Working past traditional retirement age involves a mix of questions. Are you healthy? Do you need the money? Do you need to pad your retirement kitty more?
There's one additional question you need to ask: Is your brain and personality up to snuff for retiring later? For those who are suffering from chronic illness or unable to work, it's pretty simple. They will probably leave the workforce from 62 to 65, sometimes sooner.
Today only about one-third of older Americans go straight into retirement, reports the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Many just need the money, so they keep working. Some don't want to stop working or "unretire."
Yet a growing number of Americans choose not to retire at 65, often not retiring at all. They can either work past 70 or even stay in the workforce part-time. I once knew a lawyer who never really retired and was doing some work until he was 103.
What do you need to know if you're able to work longer? Here are some key characteristics from a new study from RAND and a Dutch think tank. Here's a summary from the Center's Kim Blanton:
-- Cognitive ability. "The people in the study who had higher levels of what’s known as fluid cognitive function -– the ability to recall things, learn fast, and think on one’s feet –- are much more likely to follow the paths of either working full-time or part-time past age 70.
The probable reason is simply that more job options are available to people with higher cognitive ability – whether fluidity or sheer intelligence – so they have an easier time remaining in the labor force even though they’re getting older.
-- Extroversion. Extroverts, who naturally seek out other people and situations outside of themselves, tend to continue doing some type of work after 65. Even after 70, this group is the most likely to still be working full-time. Extroversion also pulls some older people out of retirement.
-- Conscientiousness. People with this personality trait often work full-time past age 62, but it has less of an effect after 65. Perhaps the reason this influence lessens over time is that conscientious people are better prepared financially to retire, according to one study.
-- Agreeableness. People who are amenable and get along with their coworkers are more likely to want to keep working after 65.
-- Neuroticism and openness to new experiences. These have little to do with retirement decisions, the researchers found."
The bottom line, though, is whether you have the need, desire and mental acuity to work. It's this combination that needs to be weighed before you make a decision.
When you've walked through these questions, see whether it makes sense to delay Social Security. The latest you can apply is age 70, when you can reap the highest-possible benefit.