When to retire might be the most difficult decision you’ll ever have to make. Seldom discussed are all those intangible factors that greatly influence this.
While sufficient money is critical, once that hurdle is overcome, all the emotional aspects increase in importance.
There are eight emotional signs you need to retire. Ignoring them can result in additional years of misery at a soul sucking job. Instead of moving forward, you’ll remain stuck and unable to enjoy what should be the best years of life.
1. Achieving a Milestone: Age / Savings / Years of Service
While this might seem like primarily a financial decision, it’s also closely tied with the feeling of crossing the finish line. For many folks, once they achieve their objective, they’re ready to retire.
The most common age to retire is 62, which also happens to coincide with Social Security eligibility. Likewise, some folks wait until the age of 65 when they become eligible for Medicare. In either situation, age becomes the trigger for retirement.
Our post What Age to Retire goes into greater depth into this.
Another factor is achieving desired savings and knowing you’re financially prepared. For instance, let’s say your goal was accumulating a million dollars. After achieving your magic number, you’re ready to call it quits.
The problem is very few people have set enough money aside. And, how much is enough? Contrary to the ridiculous numbers the “experts” throw out, what is sufficient for a decent retirement?
In How Much to Save for Retirement, we found the average couple needs a minimum of $430,000 to retire at age 62.
The #1 retirement fear is outliving your savings. This fear drives some to work years longer than they need to. We go into this in greater detail in our post Greatest Retirement Fears.
Years of Service
I recall a friend of mine who retired after 35 years of service. When I asked him why, his response was “I’ve maxed out my pension and I'm ready to go”. Considering the corporate bullshit he’d put up with for so many years, that seemed a no brainer.
Having shared that, he also received a retirement party with all the bells and whistles. That prompted me to write How Much to Spend on a Retirement Gift. This was a grand celebration for many years of dedicated service.
2. Job Burnout
After decades of working your ass off, the majority of older workers keenly look forward to finally slowing down. All the stress, anxiety and uncertainty has taken a toll.
Who doesn’t want to get off the merry-go-round and leave the rat race behind?
The year after year mantra of “doing more with less” wears down the most dedicated of employees. Often, it seems the reward for hard work is keeping your job with even more work piled on!
A recent study by Spring Health suggests over three-quarters (76%) of American workers are burned out. The past year, in particular, has added many additional stresses such as the pandemic, natural disasters and social unrest.
3. Job Dissatisfaction
We’ve all heard of plummeting job dissatisfaction. According to a Gallup survey, as many as 85% of worker’s are unhappy.
Older workers often find themselves “stuck” with little or no opportunity of advancement. In spite of how competent they might be, their careers are effectively dead ended. Besides no promotions, salary increases or any bonuses are often capped.
In fact, some companies target older employees as a means of downsizing to reduce cost. In our post What is Forced Retirement, we reveal some of the tactics organizations use to shed older employees.
4. Poor Work Environment
Although a poor work environment contributes to job dissatisfaction, this in itself can become a reason to leave. For instance, my wife absolutely loved being an office manager.
Yet, the toxic work environment created by her Bad Boss, left her no choice but to resign.
I know of several people who have no intention of ever going back to work in an office. After working from home, they love the freedom and flexibility. They are adamant of never making the daily commute to work in a fluorescent lit cubicle.
On the other hand, some folks greatly miss the office and the social interaction. However, as a cost saving measure, many organizations have reduced their real estate expense and no longer maintain full office space.
5. Declining Health
If you were told you had one year to live, what would you do? I certainly wouldn’t spend it at work! Health concerns are one of the greatest emotional signs you need to retire!
A friend of mine developed rheumatoid arthritis. In constant pain, early retirement was a no brainer for him. Fortunately, he’d set enough money aside for a comfortable lifestyle.
Even if you’re in good health, the stress and pressures of work might be taking years off your life. Everyone’s time is finite and none of us are getting any younger. All the money in the world doesn’t mean much when health declines.
6. Taking Care of a Family Member
Similar to when health issues arise for yourself, your outlook dramatically changes when it’s a loved one. This could be a spouse, aging parent or other family member.
A fellow I used to work with was faced with this situation. His wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As much as he loved his career, the choice for him was clear. While she was still able, they crossed travel destinations off their bucket list.
In other situations, holding down a full-time position and providing care can be overwhelming. Not only an emotional challenge, there’s simply not enough time in the day to manage both.
In Caring for Aging Parents, we share further thoughts on this.
7. Retired Spouse
Another instance influencing your retirement date is your spouse. While on paper it makes sense to work a few more years, if they’re retired, you might want to do things together.
For example, many couples plan on traveling and seeing more of the world. Rather difficult when one partner is still working. This whole matter can get complicated as there are many reasons, both, for and against.
8. New Opportunities Beckon
The final of the emotional signs you need to retire is new opportunities are beckoning. This could be an “encore career”, engrossing yourself in something fulfilling. This could be paid or unpaid, the important part it’s something you want to do.
A colleague took on a full-time executive position (unpaid) with the Boy Scouts. At first, I thought he was nuts! As he enlightened me, he was making a real difference and loved it.
When you think about, isn’t that what this next stage of our lives should be about?
Alternatively, this could be relocating to where you’ve always wanted to live. Perhaps a mountain retreat or near a beach. This could include being closer to family and participating in your grandchildren’s lives.
Retirement offers the freedom to live and do whatever you want.
Closing Thoughts on Emotional Signs You Need to Retire
When to retire is generally thought of in terms of money and / or age. Basically, when these coincide most folks are ready to retire. Yet, seldom are things quite that straightforward. More often than not, this decision is mixed with emotional factors.
Each person’s circumstances will vary. In addition, there may be multiple factors at play. An example could be feeling burned out, the work environment sucks and / or looming health concerns. Make the choice that's best for you!