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When considering retirement, it is important to look at your entire financial portfolio, including all of your investments and your financial obligations.

In the United States, the actual age of retirement can vary widely from one person to the next. Some people retire in their mid-forties while others continue working well into their eighties (or even later). Many people who officially retire from their careers decide to continue working part time, or start an entirely new second career. As the idea of retirement becomes clearer, do you have a plan for retiring at a certain age? If so, what steps are you taking to make that happen?

Set a Goal for Your Retirement

Deciding on a goal for when you want to retire can be tricky. One place to start is by considering the retirement benefits you will be eligible to receive at a certain age. When it comes to government benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a defined normal retirement age (NRA) to determine the amount of benefits you will receive when you retire.

For those born in or before 1937, the SSA’s normal retirement age is 65, according to its useful NRA chart. For those born in 1960 or later, the normal retirement age is 67. Anyone born between these years will fall somewhere between the ages of 65 and 67, depending on the year of their birth.

Understand Retirement Benefits

As of 2007, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics put the average retirement age at around 62. This is well below the SSA’s normal retirement age, which does affect your retirement benefits. If you retire before you reach your NRA, you receive less benefits. If you retire after you reach your NRA, you receive more benefits. Currently, you can receive the largest Social Security benefits by waiting to retire until age 70, but that is not always feasible.

Think About Retirement Finances

Of course, Social Security benefits are only one piece of the retirement puzzle. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible to receive a pension or a retirement incentive through your workplace. Many people also have personal retirement savings through IRAs or 401k plans. When considering retirement, it is important to look at your entire financial portfolio, including all of your investments and your financial obligations.

Other Retirement Factors

When planning your retirement, there are many factors besides your financial situation. Life expectancy and general health continues to improve for older adults, but it is possible that medical conditions or injuries will make it necessary to stop working sooner than you expect. Conversely, good health may make you want to continue working longer than you had originally planned, particularly if you enjoy your career. Personal factors, such as your family or other close relationships, will also have an impact on when you decide to retire. Perhaps you want to take the time to travel around the world or maybe you want to spend more time with your grandchildren.

Deciding what age you will retire is a personal decision that is influenced by many factors. You may not be able to predict where you will be in ten or even five years with perfect accuracy. Yet, the sooner you start planning, the more prepared you will be when the time comes to make the retirement decision.