Is Fifty the Perfect Age?

The perfect age for retirement is seen as 61

No pun intended, but it’s the age old question—what is the perfect age? Is there a perfect age overall? A perfect age for having children or getting married? Obviously circumstances matter but, overall, the perfect age appears to be 50. It’s an age many fear, but it’s also the average age Americans would like to live at if they could skip time and live forever in good health at a particular age.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,242 adults surveyed online between July 17 and 22, 2013 by Harris Interactive. (For full results, including data tables, click here.)

Interestingly, when The Harris Poll asked this question ten years ago, the answer was almost ten years less: in 2003, the perfect age was 41. The perfect age also varies depending on how old one currently is, as younger generations want to be a little older while older generations are fine where they are. For Echo Boomers (those 18-36) the perfect age is 38, while for Generation X (those 37-48) the perfect age is 49. Baby Boomers (those 49-67) are happy in the mid-fifties, as 55 is their perfect age. For the oldest generation, Matures (those 68+), 67 is perfect for them.

There has always been a stereotype that women lie about their age. But men say their perfect age is 47 compared to women’s 53. There is also a regional difference: for Easterners 53 is the perfect age, and it is 51 for those in the South. In the Midwest, the perfect age is 50 and for those in the West, it goes down to 47. Having children at home or not also makes a difference: for those with a child in the household the perfect age is 45, while for those without it is 53.

Interestingly, there are also political differences. First, by party Republicans and Democrats actually agree on something: for those in either party, the perfect age is 53. But for Independents the perfect age is 46. Differences by political philosophy appear to follow a scale – either the more conservative you are the more your perfect age goes up, or the more liberal you are the more your perfect age goes down! For conservatives it is 53, for moderates it is 51 and for liberals, the perfect age is 46.

The perfect age for various life events
Each life event has an age that can be associated with it. But is it the perfect age? According to U.S. adults’ averaged responses, the perfect age for graduating from college is 22; however, but one-third (34%) believe it should be between 23 and 25. Moving out and getting married are two other life events that happen at a younger age, but how young? Americans believe the perfect age to move out of your parents’ house is 20 and the perfect age to get married is 26.

Many life events revolve around children. First there’s actually having them, and on average, Americans believe the perfect age to have a first child is 28. Then it’s time to be an empty-nester, and the perfect age for having your last child move out is 45.

Finally, it is time to retire and, while 65 may be considered the stereotypical age to do so, for U.S. adults, the perfect age to retire is actually a little younger—61.

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