Posted on February 15, 2018

When Should I Retire?


This compelling question is one that we are asked with increasing frequency. We think it is best answered by telling the story of two men who retired early with strikingly different results.

Retiree # 1 left the workforce at the age of 52 because he was able to financially. He had received an inheritance that, coupled with the proceeds from downsizing his primary residence, was enough to sustain him financially. He was largely worn out from the daily commute to his office which, on a good day, lasted a minimum of 75 minutes in each direction. Going into retirement, his primary objective was a reprieve from the commute and the frequent business travel. Within 3 years of his retirement, this man was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, a result of his increasingly inactive lifestyle and poor dietary choices. At the age of 60, a series of health crises, including a cardiac event, a stroke and pancreatitis, forced this former athlete into a permanently sedentary lifestyle. He was no longer physically able to enjoy tennis, golf and long walks with his wife of almost 50 years. He died at the age of 72 from congestive heart failure, a complication stemming from diabetes.

Retiree # 2 stopped working at the age of 55 due to heart disease. This man, after recovering from a cardiac event, started working on a long “bucket list” of things he and his wife dreamed about doing when they finally had the time. He became a licensed captain and chartered a boat that they lived on for the first seven years of their retirement. Following that prolonged adventure, they settled in Florida and became very active in their church and community. Among the list of activities he continues to enjoy at the age of 84 are volunteering at a local shelter, delivering backpacks of food every Friday to local elementary schools for children that struggle with food insecurity, and helping homeless people have access to a shower and clean clothes every weekend. The primary objectives of this retiree as he began his second act were to enjoy family and friends and to serve others.

As a financial advisor, I tell these stories often because of the lesson I have learned watching my father (#1) and my father-in-law (#2). The lesson is that retirement is far more than a “financial” question. As one contemplates the idea of retirement, the question of “purpose” is equally important. We tell our clients that a successful retirement is having enough to do to get out of bed in the morning and enough money in the bank to sleep well!

TIP: As your retirement date draws near, find a blank weekly planner and block out each day into morning, afternoon and evening. Then, fill in each time period with how you expect to spend those blocks of time.