Life is full of big decisions. These decisions may include things like a college major, who to marry or not marry, career options, where to live, or even about rather simple things like where to vacation.
One of the important decisions is when to retire.
The conventional thinking is to delay retirement until you have more assets or income. If you can delay retiring, you have have a larger pension from your employer although these days, pensions are being replaced by 401(k) plans or profit-sharing plans.
These plans have accounts with substantial deposits that have grown handsomely.
If you can make it to age 65 or 70, there are several reasons to fight the urge to retire earlier. Of course, one reason is that you have more time for your nest egg to grow.
Two, you are older and may have less time to be spending your nest egg.
Three, you have more time to reduce debt. Mortgages can be reduced. Other debts may be paid off. This is a good thing.
Fourth, the longer you wait to retire, the more likely you may be to inherit wealth from relatives.
Fifth, as you work longer, your pensions, like Social Security and other income sources, may be significantly larger.
These are compelling reasons to work longer and delay retirement. However, I have recently met two gentlemen who refute these reasons.
The first in his early 70s has contracted aggressive Alzheimers.
He could have retired at age 60, but waited for many of the reasons above. He cannot drive. He walks slowly and is unbalanced. He has trouble remembering people and his currently location. Like many, his wife has taken the responsibility to care for him and the prognosis is not good.
The other fellow is approaching 70. He recently suffered a stroke. He has lost some memory. His right side is partially paralyzed. His speech skills are limited. His independence is diminished.
He told me that he always assumed he would live to age 90 and would be healthy until that age. Wrong.
He had accumulated enough assets to take him into his 90s and beyond. The reality is different than he expected.
He worked until age 68 to increase his Social Security. He saved and invested aggressively the last 10 years only to end up in a wheelchair with limited mobility.
Life has a way to throwing some curve balls at us. With hindsight, who was right?
Most of us know healthy, energetic folks in their 80s and 90s who are on the go every day. They travel, square dance, go to Zumba classes, walk for miles daily and more.
The decision to retire early is not an easy one and not without significant risk.
Retire now or wait?
It is a tough call and requires a bit of luck and good genes.