How to Decide Whether And When To Retire

Work Or Retire

If you attend financial planning seminars and have reached the 50+ age category you have probably been approached on the issues of when and how to retire.  Retirement itself is taken as a given.  It is assumed you want to retire and then, having so decided, the only question remaining is when and how.

This kind of planning does ignore the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you really enjoy your current  position and have no definite plans what you would do with your time in retirement.  Sometimes people retire and then, a few months or years later, simply return to the job market working either at a similar position as a consultant or in an entirely different field.

The decision is easier for those who either have generous defined benefit pension plans or have saved over the years for just this time.  The lure of fantastic vacations and a life style that includes travel and leisure may work very well in this case.  I heard a speaker in a course for financial planners describe a sequence as “fast go, slow go, no go” meaning that, on first retiring, there is the urge to travel and do all the things you put off earlier.  Then, less so and more at home time and finally staying at home.

Still, there are individual differences.  For someone who has taken time while she works to enjoy some of these favored activities the call of retirement may not be as great.  For someone who has postposed most of the activities he wanted to do while working, retirement may be the opportunity to put these dreams in operation.

I suspect also if work has been a calling as opposed to a job there may be second thoughts about retiring.  How do you accomplish the same kinds of goals helping others that you did while working at that employment?

Considered from a financial standpoint the retirement question is do you have enough to sustain yourself and the lifestyle you expect for the rest of your life.  That could be a tall order.  The rest of your life could be until age 70 or age 100 or more.   This is where planning can come in.

An article from a Psychology Today website by Ronald E. Riggio, PhD of Cutting Edge Leadership, “At What Age Should You Retire,” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201104/what-age-should-you-retire, discussed retirement from this perspective:  “Let’s skip the financials of retirement – the question of whether you will have enough money to allow you to retire. Let’s explore the psychology behind your choice to retire (or not), and the impact it can have on your health and well-being. The key questions here are: Will you be happier retired or working? Will you be psychologically and physically healthier retired or working? Are you psychologically prepared to retire? Will you live longer if you retire?…”

Here are the questions discussed.

  1. Do you enjoy your job? Does it provide a sense of meaning and purpose in your life? If you do, then the author described it as “unwise to retire unless you can replace that sense of meaning with some other activity or passion.”  Some people do and then channel that energy into another field, sometimes a related one.   Could you teach what you are doing and find satisfaction as a teacher or coach?  Could you enjoy watching others succeed?
  2. If your job is stressful, is it retirement you seek, or do you really want a change in careers? What did you always want to do?  Some people find satisfaction in painting, art,or in physical activites they did not explore before.
  3. Does your job provide critical social needs in your life? If your friends are people you know from the job, can you establish a network of friends outside the job or can you bring some of your friends from work home with you?
  4. Are you prepared psychologically to retire?  Do you have hobbies or interests that can fill your time? Have you realistically considered what your life will be like as a retired person? If it means sitting home alone watching television that might not work.  All of these are good questions to ask.

About the Author Janet Colliton

Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.

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