5 Milestones That Mark the Start of Retirement for Americans

by Barbara Hadden

Thoughtful senior couple contemplating retirement stockfour / Shutterstock.com

When does retirement begin? Most folks would say it’s the day you stop punching the clock full-time for your company.

But not everyone thinks that way. For some people, other milestones are more significant markers that your golden years have begun.

A recent report from Edward Jones and Age Wave surveyed 11,000 adults. A subset of the respondents — retirees and pre-retirees age 45 and and older — were asked to name the milestone that most signifies they have achieved the goal of retiring. Following is how this group responded.

5. Reaching a certain age

Seniors happy and relaxed in retirement Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Retirees and pre-retirees who say this milestone marks the start of retirement: 10%

By the time you reach 50 — if not before — thoughts of retiring begin to loom larger. At some point, you might cross the line from thinking about retirement to actually feeling like you’ve reached that stage of life.

As the study authors note, “being a ‘retiree’ these days is mostly self-defined.”

3. Achieving financial independence (tie)

Senior shocked by money Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com

Retirees and pre-retirees who say this milestone marks the start of retirement: 17%

Some folks are fortunate enough to reach a day when they no longer need to work, even if they still enjoy doing so.

Achieving a certain level of financial independence relieves the pressure of living paycheck to paycheck. Your body may continue to show up for work, but your mind has entered a new place.

If you have reached this point and are dreaming of the next step — actually leaving your job — check out “The 10 Best U.S. Cities for an Early Retirement.”

3. Leaving a job or career (tie)

Smirking senior waving goodbye Krakenimages.com / Shutterstock.com

Retirees and pre-retirees who say this milestone marks the start of retirement: 17%

For some people, quitting a job signals they are retired, but that doesn’t necessarily mean these folks are leaving the workforce entirely. After working in a career for a long time — possibly with the same employer for years or even decades — a switch to new employment can feel like retirement.

Or maybe someone is giving up a managerial role to take on something with a better work-life balance. That, too, can feel like a type of retirement.

2. Receiving Social Security or a pension

Man drinking coffee Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Retirees and pre-retirees who say this milestone marks the start of retirement: 22%

It is no surprise that achieving either of these milestones makes people feel like they are retired.

Of course, it is possible to continue to work even if you are bringing in Social Security or pension money every month. But for many people, these sources of income are enough to make them feel confident that they could step away from their jobs at any moment.

Not sure when you should file for benefits? Stop by the Solutions Center to find expert Social Security help.

1. Stopping full-time work

Senior man working in agriculture aslysun / Shutterstock.com

Retirees and pre-retirees who say this milestone marks the start of retirement: 34%

Stopping full-time work long has been the ultimate sign that you are officially “retired.”

Perhaps you labor as an accountant for a long time, then suddenly downshift to working part-time in a nursery. Or maybe you give up a full-time teaching gig and now plan to be a substitute teacher.

Or, maybe you choose the traditional route and give up work altogether.

All of these circumstances can make people feel like they have finally “retired.”

If you are ready to change your work without stopping altogether, check out “ 20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees.”

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