When Do You Become a Senior Citizen?

Here’s how to tell if you have reached senior citizen age

By Rachel Hartman

There is no clearly defined age when you become a senior citizen. Some people might consider themselves seniors when they retire from the workplace, sign up for Social Security or begin to spend their retirement savings, but others aren’t ready to call themselves a senior citizen yet.

Here are some milestones that could indicate you’ve become a senior citizen:

  1. Qualifying for Medicare.
  2. Social Security eligibility.
  3. Receiving senior discounts.
  4. Spending retirement savings.
  5. Stepping away from work.
  6. Changes in health.
  7. A shift in priorities.
  8. Rethinking age stereotypes.

1. Qualifying for Medicare

There are specific ages when you qualify for various types of retirement benefits. In some aspects “society makes it very clear when we become senior citizens,” says Mimi Secor, a nurse practitioner and national speaker in Upton, Massachusetts. For example, at age 65 you qualify for Medicare. Take care to meet the Medicare enrollment deadlines to avoid premium increases.

2. Social Security Eligibility

Social Security benefits can begin as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. If you have paid into the Social Security system and are eligible for benefits, you can receive a reduced payment when you turn 62. To receive your full benefit, you can wait until you reach your full retirement age, which is usually age 66 or 67. Waiting past full retirement age will increase your monthly benefit up until you are age 70.

3. Receiving Senior Discounts

If you feel short on cash or want extra perks, you may enjoy the promotions that are directed to seniors. Anyone who is 50 or older is eligible to become an AARP member and qualify for AARP discounts. Some businesses start offering discounts to customers when they reach age 55, but others have different qualifying ages such as 62 or 65. If you look for deals for seniors, you can find them at certain retailers, restaurants and grocery stores. Hotels, car rental agencies and airlines might offer discounts too. Ask about a senior rate with your cellphone provider and pharmacy to see what is available.

4. Spending Retirement Savings

Retirement accounts are designed to encourage workers to save for the long term. As such, accounts like a 401(k) plan or IRA usually include a penalty for early withdrawals. If you take money out before age 59 1/2, you will typically need to pay a 10% penalty. You may consider yourself a senior citizen when “you no longer have to worry about the 10% penalty for early withdrawals from your IRA or 401(k),” says Guy Baker, founder of Wealth Teams Alliance in Irvine, California.

When you reach age 72, you will need to start taking required minimum distributions from retirement accounts. Known as RMDs, these withdrawals are calculated using an IRS distribution method.

5. Stepping Away From Work

After you retire from an extensive career, your family and friends may consider you to have reached senior citizen status. The transition might bring on a feeling of meaning and purpose. As you move away from the office, you may have a sense of gratitude for the years you were able to work and your ability to now pursue a passion.

On the other hand, you could be compelled to take on a part-time job to bring in extra income. You might also try out a new business or look for a position in an area you’ve always found interesting. Retirement often brings the freedom to decide how and when you would like to work.

6. Changes in Health

Medical conditions such as arthritis, hypertension or hearing loss may cause you to feel like you have crossed the senior citizen line. “A person that is battling several age-related medical issues can feel older just by the number and type of medications or medical devices they use,” says Cindy Moore, co-founder and managing partner at Senioridy, an online directory for senior resources based in the Birmingham, Alabama area. “It’s hard to feel young when you are being fitted with a walker or hearing aid.” In addition, feeling fatigued or ready for bed by 9 p.m. might be an indicator you are getting older.

7. A Shift in Social Priorities

You may have spent years chasing after work-related or family goals and striving to meet deadlines. Your schedule during your working years could have been packed full of events and social engagements. However, once you reach a certain point, you may find yourself with more hours in the day to spare. You might use your extra hours to spend more time with family. You could also volunteer at a local charity, join a walking group or start a card club.

8. Rethinking Age Stereotypes

Even if you qualify for senior discounts, age isn’t necessarily an indicator of what you must do or avoid. “At the age of 59, I took on the challenge of pursuing my doctorate while most of my friends were preparing for retirement,” Secor says. “At the same time, I decided to become healthy and fit.” Secor tackled some of the unhealthy habits she had developed and replaced them with better ones.

“When I graduated at age 61, I had lost 30 pounds,” Secor says. She now exercises nearly every day, eats a healthy diet most of the time and drinks plenty of water. “Because I try to stay as active as I can on a daily basis, most days I feel much younger than my stated age of 66,” Secor says. “Deep in my core, I believe age is just a number.”

Original news: https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/aging/articles/when-do-you-become-a-senior-citizen

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