Is it really time to retire?
Retirement – the prospect of time to yourself, filling your days with the things you want to do and, saying goodbye to the clock-watching that working often may bring.
But is retirement really all that it is cracked up to be? And, if you are in any doubt, just when is the right time to retire?
Society at large seems to buy into the myth that one of the sole goals of working throughout much of your life is the ability to retire – and to bring forward that retirement date to as early a stage as possible.
At the same time, of course, most of us are living longer. Quoting the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), an article on the 25th of September 2018, for example, revealed that the average man can expect to live until just short of his 80th birthday, while women may expect to live until they are nearly 83.
If you retire at the current State Pension age of 65, therefore, you may expect to spend almost 20 years’ in retirement.
A story in the Guardian newspaper on the 18th of November 2018, however, illustrated that early retirement may considerably extend that period. It gave the example of a man who took early retirement from IBM at the age of 54 and managed to spend the next 30 years’ in retirement – longer than he had actually worked for the company.
Too young to retire?
What the Guardian story also illustrated, however, is that the longed-for retirement proved something of a disappointment for the individual concerned.
Despite stints of further education and voluntary work, he found his days increasingly hard to fill and sorely missed the companionship of colleagues and stimulus of work.
While some people take early retirement and may live to regret it, however, others are obliged – mainly for financial reasons – to work long after their State Pension age. Research by the website Rest Less, published on the 27th of May 2019, showed that there are now record numbers of people in the UK working until well past their 70th birthday. The current level of nearly half a million is double the number of just ten years ago.
Indeed, rising life expectancy is behind radical proposals by the Centre for Social Justice to raise the State Pension age to the age of 70 by 2028 and then to increase it again just a few years later to 75.
While acknowledging that working longer may be beneficial to some people's general health and wellbeing, the New Statesman magazine on the 20th of August 2019 criticises the plans because many might not be well enough to work so far into their 70s and it is unreasonable to force them to do so.
Why do you want to retire?
Although work – and the community of colleagues it brings – may be good for your health, it is not just incapacity or ill health that may make it so disagreeable. But there remains a distinction between disliking the job you are currently doing and giving up work altogether.
Simply being in an unsatisfying or disagreeable job at the moment does not mean that you are, therefore, ready to retire.
As you weigh up the options, you may discover that there are other lines of work – different types of employment – which you may find more stimulating. These will enable you to retain the companionship of colleagues in the workplace and make the day you eventually retire an event to look forward to and appreciate even more enthusiastically.
Those options might also include moving into retirement in a more phased and step-by-step manner. You may be able to agree that your employer shifts some of your current responsibilities from your shoulders, for example, or reduces the hours that you work. You might even be retained in an advisory or consultative capacity.
Planning and the financial imperatives
For some, the decision about whether it is time to retire continues to be dictated by their financial needs – giving up work and the income it brings may not be a realistic option.
That throws up one of the most practical issues about when to retire – and that is whenever you can afford to do so.
The financial ability to retire with passion – or the economic basis on which you may keep your options open about choosing when to retire – is mostly a question of planning. The sooner you start planning for your future retirement, the broader your options and the easier it will become to choose the best time to do so.
It is never too soon, therefore, to start the planning of your pension arrangements, which help to keep your financial options open and allow you to decide when it is time to retire and start the next chapter of your life.
The data quoted in this article is correct at the time of writing.