The objective of this study was to examine associations between weight status in young and middle age and early retirement in African-American and white men and women. Data were from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Analyses were restricted to participants aged 45–55 years at baseline (n = 6,483). Associations between weight status at age 25 and ages 45–55 and age at early retirement (prior to age 65) over 9 years of follow-up were examined using proportional hazard regression analyses in models stratified by race and gender. Models were adjusted for education, household income, health insurance status, occupation, occupational physical activity, marital status, smoking, and field center. Between 18.7 and 21.6% of African-American and white men and women reported retiring prior to age 65. Although not always statistically significant, overweight and obesity were associated with early retirement in all but white women. Overweight (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) at age 25 was significantly associated with early retirement in African-American women (hazard ratio (95% confidence interval): 1.62 (1.17–2.23)) and white men (1.32 (1.12–1.57)). There was also a trend between overweight at age 25 and early retirement in African-American men (1.43 (0.99–2.07)). Obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) in middle age was significantly associated with early retirement in white men only (1.32 (1.03–1.69)). Furthermore, overweight at age 25 and obesity at ages 45–55 were associated with early retirement for health reasons among African-American and white men and women. In conclusion, analyses of the economic impact of obesity may need to consider its effects on early retirement.