Published March 5, 2019
Before the Social Security Act of 1935 there was no such thing as retirement, at least not in the way we understand it today. Back then, if you were alive, you worked until it was physically impossible. Unless you were in line to inherit the Rockefeller fortune, but that is a whole other story.
As part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, the Social Security Administration established 65 as the official retirement age. Life expectancy at the time for American men was about 58, so the economics worked out. Companies followed SSA's lead and created traditional pension plans for workers based on this new retirement age. How could they have known that by 1960, life expectancy in the U.S. be almost 70 years? Today, that number is closer to 80.
We are in a time when baby boomers are retiring at the pace of 10,000 per day. These Americans born between 1946 and 1964 have grown up with the mindset that 65 is the optimal retirement age. They believe if you retire before 65 you are retiring early. If you wait to retire after age 65, then you are retiring late. Many company policies reinforce this cultural standard by setting 65 as the threshold for certain post-retirement benefits.
Times have changed and are continuing to change. Look all around and you will find many people in their 70s continuing active employment. I love the quote from George Burns, who in his 90s at the time, said, "Retirement at 65 is ridiculous. When I was 65, I still had pimples."
Company pension plans continue to be replaced by retirement plans, like 401(k)s. Social Security has increased the retirement age for full-benefits and likely will raise the age again in the future.
Barring any health setbacks, retirement begins when you're ready and can afford it. Some people can and do retire in their 30s. Some people never retire. Upholding the age 65 as the gold standard for retirement is a myth. You are the one who decides when to retire or not.
I have worked with some ministers who were serious about saving for retirement. They started when they were young. Now they are retired and have the resources to volunteer more and see the full fruit of doing missions. They are finding renewed fulfillment in their labor for the Lord.
If your target retirement date isn't matching up with your projected So-cial Security benefits and retirement savings account, there are ways to get back on target, or at least headed that way. Remember, the earlier you begin retirement planning, the more choices you will have later in life.
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