Some people retire too soon. Others wait too late.
But how do you know when it’s the right time to retire?
Kiplinger’s Janet Bodnar asked the magazine’s readers: How did you make the decision to retire, and what advice would you give?
“As you would expect, finances were a major factor — but far from the only factor,” Bodnar wrote.
I like what one reader, Del Richter, wrote. “One piece of advice I’ve always remembered is that you will know when to retire when you have enough — and when you have had enough.”
I’m going to definitely remember that myself.
Read more: When to Retire? Only You Know Best
Of course, the chief concern should be making sure you’re financially ready. I’ve worked with so many people who had had enough but didn’t have enough money to live on without working. They had retired but found they had to find a job to make ends meet.
“At some point, we’ve all considered what it would feel like to retire early,” writes Katie Brockman for Motley Fool. “When the alarm goes off early Monday morning and it takes every ounce of strength you have to roll out of bed, you’re probably wishing you could just hurry up and retire already. But retiring early can have major consequences, and most people underestimate how much they’ll actually need to live comfortably.”
But Brockman says you’re not ready if you don’t have a clear monthly financial plan.
“You can’t know how much money you’ll need during retirement if you haven’t created a monthly budget,” she writes. “Make sure you have at least a rough estimate of how much money you’ll need each month to cover necessities, as well as the amount you’ll want to spend each month for other expenses — then add a buffer, just to be safe.”
Answering the question of when it’s time to retire is about more than having enough money.
“It’s one thing to be financially prepared for retirement, but don’t discount the mental upheaval that might ensue once you leave your career behind you,” wrote Maurie Backman for Motley Fool. “Though many seniors look forward to the downtime they’ve been missing during their working years, you may come to find that your newly unstructured existence throws you for an emotional loop.”
Read more: How to Tell If You’re Ready to Retire
Still want to get out of the rat race early?
Read more: 6 Signs You’re Ready to Retire Early
If you’re debt-free, you might be a good candidate for early retirement.
“If your mortgage is paid off and you don’t have any loans, credit lines, large credit card balances or other debt, you won’t have to worry about making large payments during retirement,” Sarita Harbour writes.
Take this quick quiz to find out if you’re psychologically ready to retire.
How did you know you were ready to retire? Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. Put “Ready for retirement” in the subject line.
Retirement rants and raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. What do you like about retirement? What came as a surprise.
If you haven’t retired, what concerns you financially? You can rant or rave. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”
In last week’s retirement newsletter, I wanted to hear from married couples on how they managed the decision of when to retire. And, for couples already retired, I wanted to know what has their relationship been like since retiring.
Read the column: Can retirement ruin your marriage?
Amy Roberts from Fresno, Calif., wrote, “We retired together and have been extremely happy with that decision! It’s given us the opportunity to jump into travel, home projects and spur of the moment activities together instead of one of us feeling left out of the fun or the frustration of having to wait to enjoy this graduation to a new lifestyle! Despite being five years younger than my husband, it never occurred to us that I would continue working; we wanted to jump into this next phase of life together since there’s no guarantee how long our health will hold out to enjoy travel and other activities we want to share. We are so grateful that we were financially able to take this step together. We’ve lived this new lifestyle for almost 2 years and it’s been wonderful!”
Joe Closs of McKinney, Tex., wrote, “My 60 plus-year-old wife receives her Master’s in Library Science degree this week, the happy end of a journey spanning decades. She has no wish to retire. She thoroughly enjoys her position as a children’s librarian. On the other hand, my mother-in-law moved in with us last year after a fall that rendered her a bit less mobile. As I had been pondering retirement for quite a while, I took this opportunity to retire and take care of her. Not that she needs much help at this point, just looking ahead. Fortunately, we have the financial resources to support such action. Did we have several discussions before embarking on this course of action? Absolutely.”
George Schaefer of Austin wrote, “Having seen out parents struggle financially in retirement, Lois (my wife of 44 years) and I started saving for retirement around 30, after we had bought our first house and agreed to delay having children so we could save money and enjoy married life together as ‘DINKs’ (dual income, no kids). In our mid 50s we were raising two children and after selling a start-up . . . we began having serious discussions about retirement. Both of us are hyper organized and we had lists — nine possible places to live and priority list of attributes like medical facilities, university, cultural life, transportation in those places; fifteen ‘top 10’ places to visit; etc.”
Now retired, the couple are living their retirement dream. “In total, Lois and I travel about 55 to 60 nights a year and I am fly-fishing another 50. Our plan has definitely worked out. We spoke about it often, measured our progress, thought about potential problems. Making it a success took long range planning, hard work, good luck and some sacrifices. But we have lived well and are happy, have a strong family, good friends and lots of wonderful memories to last us until we are called home by God.”
Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)
If you’re viewing this post online sign up to receive Michelle Singletary’s newsletters right into your email box: “Your Retirement” on Mondays and “Personal Finance” on Thursdays
Read and share Michelle Singletary’s Color of Money Column on Wednesdays and Sundays in The Washington Post. You may also see the column in your local newspaper.
Follow Michelle Singletary on Twitter @SingletaryM and Facebook