Are Baby Boomers Delaying Retirement? Not Necessarily, says MetLife

Members | July 08, 2012

Researchers have long expected that financial insecurity and a desire for meaningful activity would keep Baby Boomers on the job well into old age. But a recent study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute suggests that the oldest boomers are retiring on time – and liking it.

The widely accepted belief that baby boomers are likely to “work forever” out of a need for financial security and a desire for meaningful activity may not be entirely accurate, according to the findings of a recent study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. 

The authors of Transitioning into Retirement: The MetLife Study of Baby Boomers at 65 report that a growing number of 65-year-old boomers are actually retiring on time – and enjoying the experience.

The new study examines the attitudes and behaviors of the leading-edge Boomer cohort as they transition into their next life stage. Survey respondents included baby boomers participating in a 2008 MetLife baby boomer study who agreed to be re-contacted. 

According to the new findings:

  • Almost half (45%) of 65-year-old boomers are now fully retired, up from 19% in 2008.
  • On average, retired boomer men left the workforce at age 59.7 while boomer women retired at 57.2. 
  • Most boomers who have not yet retired plan to do so by age 68.5. But more than one-third anticipate that they will retire within the coming year, when they turn 66 and are eligible for full Social Security retirement benefits. 
  • 7 in 10 retirees report liking retirement “a lot” while 2 in 10 say they “like it somewhat.”

Early and Unplanned Retirements

Not all boomers in the MetLife study retired out of choice. About half (51%) reported that they retired earlier than they had expected, with just over a quarter (27%) retiring between the ages of 56 and 61. 

Four in 10 early retirees (37%) cited their health as the reason for early retirement while 16% attributed their retirement to loss of a job or job opportunities.

Only 8% of survey respondents said they retired later than planned. These boomers mentioned needing a salary to pay for day-to-day expenses (27%) and a desire to stay active (13%) as the reasons for delaying retirement.

Financial and Health Status

Almost half (43%) of the MetLife study participants expressed optimism about the next 25 years. Respondents attributed this optimism either to their personal finances (25%) or to their health (22%).

On the financial side, half of boomers surveyed by MetLife said they are on track or have achieved their retirement savings goals.

On the health side, the oldest boomers won’t view themselves as “old” until age 79, a full year later than they indicated in 2007. Relatively good health may be helping boomers feel younger. 

Most (85%) characterized their health as excellent, very good or good.


Homeownership increased significantly among older boomers, with 93% owning their own home, compared with 85% in 2008. The majority of homeowners (83%) do not plan on moving. 

The average reported home value was $255,000, down slightly from $269,000 in 2008. 

Family Connections

The number of survey respondents who reported having neither parent alive has increased significantly over the past 3 years, from 67% in 2008 to 76% in 2011. However, the proportion of boomers providing care to a relative has remained stable at 14%.

The MetLife Boomer Series

Transitioning into Retirement: The MetLife Study of Baby Boomers at 65 is the fourth in a series of MetLife reports about baby boomers. 

Previous reports include the following: