5 Milestones That Mark the Beginning of Retirement for Americans

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When does retirement start? Most people would say it’s the day you stop banging the clock full-time for your business.

But not everyone thinks so. For some people, other milestones are more important signs that your golden years have begun.

A recent report by Edward Jones and Age Wave surveyed 11,000 adults. A subset of respondents – retirees and early retirees aged 45 and over – were asked to identify the milestone that best indicates they have achieved their goal of retirement. Here is how this group reacted.

5. Reaching a certain age

Seniors happy and relaxed in retirement
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Retirees and early retirees who say this milestone marks the start of retirement: 10%

As you turn 50, if not sooner, thoughts of retirement begin to intensify. At some point, you may cross the line between thinking about retirement and feeling like you’ve reached that stage of life.

As the study authors note, “Today, being ‘retired’ is mostly self-defined.”

3. Achieving Financial Independence (tie)

Senior shocked by money
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Retirees and early retirees who say this milestone marks the start of retirement: 17%

Some people are lucky enough to reach a day when they no longer have to work, even if they still enjoy doing it.

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

If you’re at this point and dreaming of the next step – actually quitting your job – check out The 10 Best US Cities for Early Retirement.

3. Leaving a Job or Career (Tie)

Grinning senior waving goodbye
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Retirees and early retirees who say this milestone marks the start of retirement: 17%

For some people, leaving a job means they’re retired, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those people are leaving the workforce entirely. After a long career – possibly years or even decades with the same employer – moving to a new job can feel like retirement.

Or maybe someone is stepping down from a leadership role to take on something with a better work-life balance. This, too, can feel like a kind of retirement.

2. Receiving Social Security or a pension

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

It’s no surprise that reaching one of these milestones makes people feel like they’ve retired.

Of course, it is possible to continue working even if you bring in monthly social security or pension money. But for many people, these sources of income are enough to make them feel like they could quit their job at any time.

Not sure when to apply for benefits? Visit the Solutions Center for help from Social Security experts.

1. Termination of full-time work

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

Completing a full-time job has long been the ultimate sign that you’re officially “retired.”

Perhaps you work as an accountant for a long time and then suddenly switch to a part-time job in a kindergarten. Or maybe you’re giving up a full-time teaching job and are now planning to work as a substitute teacher.

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

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

If you’re ready to change up your job without quitting altogether, check out 20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees.

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