Why Are Boomers Retiring So Early?

So much for boomers' predictions that they'll be working until they drop. A new study finds that more than half of the nation's oldest boomers - those turning 67 this year - are now retired and not working at all.


Most of them say they were ready to leave the working world for good. But one in six say they retired because of health problems, and one in 10 blamed a job loss.

The findings - based on interviews with more than 1,000 boomers born in 1946 - represent a big increase since 2007 and 2008. At that time, only one in five of the oldest boomers were retired.

[Related: Are you saving enough for your retirement? Check out our calculator.]

Researchers asked the boomers, whom they followed since they were age 62, about their finances, housing status and views on generational issues. Not surprisingly, the majority of retirees say they have less income now than when they were working. Yet only one in five felt that their standard of living had declined.

"As their nests empty, [boomers] seem to be largely feeling healthy and positive," says Sandra Timmermann, the director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, which released the study. "On the negative side, a good half of this group may not have achieved their retirement savings goals and are not confident about paying for the next phase of their lives."

What topped the list of their retirement concerns? Long-term care costs.

When will they see themselves as "old"? Not until they're 78 or 79, the survey found.

Are they sharper mentally today?  One in six say yes. One in three say they were sharpest in their 40s.

Among other findings:

  • 86 percent collect Social Security; 43 percent took benefits earlier than they had planned.
  • 4 percent are self-employed.
  • 14 percent are working part time or seasonally.
  • 8 percent owe more on their house than it's worth.
  • 4.8 is the average number of grandchildren they have.


Photo: Andre Faria/flickr

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