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Reimagining the definition of retirement: Meet Pretirement.

In 2022, a 401(k) was the most-wanted benefit after health insurance. With the acute effects of the pandemic behind us, longer-term implications are emerging, and workers are now reimagining the definition of retirement altogether. A survey of 2,002 Americans between the ages of 35–70 found that 71 percent of workers changed their target retirement age as a result of the pandemic (Human Interest, 2022). Many of those workers are planning a new, transitional life stage in between full-time work and retirement: pretirement.

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Pretirement: A new, transitional life stage between work and retirement

The pandemic has radically shifted how we live, work, and play. It will also have long-lasting effects on our retirement plans, including where we want to live, how we save, and how we transition out of full-time work, our survey suggests.

From pandemic to pretirement 

What is pretirement? Future retirees are looking forward to this new transitional life stage–but it comes with blurred lines. Even the idea that you’re not working during retirement seems to be in question – the survey found that most people believe you can work up to 11 hours a week and still be considered retired. This gradual transition from full-time work to retirement is how future retirees define pretirement. 

  • Retirement is no longer a sudden transition from full-time work to full-time leisure. Instead, 69 percent believe retirement is a gradual change away from full-time paid work.

  • More than nine out of 10 workers are open to switching fields or jobs during pretirement, with nearly half saying they want to volunteer for a nonprofit or another group during their pivot. 

  • One in three said the pandemic had changed everything about their retirement decisions: 

    • How they save (31%)

    • What they want to do (31%)

    • When they want to retire (29%), and

  • An even greater number said it had changed how they make health decisions (40%) and how they save for emergencies (42%).

  • Only 21% of respondents say they would stay where they are currently living – the rest will either move to another city in the same state (31%), move to a different state (25%) or country (11%), or become nomadic (10%). 

Two-thirds (66%) of respondents who had a very difficult pandemic experience think the ideal pretirement age is under 50, compared to less than a quarter (24%) who had a neutral pandemic experience.

The new bucket list: Top goals in retirement

The pandemic has led to a shift in what people envision doing during – and in the years leading up to – retirement. If you have a retirement that lasts 20 years, that means you’ll have 7,300 days to fill. For future retirees, they’re planning some social, creative, and purposeful activities on their bucket list. The top goals that future retirees have are to: 

  1. Write a book, start a podcast, or achieve another creative accomplishment (38%)

  2. Explore my city or state (36%)

  3. Learn and start playing a new sport, run in a race, or take up yoga (34%)

  4. Live in a vacation destination for a while (34%)

Mobility is a key desire for those planning retirement. Only 21% said they would stay where they are currently living – the rest are split between moving to another city in the same state (31%), moving to a different state (25%), becoming nomadic (10%), and moving to another country (11%). 

Getting political in retirement?

Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents said they want to run for office when they retire. But those who had a very difficult pandemic experience are even more politically engaged – 34% said they would want to run for office.


This online survey of 2,002 US adults was commissioned by Human Interest and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected between September 26-October 4, 2022. All participants are paid an amount depending on the length and complexity of the survey. This survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team, who are members of the MRS and have corporate membership to ESOMAR and AAPOR.

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Vanguard, How America Saves. Data represent 1,900 defined contribution retirement plans (mostly 401(k) plans) and 5 million participants.