UpFront | Published in May 2012

Against Common Wisdom

Fifty-nine percent of the first Baby Boomers to turn 65 are at least partially retired.

By Tara Cantore | June 2012
Illustration by Lars Leetaru

According to “Transitioning into Retirement: The MetLife Study of Baby Boomers at 65,” 45% of Boomers are completely retired and 14% are retired but working part time. Of those still working, 37% say they will retire in the next year and, on average, plan to do so by the time they are 68.

Half (51%) of those who are retired say they stopped working earlier than they had expected. Of those who retired early, four in 10 mention health reasons. The majority (85%) of respondents consider themselves healthy, and almost all (96%) say they like retirement “at least somewhat.” Seventy percent say they like retirement “a lot.”

Almost two-thirds, 63% of respondents, are already collecting Social Security benefits and, on average, began to at the age of 63, defying the conventional wisdom that people would choose to wait to receive benefits until a later age to qualify for a higher payout. Among those in the survey, just over 60% are confident that the Social Security system will be able to provide adequate benefits for their lifetime.

The data shows that 43% of those polled are optimistic about the future. Of the 19% who are pessimistic about what lies ahead, 49% fault the government and 21% blame the economy.

The 65-year-old Boomers do not consider themselves old and, on average, will not do so until they reach age 79, a year older than reported in 2007.

“Many of the Boomers weathered the recession well and have been able to stop working,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “Half of all Boomers feel confident that they are on track or have already hit their retirement goals. We found that more are homeowners today than in 2008, that the value of their homes decreased by only about 5.2% on average, that the majority feel they are in good health and that 83% have grandchildren. Overall, it is a pretty confident group of Americans.”

Specific survey findings include: The average retirement age for the 1946 Boomers is 59.7 for men and 57.2 for women; 25% have a living parent; 84% are parents; 83% are grandparents, up from 77% in 2008; of those not retired, 61% plan to retire at the same age they planned to one year ago; 31% of 65-year-old Boomers think they were at their sharpest, mentally, in their 40s; only 20% say they are at their sharpest today; homeownership increased significantly among the studied cohort since 2008, from 85% to 93%; and 71% are married or in a domestic partnership; 12% are divorced or separated; 10% are widowed and 7% are single.

“Transitioning into Retirement: The MetLife Study of Baby Boomers at 65” was conducted by GfK Custom Research North America on behalf of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in November 2011. A total of 1,012 respondents born in 1946 were surveyed by random digit-dial telephone contact.