How to Calculate Time to Retire

by Christina Hamlett

Calculating your countdown to retirement requires an understanding of what you can expect from accrued contributions to Social Security and pension plans, estimated returns on investments and what you must save on your own to ensure a financially secure future. While certain professions still enforce mandatory retirement, factors such as mortality rates, inflation and age discrimination laws are impacting the decisions of many workers to postpone their retirement longer than previous generations. Conversely, individuals who run successful home-based businesses while still employed may opt to leave the traditional workforce early to devote more time to family and personal pursuits.

1. Identify the age at which you would like to retire. Subtract this figure from the estimated life expectancy for your gender as determined by U.S. Census Bureau statistics. What this gives you is the number of years you will likely have to enjoy your freedom from the workforce. This number, however, is subject to variables such as your general state of health, where you live, marital status and whether your employment or lifestyle have put you at risk for any diseases or disabilities. Another consideration is whether you plan to spend your retirement years pursuing favorite hobbies, developing new talents, seeing the world, spending time with family or consulting and mentoring. The more time you plan to allocate to this new chapter of your life, the earlier you need to get started.

2. Conduct a thorough assessment of your lifestyle needs and their associated costs, recommends Julie Jason, author of "The AARP Retirement Survival Guide: How to Make Smart Financial Decisions in Good Times and Bad." Examples of this include monthly living expenses, mortgages, property taxes, travel plans, health coverage and long-term care insurance. Use the tables and calculation tools in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' online Consumer Price Index to estimate annual cost-of-living increases.

3. Research your eligibility to start receiving Social Security and pension benefits. The age at which you can start drawing benefits from Social Security is based on the year in which you were born. Benefits are also calculated on the number of credits you accrue during your time in the workforce, provided that your job is one which is covered under the Social Security system. Review your company pension plan and consult with your benefits department to determine eligibility dates and the percentage of your monthly wage you will receive based on your anticipated date of departure. If your company makes matching contributions to your retirement plan, make sure that your projected retirement date falls after you have fully vested and not before.


  • "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won't Get from Your Financial Advisor"; Ernie J. Zelinski; 2009
  • "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Retirement Planning"; Jeff Wuorio; 2007
  • "The AARP Retirement Survival Guide: How to Make Smart Financial Decisions in Good Times and Bad"; Julie Jason; 2009

About the Author

Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.

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