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Associated Press, Published June 09 2013

Early retirement fading for public workers in Minnesota

ST. PAUL — Fewer public workers in Minnesota are opting for early retirement, due in part to the struggling economy and changes in rules that had previously given employees incentives to quit working in their late 50s. And the trend is expected to continue.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that last year, about 60 percent of those who retired from Minnesota's public workforce waited until they were 62 or older. Seven years ago, only 40 percent of the new retirees were 62 or older.

The newspaper looked at data from Minnesota's three statewide public pension plans. The figures do not include public safety workers.

The trend is expected to accelerate, as more changes enacted by this year's Legislature will make other early retirement options less attractive, and retirees are faced with declining access to employer-paid retiree health care, rising health care costs and other economic issues. Many people nearing retirement age cannot afford to retire before becoming eligible for Medicare and Social Security.

“The luckiest Americans” are those who retired between 1970 and 1985, said Dallas Salisbury, president and chief executive of the Employee Benefit Research Institute. She said that back then, most retirees had pensions, employer-paid medical benefits, Medicare and Social Security, which accounted for inflation.

“Those were the golden years to retire,” Salisbury said. “It was as good as it got.”

In the late 1980s, private companies started eliminating early retirement incentives, and those trends hit government workers a little later. While the changes were applied to workers who were either entering the workforce or who had many years until retirement, experts say their impact is being felt now, pushing the average retirement age up.

A recent Gallup poll found the average retirement age is now 61, up from 57 two decades ago. The percentage of people 65 and older who are still working is the highest it's been since the early 1960s, the Pioneer Press reported.