Some people really want to retire – but there are reasons why they can’t.
Other folks want to keep on working – but there are pressures on them to retire.
April 4, 2018 — Assuming you are lucky enough not to have found yourself unexpectedly retired, as so many baby boomers have, you might be wondering if this is the right time to retire. Unfortunately, there are so many different and unique situations that it is hard to assign a one-size-fits-all answer. In this article we will lay out some common situations where there is either pressure to retire or pressure against, and then some possible solutions. At the end what we are really hoping for is Member input for ideas on the best way to handle these situations. And, if you are looking for more articles on this topic, including case studies about actual people’s retirement experiences, check out the Retirement Planning section of our Blog (67 articles).
Not just a number
Retirement shouldn’t be just about a number – such as “I’m 65 so I better retire”. Obviously the best time to retire is when you want to, and when you think you can afford to. Many people dream of retiring as soon as they can – even in their 30s. But others hope never to stop working. But sometimes there are other factors that force the issue. That is what we will talk about here.
Some different situations:
A basic consideration about when to retire is if you love your job or not. Another big one is, can you afford to retire? Not being in a financial position to call it quits adds extra pressure. Sometimes there might be multiple factors that affect your decision to retire or not.
Let’s assume first you DON’T love your job, or at least you don’t like a lot of it:
DON’T love your job, and…
– Work is too physically demanding or stressful. Maybe there is too much travel or hours worked
– The people (bosses, employees, customers) aspect is bothering you
– Your spouse or financial circumstance doesn’t think that is a good idea
You DO like your job and…
– The company has offered you a buyout
– Your spouse wants you to retire
– You are running up against a mandatory retirement
– Your job is getting hard to do
Some possible solutions:
For every situation where you don’t like your job you can always quit, and possibly find another job. It might cost you money, so you can either try to replace the missing income with another job or business, or reduce your expenses/change your lifestyle. Sometimes moving to a new occupation is the best of all possible worlds, giving you a new lease on life. Of course if you have plenty of money saved you can do whatever you want.
DON’T like your job – solutions.
Job too demanding:
– Is there a way to change positions, cut back to part-time, change departments, go to a competitor
– Can you make a lateral or even a downward move to escape the people who cause you pain. Maybe you can work with them to reshape your job and/or skills (job crafting) and thus change how you interact with them
Spouse doesn’t want you to retire
This one is tricky and can test a marriage or partnership. Take Ed, 63, as an example. He supervises a lot of workers in an outdoor job that usually involves weekend work in the summers. The work is physically demanding, upward potential is limited, and he is losing some of his best workers because the company won’t raise wages. He would love to retire. However, his wife is worried about the cost of paying for his own health insurance until he becomes eligible for Medicare. A more frequent source of marital conflict happens when one spouse is retired and is concerned that the other will cramp their style at home (or the opposite, wishes he would join her in retirement).
If this is your situation, the best way to find a solution here is talk, talk, talk. Explore the reasons why your spouse has the position and feelings they have, and talk about the alternatives together. Chances are neither party completely understands the other’s position, but there is a path to a solution if you really understand where you both are coming from. For example, maybe you could agree to work for a certain amount of time, or that you will find a part-time job or start a business.
You might even want to go to a mediator as a way to a mutually satisfying solution. Realize neither person is likely to get everything they want.
DO like your job – solutions
In this case your clear preference is to keep working, but something or somebody is trying to influence you to retire. Here you have to weigh the benefits that flow to you for working vs. the obstacles put in your way to continue your career.
The company has offered you a buyout
Companies usually offer these for two main reasons. The first is to clear out highly paid senior people, and the second is to free up opportunities for younger people. Most times the financial decision of taking vs. not taking the buyout are fairly close and hard to evaluate. People in this position become quite conflicted as they try to decide what to do.
Two of our friends were recently offered buyouts. In the first case, our friend the tenured professor was offered a buyout by the university. If he took what looked like a generous package, he could continue to teach some classes. But, he would go to part-time status and no longer be the head of the department. He agonized over the numbers and the conditions. In the end he opted to turn it down and stay as head of the department, mainly because he loved his work and felt he would become a third wheel in the department and his field. Over a year, he is thrilled with his decision to stay.
An easier decision was the case of our friend, a judge, when he had a chance to move to ‘senior’ status at age 67. By doing that he was able to start his pension now, since it was unlikely to increase in the future. But, he was allowed to remain as presiding judge (a position he loves) in the short term and work per diem as much as he wants. It is early on in this decision, but so far he is pretty happy.
Your spouse wants you to retire
The same advice applies here as what we gave earlier – when your spouse doesn’t want you to retire (talk).
You are running up against a mandatory retirement
Here you might run into the brick wall of hard reality. However, maybe you could change positions, go to part-time, or join a competitor.
Your job is getting hard to do
The advice here will sound familiar – consider changing positions, going part-time, becoming an independent contractor, or joining a competitor. Maybe it is the commute that is getting you down – can you negotiate working from home more often, or find an opportunity closer to home?
You would like more time to do the things you always wanted
A lot of people are likely to find themselves in this predicament. Youe spouse or friends are retired and enjoying travel, hobbies, and leisure time – while you are chained to the job. Here is where negotiating for more time off could be paid for by moving to a lesser job, taking a pay cut, or going independent.
We have presented some situations along with possible solutions as a way to start thinking about the “when to retire” conundrum. Your situation is probably at least a little bit different. Ideally you start thinking about these factors years before you actually want to retire, so you have the time to plan and reduce the pressure. Keep in mind that your decision to retire does not have to be binary (yes or no); perhaps you can reshape the job or your career to make it work better.
Comments? We are really hoping that our Members will share your stories about how you decided when to retire, and how you wrestled with the factors urging retirement or not. Please share your thoughts, advice, and experiences in the Comments section below.
For further reading:
When Small Steps Can Change Your Life (NY Times)
5 Reason Why You Might Not Be Ready for Retirement