Happy birthday! Four million Baby Boomers will turn 65 in 2024 — the largest number in U.S. history. By this summer, 12,000 people born in 1959 are projected to reach this milestone every day, a phenomenon referred to by some as Peak 65.
As you likely know, 65 is the age you first become eligible for Medicare. It is also a great time to consider the changes that will come to your life affecting your finances, your health and general physical well-being. You might also want to take advantage of some perks that come with age.
Here are some things to know:
1. A wave of retirees
America’s older population increased 1,000% between 1920 and 2020, with one in six people now 65 or older. The U.S. Census Bureau calls it the “gray tsunami.”
With more people leaving the workforce and requiring caregiving, the aging of this population will affect everything from the ability to maintain Social Security funding to investments, taxes and health care resources. It will also require funding for better roads, emergency services, senior centers and more. The country is already experiencing shortages in nursing home staff and home caregivers, something only expected to worsen.
2. The senior moment
When did 65 become the entry into senior citizenship? Part of the answer lies in the creation of Social Security in 1935, when the average life expectancy was just under 60 and people were suffering through the Great Depression. Germany had set the stage when it became the first country in the world to adopt an old-age social insurance program in 1889, initially setting the retirement age at 70, lowering the age to 65 in 1916.
The U.S. government’s Committee on Economic Security, which designed Social Security, noted that retirement ages in the 30 then-existing state pension systems and the few private pension systems either used 65 or 70 as the retirement age. Lawmakers then settled on 65 as the U.S. retirement age. It stayed that way until Congress overhauled the system in 1983 and gradually raised the full retirement age to 67 for those born in 1960 or later.
3. You’re probably already retired
It’s not like a lot of people are actually waiting around for their 67th birthdays before retiring. According to Gallup, the average age people retire has been going up in the U.S., but it’s not yet even reached 65. In 1991, the average adult reported retiring at age 57. It’s now 61.
4. Scammers have you in their sights
We’ve all heard about the fake grandchild calls where the con artist poses as your grandson or granddaughter and asks for financial help. Moreover, the FBI reports that in 2021, more than 92,000 people age 60 and older were scammed online to the tune of nearly $1.7 billion, more than any other age group.
The most common financial scams include government impersonators, where, for example, a con artist poses as an IRS agent telling you that you owe taxes. There are sweepstakes scams where the caller tells you you have won, but before you can get your winnings, you must send cash or gift cards.
5. Ageism is real
Nearly 60 years after workplace age discrimination was outlawed, two out of three workers age 45 to 74 say they have experienced age discrimination at work, according to AARP. And a study published in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) found more than 90% of people between 50 and 80 experienced some level of ageism in their lives.
AARP offers help to people already on the job and those looking for a job after 65, including courses in how to avoid discrimination. If you believe you have been discriminated against due to your age, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, consider going through your company’s grievance process first. Keep thorough records of all alleged discrimination.
6. Plan to take more drugs
People 65 and older take prescribed medications more frequently than any other U.S. age group, says the Marcus Institute for Aging Research. Nearly 90% of older adults take at least one medication, with more than half reporting taking four or more prescription drugs.
The most commonly used medications among the 60-to-79 age group are lipid-lowering drugs, antidiabetic agents and beta blockers. But taking too many drugs can lead to safety concerns, carrying dangers such as increased drug interactions and falling and frailty among patients. It can also lead to something known as drug-disease interactions, in which a medication prescribed to treat one condition worsens another or causes a new one.
This has led to an evolving field of research known as deprescribing, which is searching for ways to cut back on prescription drugs to help patients. AARP offers a guide to medication management that you can find by going to www.aarp.org and searching for “medication management.”
7. You’re not imagining all of those new aches and pains
Among the changes to expect, according to the Mayo Clinic, are stiffening blood vessels, weakening bones, structural changes in the large intestine and bladder, and possible minor effects on your thinking skills and your ability to multi-task because of the aging of your brain. You are more likely at 65 or over — and especially women — to develop one or more chronic conditions, such as asthma, cancer and arthritis.
8. But there are plenty of perks
Most major grocery store chains offer senior discount days, and tons of restaurants offer early bird specials for older adults. Chili’s, Red Lobster, Tim Hortons and Panera Bread have membership rewards programs for people 65 and older, so you can earn free food and meal discounts. Amtrak offers 10% discounts on most fares when you turn 65.
You can also get a lifetime Senior Pass for national parks for just $80, the cost of an annual pass for anyone else. Some states also offer discounts to those 65 and over at state parks.
9. You even get a break on your income taxes
You get a higher standard tax deduction from the Internal Revenue Service, just for starters. The additional 2023 standard deduction is $1,850 for single filers. When you file your taxes next year for 2024, the added deduction will be $1,950.
And some states offer tax exemptions for people 65 and over. Maryland, for example, offers an additional $1,000 exemption on its state return for being 65 or older.
If you have a dependent 65 or older, you can get an extra exemption of up to $3,200. Most states offer property tax relief programs for older adults, but you may need to meet income requirements.
10. Heading into the home stretch
Like the man said: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Any way you slice it, just accept that you’re a lot closer to your expiration date. A 65-year-old male can expect to live another 17 years, says the Social Security Administration. A woman can expect to live almost three years longer.
“Contemplating death can be psychologically beneficial,” writes psychologist Noam Shpancer in Psychology Today. “Conscious death awareness” can lead to evaluation and adjustment of your personal goals, he says. “Accepting loss, and by proxy death, thus enables full-tilt living.”
Note: This item first appeared in Kiplinger Retirement Report, our popular monthly periodical that covers key concerns of affluent older Americans who are retired or preparing for retirement. Subscribe for retirement advice that’s right on the money.
Yvette C. Hammett is a lifelong journalist whose career has focused on environmental issues, growth and development, economic development and the everyday lives of people. Hammett worked as a staff reporter for the Tampa Tribune from 2001 through 2016 and has written for numerous publications covering B2B marketing, growth in Central Florida, culture and business in the Tampa Bay area, national environmental issues for Natural Awakenings magazine and
legal news making headlines across the country, writing for The Legal Examiner.
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