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The normal retirement age, sometimes known as the full retirement age, is the age at which someone can retire with full benefits through a retirement plan. For many retirement plans, the normal retirement age is 65. However, it can vary from plan to plan, and it is advisable to get familiar with the terms of a plan, and to be aware that the terms can be modified, changing the retirement age as well as other terms of the plan. People who are not sure about when they can retire with full benefits should ask the person or agency in charge of administering benefits.
The estimate of full retirement age is based on life expectancy, health of older adults, and the amount of years someone would need to work in order to establish a retirement fund large enough to provide complete support. Over time, the normal retirement age has been raised in response to evolving life expectancies. A retirement age of 55, for example, would have people retiring so early that they likely couldn't fund their retirement plans, and the administrator of the plan would be paying out a substantial amount of money. A retirement age of 70, on the other hand, might keep people working longer than would be healthy.
In the Social Security Administration in the United States, the normal retirement age has been adjusted upwards several times, and it is currently based on year of birth. As of 2009, for people born in 1960 or later, the normal retirement age is actually 67, not 65, for example. Many American companies have held their normal retirement age at 65, although adjustment of Social Security benefits and retirement age has led some companies to reevaluate their plans.
People can, of course, retire before they reach the normal retirement age. They may do so because their retirement planning has generated enough income that they feel financially secure ending work early, or for other reasons. In these cases, people are not entitled to receive full retirement benefits. Depending on how the plan is administered, they may never be eligible for full benefits because they did not work long enough. This is something to consider when planning to retire early, or when deciding to work past normal retirement age, as many plans reward older adult workers with extra benefits for each year they work.
Normal retirement age is independent of disability. Someone who becomes disabled at age 50, for example, will be entitled to a variety of disability benefits which are funded separately from retirement plans.