7 Trends That Are Redefining Retirement in America

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Although the concept of retirement remains largely unchanged, how you live out those years has shifted dramatically over time.

Following are several key ways in which your post-work life is likely to differ sharply from that of your parents.

You’re more likely to plan a later retirement date

A growing number of Americans appear to have reached the same conclusion: Dreams of sipping colorful drinks on a deserted beach are just going to have to wait awhile.

In a little over a quarter-century, the percentage of workers expecting to retire after the age of 65 has quadrupled, from 11% in 1991 to 45% in 2019, according to the Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

That share for 2019 includes 34% of workers who expect to retire at age 70 or older — or never to retire.

However, planning to delay your retirement and actually doing so are two different things. While 34% of workers say they plan to wait until at least age 70 to retire, just 6% of retirees say they actually did.

You’re more likely to live downtown than in the suburbs

The stereotype suggests that retirees want a quiet home in the country, undisturbed by the noise of modern life.

The reality is quite different. In fact, retirees are flocking to urban centers to live out their golden years. AARP cites data from TenantCloud, a property management software service, revealing that about one-third of all urban rental applications are for folks who are older than 60.

You’re more likely to head outdoors for fun

Americans of all ages increasingly look to the great outdoors and nature when planning activities. Interest in camping, fishing and stand-up paddling is growing across multiple age groups, according to the Physical Activity Council’s 2019 Participation Report.

Older adults are particularly interested in activities that get them out among wildlife, such as bird and wildlife viewing and fishing.

You’re more likely to live abroad

For generations, retirees have used their free time to travel. Now, a growing number of such folks are choosing one-way adventures, with no plans of returning home.

The percentage of Americans retiring abroad jumped 17% between 2010 and 2015, according to an Associated Press report.

Just in the past year, from December 2018 to December 2019, the number of Social Security recipients living in foreign countries has increased by more than 10,000 — from 685,532 to 696,175.

Some countries are more attractive destinations than others. Currently, those most popular among Social Security recipients include Canada, Japan and Mexico.

You’re more likely to be healthier

Good news for aging folks who worry about their bodies suddenly falling apart: Today’s retirees can expect to enjoy much better health than retirees of earlier generations.

From 1998 to 2012, the percentage of adults ages 80 and older reported to be in fair or poor health dropped significantly, from 43% to 34%, according to an Urban Institute report.

Alas, tomorrow’s retirees might not fare quite so well. Between 1992 and 2010, the percentage of adults ages 51 to 54 who reported fair or poor health jumped from 17% to 22%.

The source of this bad news? An increase in diabetes, according to the Urban Institute.

You’re less likely to downsize

As workers near retirement, they traditionally have expected to downsize to more modest — and less costly — digs. However, that rule appears to be more myth than reality for millions.

A joint Merrill Lynch-Age Wave survey found that half of retirees did not downsize in their last move, with 30% actually “upsizing” into a larger home.

The reason? These retirees want more room for family members to visit or stay.

You’re less likely to leave an inheritance

Better not show this one to your kids: A 2015 HSBC survey of workers in 15 countries and territories — including the U.S. — found that 23% of workers prefer to spend all of their savings rather than to leave the cash to children. In fact, just 9% said they intend to save as much as possible and pass the money on.

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