A number of people say their retirement isn’t likely to start on a specific date but instead will phase in over a long period, according to the “2024 Annual Retirement Study” from Allianz Life. 

Out of more than 1,000 people over the age of 25 the company surveyed, 47% believed they would transition away from full-time work and into retirement over time. Only 38% said their retirement would start the traditional way on a particular day. And 15% of the participants said they did not foresee themselves slowing down or retiring. 

“It’s a totally different time for retirees ... most of their retirement is based on what they managed to save for themselves,” said Kelly LaVigne, vice president of consumer insights at Allianz Life. “A lot of it is dependent on the generation that’s now retiring to take care of themselves.”  

That would be the baby boomers—the first generation not to have a pension plan, during a time when Social Security could come under strain. This group will have to depend on themselves more to fund their retirement, LaVigne said. 

Younger people were less likely to think their retirement would happen in phases, the study said: 58% of the boomers surveyed believed their retirement would be a slow transition, while only 53% of Generation X felt that way and only 45% of millennials.  

Majorities of those surveyed said their retirement decisions would be influenced more by their financial situations than by their desire to work: 68% said they expected to work later in life so that they have enough money to retire. In addition, 61% expect to work in retirement just to survive. Sixty-three percent expected to work to supplement their income. LaVigne said some older workers like knowing they’ll have an employee-sponsored health insurance plan, which means health expenses aren’t as concerning.

“If you’re living longer, but you’re working longer, then you’re not planning for a longer retirement than you had expected, so it works out in your favor as well,” he said. 

While finances play a role in a person’s decision to keep working past retirement age, there are other factors in play. Many people prefer to remain active, LaVigne said. And employers are becoming more accommodating for those individuals who want to stay on—they can offer reduced schedules to their employees or even more opportunities to work from home. 

“The flexible work schedule works very well for somebody who doesn’t want to see the grind,” LaVigne said. “And if you’re healthy and it's going to help you with your retirement and certainty with your identity to stay working, then there’s more of an incentive to do that.” 

Advisors should anticipate changes, however, because even if their clients say they plan to keep working, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Their clients might have no choice but to retire on a particular day if their own health is declining or they need to care for someone else, LaVigne added. That means advisors should develop a more conservative financial plan and be able to make necessary adjustments. 

“I think what we need to do as advisors is try to put together a plan that has all these different contingencies in it,” he said. “Every time something changes, obviously, you go to the retirement plan and see how they affect it.”