An elderly black couple. © poco_bw – Fotolia.com

The new retirement age is getting younger for many Americans who can least afford to retire.

A new study released Tuesday by Prudential finds African-Americans retire earlier than the general population on average, despite significantly lower retirement savings.

About 25 percent of African-Americans surveyed expect to retire before age 60, compared to 20 percent of the general population. Among current retirees, the average retirement age for African-Americans is 56, according to the study, three years younger than the general population.

Yet African-Americans are also retiring with a far more meager financial cushion than average. Even if they participate in 401(k)s and other retirement accounts, the Prudential study found African-Americans have a median savings of $9,000 in their employer-sponsored plans, compared to $20,000 among the general population.

“If you couple the fact that African-Americans are retiring earlier with smaller balances (in retirement savings), that really is a challenge for many families,” says Michael Davis, a senior vice president for Prudential Retirement.

Lower balances are the result of several factors, the study found, including taking loans or withdrawals from plans before retirement age for immediate needs. “The number one financial priority that African-Americans identified was paying down debt,” Davis says. “For the general population it was saving for retirement.”

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