A few decades ago, people assumed they would retire at the set age of 65, and most of them did. Their companies threw retirement parties and gave out watches.

Today is a different story.

Many people choose to work longer for social as well as financial benefits, and others just don’t have the retirement saved like in the past and need to stay at their current job.

Some things cost so much more now that people have to work into their retirement years to stay comfortable, costs like college tuition and health care.

According to a survey by Merril Lynch, 72 percent of people over the age of 50 want to work in retirement. Of course, there are those who might rather not work, but need to, so they stay in the work force as well.

Longer Life Spans

People are living longer now than they did a few decades ago, and that’s a factor that comes into play.

Those in their 60’s are often in as good as health as younger people and enjoy the way work enriches their lives. It gives them a purpose and they choose to keep at it.

Some work to maintain health insurance and other benefits as their work can provide more comprehensive coverage than if they didn’t work.

Taking Into Account Considerations

For those that envision taking on that early retirement, though, there is a lot to consider.

For instance, what will happen if your savings isn’t enough to cover your expenses?

It’s a good idea to have a backup plan, maybe some part time work or turning a hobby into an income, like handy work or painting. That also provides a creative outlet, which is healthy.

Another factor to consider is if your current company matches your retirement/401(K).

Some companies have excellent retirement matching plans, while others not so great. Consider what yours has contributed to your own savings. Maybe it’s worth it to stay on a bit longer if you have a great matching plan.
Another thing to consider is health insurance.

As the following article notes, “Retiring early? Here’s what to know about your health insurance options” includes:

• Learn about COBRA and Medicaid. These may be viable options for you depending on your age.
•Think about your spouse’s plan. Could you switch to your spouse’s plan if you weren’t already on it?
•Learn about the Affordable Care Act.

Because people are living longer and staying healthier, they may choose to work more years.

The effects of the recession are still hitting the work force and savings plans that people were counting on. But many want to use those years for travel and to enjoy their health and the payoffs of hard work.

Those nearing retirement, and even those a few years off, need to think about the pros and cons of early retirement, not to mention some of the options in between.

About the Author: Heather Legg writes about small businesses and personal finance.