Health status

Health concerns rank high on the list of concerns cited by those in the Gallup poll. Respondents were particularly concerned they could face being disabled, needing an unexpected surgery or be given a serious diagnosis.

While it’s possible you could enjoy an early retirement and your health remains robust, keep in mind that Medicare benefits don’t kick in until you reach 65.

The thing with unexpected health emergencies is that they’re unexpected. And they can get expensive. Having a regular stream of income can mean the difference between being able to manage anything that pops up and having to go into debt to cover medical bills.

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Debt doesn’t discriminate based on age. Americans racked up $18.6 trillion in debt during the first few months of 2022, according to the Federal Reserve. Of that, those between 55 and 64 had an average debt load of $97,290.

Especially when that debt is unsecured, as in credit cards with high interest, it’s a budget killer. Why continue, then, to rack up runaway interest charges if you have government cash available?

Ideally you’d pay off all debts before you decide to retire, but if Social Security can help wipe out stubborn credit card balances, that’s a good solution too. You can claim checks of different amounts now and claim lower benefits later.

And if you’re still worried about cash flow being too tight, you can continue working and still receive benefits — but only if you’ve reached full retirement age, around 66 or 67.

Your partner earns enough for you both

If your spouse claims full Social Security benefits at retirement age, you can then claim 50% of their benefits.

First, take a good hard look at what you earn. If 50% of your spousal income is more than 100% of your income, you might as well go ahead and just retire to live out those Golden Years dreams.

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Bottom line: Easing does it

Americans who wait until they reach the full retirement age likely enjoy the best Social Security scenario. But if you’re ready to pull back professionally, a good compromise might be easing into retirement to enjoy the good health you have, even as you manage debts within your means.

So is 62 the magic number?

Maybe, if you fit the bill as we’ve described it above.

Regardless, before making any major decisions, a financial advisor can help you determine what’s best for you. Remember: They’ve got their own retirement to think about, so you can benefit from their experience in more ways than one.

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About the Author

Amy Legate-Wolfe

Amy Legate-Wolfe

Freelance contributor

Amy Legate-Wolfe is an investment junkie, who aims to help others get hooked by providing well-researched advice. After receiving a masters in journalism from Western University, Amy worked for Huff Post and, while freelancing for organizations such as the CBC, Motley Fool Canada and Financial Post. Amy Legate-Wolfe is an experienced personal finance writer and freelance contributor working with

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