Should You Delay Retirement?

This businesswoman is delaying retirement due to the fulfillment she finds in her work.

More than ever, people are putting off retirement. According to Pew Research Center, 18.8% of Americans are working past the age of 65.1 And in a recent survey, 40% of Americans said that they were planning to continue working even after aging in to Medicare.2 With debt among retirees reaching all-time highs, it’s no surprise that some people are choosing to work longer.

Do You Have an Emotional Need to Work?

Some people are ready for retirement. They may have long-delayed travel plans, an artistic vision that they’ve put on hold, or maybe even a golf course beckoning. If you know how you’re going to spend retirement, that’s fantastic. But you’ll still want to give some thought to the timing of your retirement.

You want to make sure that you work long enough that your retirement income supports your dreams. But you also want to make sure that you’re active enough to get out there and do everything that you want to. This is especially true if you’re planning on something physically intensive, like a hiking tour of the National Parks.

Still, not everyone has firm plans for their retirement years. And the satisfaction of a good work environment can offer a lot of fulfillment. Work gets you out of the house, and it can keep you social while meeting new people. For some, their work means a chance to contribute to the world around them, and a chance to change the lives of others in a meaningful way.

If this describes you, then it’s worth thinking about continuing to work. For some people, their job is something they do to support their family. But if your job means more to you than that, then why not stick around? If it comes down to a fulfilling work life or a retirement that’s going to bore you, it may be worth working a little bit longer. Alternatively, you might consider moving into part-time work, or some other lower-stress job that interests you.

Do You Have a Financial Need to Work?

Of course, not everyone keeps working for emotional reasons. Some people delay retirement out of financial necessity. According to the Federal Reserve’s latest survey, 77.1% of American families have some kind of debt. In fact, families where the head of the household is 55-64 are most likely to have debts making up 40% or more of their income.3

The shape of our debt is changing, too. The average debt load is decreasing, but that’s largely because student loans are replacing mortgages as a driver of increased debt.4 What this means overall is that statistically, you’re probably dealing with debt. The good news is that you aren’t alone, and you aren’t helpless. There are quite a few ways to minimize the effect that debt has on your life.

Of course, the ironic part of the situation is that most of the ways to get out from under debt require you to spend a little money up front. A mortgage refinance can help your housing budget in a big way, but you’re going to need a new down payment and any fees associated with the refinance. Likewise, debt consolidation is a great way to make your debt load more manageable. This means that you can combine your current loans into one, so that you’re only paying the interest on one loan. In some cases, you might be able to secure a better overall interest rate, as well. There are a few free or low-cost ways to consolidate your debt, if you have good credit. But either way, a consolidation is going to be easier when you have more income coming in.

However you approach it, it’s easier to knock out debt when you’re working than when you’re on a fixed income like in retirement. If you haven’t retired yet, that means you’re in a prime position to start consulting with a financial advisor about making your retirement debt load as easy as possible. That might mean working a little longer than you planned. But if it provides financial peace of mind for the duration of your retirement, the trade-off may well be worth it.

How Can You Prevent Financial Need from Delaying Retirement?

The good news is, if you’re still working, you have time to improve your financial situation for retirement. Take time to be strategic about your retirement finances. Do you have money in a retirement fund like a 401(k) or an IRA? Do you have any investments, or insurance policies with a cash value? Now is the time to put money away. Not only to maximize your retirement stream, but also the tax benefits of setting money aside.

Again, this might be a good time to bring an advisor into the fold, to help you get the most out of your earning years. We have several tools available as well, to help you discern whether you’ve saved enough for retirement, or how long your retirement savings will last. But speaking with someone who can give you a holistic perspective is useful.

Even with all the tools and help in the world, predicting the costs of life in retirement can be tricky. One of the biggest problem areas for many people is healthcare costs. People tend to greatly underestimate what their healthcare is going to cost them, and financial advisors don’t always take the cost of healthcare into consideration when they make cost-of-living projections for their clients. To that end, it’s worth looking into your options for health care – including Medicare – before your enrollment period arrives.

For many, the financial landscape is changing. It’s true that more seniors are entering retirement with debt. But that doesn’t mean that debt is unmanageable, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to delay retirement, if you start thinking strategically now.


1 DeSilver, Drew. (June 20, 2016). “More older Americans are working, and working more, than they used to.” Retrieved January 10, 2019 from

2 O’Brien, Sarah. (April 27, 2018). “More than half of 60-somethings say they’re delaying retirement.” Retrieved November 19, 2018 from

3 Copeland, Craig. (March 28, 2018) Debt of the Elderly and Near Elderly, 1992–2016.

4 Vinik, Danny. (February 25, 2016). “The latest victims of student debt? The elderly.” Retrieved December 13, 2018 from

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