out from retirement, you can make changes now. There are millions of financial calculators out there. But I found this one interesting and helpful. It’s like a credit score for your retirement finances.

RISE Score

This next calculator lets you see income shortfalls if you have them. It doesn’t consider specific expenses at retirement, so you’ll need to factor those into your desired income amount.

Retirement Income

Job Contentment:

As I mentioned, retirement doesn’t always mean a complete halt to your employment. It just means that your employment might take on a different look.

It might be hard for me to just “stop working” one day. There are things I enjoy about working. But I’d like to do it more on my terms or at a reduced pace. That might be difficult to do. That’s part of why I’m writing this blog…to find some of those answers, just like you might be doing.

If you do continue to work in some capacity, that will affect your income needs at that time. And if you plan to retire before you are age-eligible for some of those investment accounts, it might be a way to tide you over a few years.

Health might play a part in what you are able to do and for how long. So, you might want to treat post-retirement work as gravy. The key takeaway is to plan, adjust and plan some more.

If you assume high rates of return on your money year-in and year-out, perfect health and no potholes along the way, you might be disappointed or fall short at retirement.

So, there you go. Chew on that for a while and start to gather the information you need to determine your ideal retirement age. It’ll be a work in progress…but you have to start somewhere.

Bottom Line:
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you haven’t thought about your ideal retirement age, start!

Action Item:
Know your numbers: anticipated retirement age, income projections, pension options, and health/contentment levels.