5 milestones that mark the start of retirement for Americans

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When does retirement start? Most people would say this is the day you stop clocking in full time for your business.

But not everyone thinks that way. For some people, other milestones are more important markers 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 pre-retirees aged 45 and older – were asked to name the milestone that most signifies they have reached the goal of retiring. Here’s how this group responded.

5. Reaching a certain age

Happy and relaxed retired seniors
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Retirees and pre-retirees who say this stage marks the start of retirement: ten%

By the time you hit 50 — if not before — thoughts of retirement start to get bigger. At some point, you might cross the line between thinking about retirement and actually feeling like you’ve reached that stage in life.

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

3. Achieve Financial Independence (Equality)

Senior shocked by money
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Retirees and pre-retirees who say this stage marks the start of retirement: 17%

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

Achieving some 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’ve reached this point and are dreaming of the next step – quitting your job – check out “The 10 Best Cities in America for Early Retirement.”

3. Leaving a job or career (tie)

Senior smiling goodbye
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Retirees and pre-retirees who say this stage marks the start of retirement: 17%

For some people, quitting a job means that they are retired, but that does not necessarily mean that these people are leaving the labor market altogether. After working in a career for a long time – possibly with the same employer for years or even decades – a change to a new job can feel like retirement.

Or maybe someone is giving up 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

Man drinking coffee
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Retirees and pre-retirees who say this stage marks the start of retirement: 22%

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

Of course, it is possible to continue working even if you are bringing in Social Security or retirement money every month. But for many people, these sources of income are enough to give them the assurance that they could quit their job at any time.

Not sure when to file a claim? Stop by the Solutions Center to find help from a Social Security expert.

1. Stop working full time

Elderly man working in agriculture
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Retirees and pre-retirees who say this stage marks the start of retirement: 34%

Taking a long break from full-time work was the ultimate sign that you’re officially “retired.”

Maybe you work as an accountant for a long time, then suddenly switch to a part-time job at a nursery. Or maybe you’re giving up a full-time teaching position and now considering being a substitute teacher.

Or maybe you go the traditional route and ditch the work altogether.

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

If you’re ready to change your job without stopping completely, check out “20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees.”

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