When Do You Become a Senior Citizen?

August 30, 2021

“Senior citizen” is kind of a funny phrase, isn’t it? What does it mean? What makes you a senior citizen? When you get to senior citizen discount age? Retirement age? The truth is, there isn’t one moment when you suddenly morph into a senior citizen. However, there are a few milestones that are pretty big in terms of defining the change to senior citizen status. 

At age 50, you are eligible to join AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). Annual membership dues are low and they give members access to a variety of valuable discounts on travel and restaurants, as well as access to different insurance plans and other services. Some shops and restaurants offer senior discounts beginning at age 55, but some wait until 60 or 65. 

When most people think of the age you become a senior citizen, they think of 65, since that is when Medicare eligibility begins. You can sign up whether or not you are receiving Social Security benefits. 

Retirement Age and Senior Citizen Status

Many people decide to retire around age 65, too. However, eligibility for Social Security benefits has changed over recent years. Those born before 1937 continue to be eligible for full retirement benefits at 65. Those born after 1938 have to wait a few extra months after their 65th birthday. For those born from 1943 to 1954, retirement age is 66. Retirement age goes up in two month increments for those born from 1955 to 1959, then it’s 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. It is possible to retire at age 62, but you will have a smaller monthly check. 

Medicare and Social Security are the major US senior citizen benefits. It makes sense to tie our idea of senior citizen age to eligibility for those programs. 

Interestingly the rules for 401(k) plans and IRAs are different from Social Security. You can begin to withdraw funds from these accounts without penalty beginning at age 59.5. Before then, you have to pay a 10% penalty. When you reach the age of 72, you are required to take required minimum distributions (RMDs). 

These different legal milestones are all important, especially because it’s vital to have a financial and health care plan for your senior years. You need to be able to calculate how long you need to work in order to receive adequate retirement benefits. 

The Senior Citizen Age Is Coming

When we think about senior status or retirement age or anything having to do with becoming a senior citizen, it might feel hard to see yourself in that age bracket. It’s a time of great transition. In your teens and early 20s, you think about who you are and what you want to do in the world. As you approach retirement or senior citizen age, you begin a time of reflection about what you have accomplished, what you value, and what you might still want to do. Growing into an identity that doesn’t revolve around a job, pursuing success, or raising children will take time. 

Fortunately, you’re not alone as you enter into this new phase of life. In 2014, there were 46 million people in the US who were 65 or older. Current estimates now put that number at 73 million people. It’s projected that by 2060, there will be 98 million people over age 65. That will be almost 1 in 4 Americans! With longer life expectancies and better medical technology, people can expect to live full lives after 65. Some people even decide to pursue second careers in their 50s or 60s or later. There are also lots of organizations that bring senior citizens together for recreation, continued learning, and community. 

We ask kids all the time, what do you want to be when you grow up? Maybe it’s time we started asking people, what do you want to do when you’re a senior citizen? As always, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter if you found this on social media and get back to living your best life!

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