Retirement at Age 80? How This Could Happen to You

Eighty is the new 65, at least when it comes to retirement. More than a third of middle class Americans surveyed by Wells Fargo said they’d need to work until age 80 or beyond before they could retire comfortably. For young workers, retirement after 70 may be the norm. The average member of the class of 2015 will need to work until age 75, an analysis by financial website Nerdwallet found. Some may end up working until they hit their eighth decade, which could give them just a handful of years in retirement. (The average 23-year-old today can expect to live into their early to mid-80s.)

Many Americans have come to accept the inevitability of a late retirement. Since 1991, the number of people who expect to retire at or before age 65 has fallen from 84% to 46%, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). Twenty-five years ago, 9% of people expected to work past age 70. Today, 26% do.

Anticipating a retirement date in your 70s or 80s isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you love your job. But for many, delayed retirement won’t be a matter of choice. Millennials will have to stay in the workforce longer because high student debt, rising rents, and a hesitancy to invest will make it difficult for them to save enough money to quit their jobs, according to NerdWallet. Many other workers find themselves reaching 60 or 65 with paltry nest eggs and big expenses, like mortgage payments or college for the kids, still hanging over their heads. Those financial pressures leave many no choice but to stick it out at the office for a few more years until they feel retirement is within reach.

Why Americans are delaying retirement

retirement ahead sign

Who’s to blame for our ever-increasing retirement age? A number of factors are at play. Pensions have largely disappeared, leaving workers to figure out how to fund their retirements on their own. Many people don’t have access to retirement plans at work, which makes it harder to save.

Stagnant wages are also a problem for people who want to save. In 2013, middle-income workers were earning just 6% more than they did in 1976, an increase of less than 0.2% per year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. For others, the very idea of retirement has changed. Rather than rounds of golf and long RV trips, they might be open to the idea of a phased retirement, or willing to put off retirement in exchange for better work-life balance during their younger years.

Human error is also contributing to rising retirement ages. From not saving enough to raiding retirement accounts too soon, it’s easy to make mistakes that may force you to put off retirement until your 80s. Here are three of the biggest.

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