March 7, 2011

It is Time to Retire When......

The author has already reached his decision

One of the questions I get asked most often is, " How do I know when it is time to retire?"  The answer I give most often is, "I don't know when you should retire, but I can give you some indicators to look for.  Then, you will have to decide if the time is right."  The economic situation may make any thoughts of retirement unrealistic for the time being. If so, don't despair. This season will pass.

With that disclaimer out of the way, when several of these indicators are present it may be time to retire.

You dread going to work everyday. You are tired and dispirited. Everyone has an off day or few days every now and then. But, if that feeling is present pretty much all the time, you may have reached your limit.

Your are being asked to a lot more work for a lot less money. This is the hidden message in that last productivity memo you received. To preserve your job you will have to accept a salary cut and pick up the slack of those unfortunate souls who got a pink slip. For the short term it may be in your best interest to accept this. But if the situation begins to look semi-permanent, you may have second thoughts.

You feel the essential "you' is slipping away. There isn't enough time for you to do what satisfies you and makes you happy. You find yourself doing things that make you uncomfortable. Your world has shrunk to work-sleep-work.

You can't wait to get home to work on a project or new passion. Closely tied to the "you" reference above. All your thoughts revolve around after work hours. There never is any time to do that thing you really love.

You complain to anyone who will listen (and even many who will not) about work. Spending your energy and life in a negative place increases your stress and shortens your life. It is also a quick way to get fired.

You have enough to live without a regular paycheck. You have run the numbers so often your calculator is melting. There are solid income streams that make you feel you can do this. You have thought through contingencies. You have thought about worst case scenarios. The numbers still work. You feel confident in your financial planning and long term situation.

A loved one is very sick and you'd rather spend your time with that person while you can. Whether a parents, child, relative, or best friend, there is no do-over if that person isn't likely to be with you through your retirement. Do you feel strongly that person needs you right now?

Your health is beginning to slip and you have things you want to accomplish while you still can. In this case you are on the other side of the fence. You are sure you will not be physically or mentally able to do what you'd like to do if you wait too long to retire. You decide it is more important to enjoy your freedom while you have it, even if it means a more limited lifestyle.

You have affordable alternatives for acceptable health insurance and care. This question is hard to answer at the moment. Everything seems to be in a state of flux. But, if your health coverage through work will continue, or your Medicare and supplemental policy are working well you are better off than many. Plan to spend much more than you think you will. If the budget still works you have dealt with one of the biggest hurdles to a satisfying retirement.

You are excited about making a major change in your life (where you live, how you spend your time) Change is life. A life without change is in a rut. Change can be stimulating, exciting, terrifying, and necessary. Sometimes you just have to shake it up and that thought gets your blood racing.

Your self-identity isn't defined by your job. You have a life and and sense of self worth not dependent on work. This is important. There are few things sadder than someone who retires, and discovers he has no life outside of work. If you have at least some friends who are not co-workers, enjoy hobbies or other activities you are much closer to being ready to leave the job.

What do you want to do with the rest of your life? When do you want to do it? Aren't those the most important questions? When you can answer them you may be ready.

Which of these questions and statements fit your situation? If you are retired, which ones were most important to you when you made the decision? Your thoughts and comments are very much appreciated and encouraged.

Take a lot at Retirement FAQs (frequerntly asked questions)  for more insight.


  1. Thought provoking as usual Bob - love the image of running the numbers so often that the calculator is melting.

  2. Thanks, Ryshia.

    Thank goodness calculators are cheap!

  3. Great points Bob - it helps as always to have them written down so I can check off those applicable to me. Obviously a decision not to be taken lightly but with the right planning and considering the relevant facts one that can be made with better results.

  4. Hi Dave,

    I'm guessing you have a pretty solid handle on how and when you want to retire. I'm glad you enjoyed the list.

  5. Bob,
    Another idea: When your life is on automatic pilot and your spirit is dying. I know you came close in one or two but you are making it too analytical. This is the only life you are going to get. Stop wasting it!

  6. Emotion certainly plays a part in the decision, Ralph. But, it can be dangerous to react without the thoughtful consideration of what comes next. If you walk away from a job at our age and discover you aren't ready it is quite difficult to pick up the pieces.

    That being said I was more than ready to call it quits 10 years ago because I was burned out on the business and the lifestyle. I wanted to enjoy my life again. I rolled the dice and hoped that I was financially and emotionally ready. Common sense says I retired too soon but I knew I had to give it a shot.

  7. I put myself on a five-year plan of retirement/redirection, but got so excited about all the possibilities that I retired three years early!

    I'm in my third year of retirement/redirection/rewiring, and I don't miss a thing. While I enjoyed my teaching position for the 39 years, I was still more than ready to create a different structure.

    Your article rightly makes clear that forethought is needed (as it is for the success of most ventures).

  8. Steve,

    Congrats on taking the plunge early. As you have discovered there can be so much to keep you busy and happy that it is a shame we can't all retire at 30 and really enjoy ourselves.

    Yes, retirement like anything worthwhile in life takes planning, foresight, and at least a touch of luck, I'm pleased to see that you have made the transition such a possible experience.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. DH would retire now, except we want just a little more in our nest egg.

    So we'll retire in 2 ages 42 and 43. :)

  10. Hi Emily,

    That will be quite an accomplishment. You obviously have your financial house in order. Maybe I should spend more time at your web site!

    Money is just part of the path to happiness in retirement. But, I'll bet that you know that and will be ready.

    Keep us informed if your time table speeds up.

  11. This is a wonderful post! I remember thinking "We have done that and really it did not work!" when younger teachers suggested a solution in a work session. I knew it was time to bow out. Each new generation needs to reinvent and improve what the last generation already knows.

    The trick is to be financially prepared with the youngsters around disregard your wisdom and expertise!

    Thank you for the visit to my travel post. I always appreciate your attention.


  12. Hi, Barb,

    Every generation thinks the one before them has done things all wrong and needs to be replaced with fresh thinking. The Boomers certainly did and often still think that way!

    That's the way of the world and isn't likely to change. You just hope when it is your turn to step aside the financial and emotional support system is in place.

    I enjoy your blog and visit as soon as a new post pops up on my site.

  13. Hi, cool post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for sharing. I will probably be subscribing to your blog. Keep up great writing!!!

  14. As on Monday September 30th, I am officially retired!! I have some of the answers to your questions. And have been planning for a long time. Looking forward to the next chapter of my life!! Best Wishes. T

  15. Congratulations! This is a big step and the opening of a door that will show you how exciting and full a life can be.


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