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Most of us may have little choice about when we should retire. Our jobs, or, often to our surprise, our bodies, may have a mandatory retirement age. But if we have a choice, how should we choose?

It may help to consider when we would “break even” in terms of Social Security.

Many people retire as soon as they can, at 62, rather than wait to reach full retirement age at 66 (more or less). They will not break even until they are 78 years and four months. If we compare this with waiting for the maximum Social Security retirement age of 70, the break even age rises to 81 years and two months. Retiring at full retirement age of 66 (more or less) rather than waiting until the maximum Social Security retirement age of 70 extends the breakeven age to 83 years and 6 months.

Those of us with a 401k plan may want to continue working and contributing through age 72.

All of us may want to keep in mind Medicaid’s Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance, the figure which Medicaid thinks one spouse should have when the other enters a nursing home receiving Medicaid benefits. In 2023 that is $3,715.50. Of course, many of us live on less.

Health and life expectancy, goals and family responsibilities all affect our decision of when to retire. But we should also look at our finances. As my father used to say, “You can have anything you want – as long as you pay for it.”

Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.


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