If you are among the many Americans planning to work past age 65 to help make up for a shortfall in retirement savings, some recent studies should give you pause to rethink those plans.

There’s a good chance you may be forced to retire sooner than you expect, according to research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

The share of workers who say they expect to work past age 65 rose from 16% in 1991 to 48% in 2018. But the study shows that 37% of all workers end up retiring earlier than they had planned.

On average, 21% of all workers say they intend to work to age 66 or later. Yet more than half of them fail to reach this target.

“Many workers seem to have gotten the message that working longer may be necessary to boost their retirement security,” the study’s authors state. “But such intentions often go awry.”

Why are hardworking Americans retiring earlier than they had planned? Here are the three most common reasons:


1. Health shocks are the primary reason people are not able to work as long as they had planned. People are forced to retire early due to existing health conditions or major health problems that they develop as they age.

“This analysis suggests that health likely plays the largest role in early retirement, both because people in bad initial health overestimate how long they can work and because health often worsens before the age at which they planned to retire,” the study says.


2. Employment shocks are the second most common reason folks don’t work as long as they want or need to.

They may lose a job due to a layoff or business closing and not be able to find a new job. Or they may find one that is not a good fit and be forced to quit.


3. Family shocks include a spouse’s employment or retirement, changes in marital status, having to care for a parent or grandchild, and other upheavals that make it unrealistic to keep working.

“The big takeaway is that changes in health are quite common, as are spousal retirements, marital status changes, and large swings in wealth (which is largely because people have little wealth to begin with),” the study states.

Nobody thinks a forced early retirement will happen to them, but more than half of the people who think that are wrong.

However, there are steps you can take today to help you plan for an uncertain future. Here are three:


1. Assume you will have to retire earlier than you planned. Chances are better than 50-50 that retirement will come sooner than you want.

2. Save more each year, starting now. A new study by the Stanford Center on Longevity recommends people save 10-17% of their income just for retirement.

3. Don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. Having your retirement savings in stocks and other volatile investments is a recipe for disaster if markets collapse as you are preparing to retire or soon afterward.


You’ve heard the disclaimer “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Now is the time to act upon it and diversify your retirement savings. Save a big chunk of your retirement money where it’s guaranteed to be safe against market risk and where you’ll receive competitive growth of your money.

There’s a good chance that you will find yourself forced to stop working sooner than you had planned. But you can take steps now to increase your financial security no matter what your future holds.


Pamela Yellen is founder of Bank On Yourself, a financial investigator, and the author of two New York Times bestselling books, including her latest, The Bank On Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future. Visit www.BankOnYourself.com.

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