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Is there an ideal age to retire?

Posted Jan 02 2011 10:10am

Question mark I was asked in a recent interview if there's an ideal age to retire. This was my answer:

No - I don't think there is an ideal age to retire. I think it really depends on the individual concerned. There's a saying in retirement coaching circles that 'Each retirement is as individual as a fingerprint', and there are a lot of things to consider...

  • It depends on how financially comfortable you want to be - some people need to know that they'll have enough money to last them for the rest of their lives, and some people will just be retiring from one job and going straight into another - or starting a business.
  • It depends on how much debt you have and your confidence about being able to service that debt on your retirement income.

  • It depends on the state of your health and the amount of self-responsibility you take for your health.
  • It depends on your family longevity - none of my grandparents lived beyond their mid-sixties - my parents have done better, but that's something to be considered - how long can you reasonably expect to live (and that's where the self-responsibility can have an effect).
  • It depends on what you want to do with your retirement, the kind of experiences you want to have and the level of energy, wellbeing and youthfulness that will be necessary for that to happen - if you want to spend two years trekking through the Himalayas, that's going to require a certain level of strength and fitness and you might want to consider doing it sooner rather than later.
  • It depends on how much you like to work (or don't like to work, as the case may be).
  • It depends on how good you are at filling your time and how fulfilling you find those activities that you fill your time with.
  • It depends on what you are retiring to - if you have a lot to look forward to, you're going to be keen to get started on it, if you don't have much to look forward to, you might want to hang on to your working life for as long as you can.
  • It depends on how well you can replace the benefits that you get from your work. It's been identified that our jobs give us financial stability, a way of managing our time and a sense of being useful.  We get socialization and companionship from going to work and we get status from our jobs, to varying degrees.  But we can also get other benefits from working, such as: mental stimulation, physical exercise, the opportunity to travel, the opportunity to work on exciting projects, the opportunity to share our gifts, talents and expertise, even the opportunity to associate with young, attractive, mentally-stimulating co-workers! It depends what you value and if you can find a way to replace it once you retire... 
  • So, it all comes back to the fact that each person's retirement is as individual as a fingerprint. Having said all that, I did read something recently that said that: 'Retirements that occur at culturally and institutionally expected ages yield large dividends in well-being' - my translation of that is that those people who retire at the age that most people expect to retire at in the country they live in (so, here in the UK it would currently be 60 for women and 65 for men, in the US, it would be from 62-65) do better, both physically and emotionally in the years following retirement, regardless of how well they were before they retired and whether or not they retired willingly. And that people who retired earlier or later than that, didn't tend to do as well.

    So that might be something to consider... 

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