One-quarter of workers ages 51 to 55 develop work disabilities before age 62. Disabilities often force people to curtail their work hours, derailing retirement preparations. However, protections built into Social Security, including disability and spouse benefits and the system's tilt toward workers with low lifetime earnings, cushion the impact of midlife health problems. After other factors are controlled for, the onset of health-related work limitations between ages 51 and 61 reduces Social Security retirement benefits at ages 63 to 67 by only about 2 percent, much less than the impact on other retirement savings.
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