Oldest boomers are retiring at a surprising rate

Now turning 67 years old, the first set of Baby Boomers, those born in 1946, continue to be myth-busters, according to a new study, “Healthy, Retiring Rapidly and Collecting Social Security: The MetLife Report on the Oldest Boomers.”

The data, from the company’s MetLife Mature Market Institute, says the earliest Boomers aren’t necessarily “working ’til they drop,” as was predicted.

More than half (52 percent) of the 1946 Boomers are now fully retired. Of those, 38 percent say, “I’m ready,” while 17 percent cite health reasons and 10 percent attribute a job loss. Twenty-one percent remain employed full-time and 14 percent are working part-time; of those, most plan to retire fully by age 71, up from 69 in 2011. The figures from the MetLife Mature Market Institute represent a big jump since 2007 and 2008 when just 19 percent of oldest Boomers were retired and a significant leap from the 45 percent retired in 2011.

The Institute has studied the oldest boomer cohort on numerous occasions, most recently in 2012 with “Transitioning into Retirement:The MetLife Study of Baby Boomers at 65,” and “The Early Boomers: How America’s Baby Boomers Will Transform Aging, Work and Retirement.”

The current study follows the group as they’ve moved from age 62 to 67, their finances, housing status, family lives and their views on generational issues. For instance, though the majority of retirees say they have less income than when they were working, lower income does not always equal a lower standard of living, as only 20 percent felt theirs had declined.

“As oldest Boomers dive into retirement, even though some have been forced to do so earlier than expected, they seem to be ‘Feelin’ Groovy,’ as this group would have said during their formative years,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “They are poised to remain active and engaged. As their nests empty they seem to be largely feeling healthy and positive. 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.”

Among further findings:

• 86 percent are collecting Social Security benefits;

• 43 percent began collecting earlier than they had planned.

• Only 14 percent of oldest Boomers are working part-time or seasonally; 4 percent are self-employed.

• Long-term care rose to the top of the list of retirement concerns; 31 percent report concern about providing for themselves or their spouses.

• Despite the fact that they are worried about long-term care, just under a quarter owns private long-term care insurance.

• 82 percent want to age in place and do not plan any future moves.

• Eight percent are “upside down” on their mortgage, owing more than the value of their home

• The average number of grandchildren is 4.8.

• 79 percent of oldest Boomers have neither of their parents living, but more than one in 10 are providing regular care for a parent or older relative; for many, the level of care has increased.

• Oldest Boomers continue to believe they will see themselves as “old” at the age of 78.5.

• 16 percent of the oldest Boomers see themselves as being sharpest mentally now, in their 60s, but the largest group (30 percent) believes they were sharpest in their 40s.

• More than 40 percent of the oldest Boomers are optimistic about the future. Nearly a quarter of those are optimistic about their health, and two in 10 feel good about their personal finances.

• More than half of the oldest Boomers feel their generation is leaving a positive legacy for future generations. Values and morals and good work ethics were the top two items cited.

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