Every Monday morning, as we drag our weary bodies from the bed and prepare to begin another week of work, the concept of early retirement may appear as the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Just imagine it! All the time you need to do whatever you want! No longer being accountable to your boss! Not having to deal with disagreeable co-workers, angry customers or incompetent suppliers! Yes, in the early hours of each new work week, the idea of leaving it all behind and enjoying the luxuries of retirement at an age when you’re still young enough to appreciate it may seem like the chance of a lifetime.
Does it sound too good to be true? Well, that’s because it is. Early retirement, in spite of the oceans of leisure time and freedom from responsibility it brings, is a pothole laden road filled with potentially lethal traps if you don’t take the proper time to prepare for one of the major transitions of life. Let’s take a look at some of the downfalls of early retirement:
1) More time – How will you use it? Yes, more time is the one thing you have been craving. It is also the one thing that can eventually smother you if you don’t plan for its proper disposition. You want more time to travel, play golf, enjoy the finer things in life or whatever it is you fantasize about in retirement. But what if your spouse, friends or family members cannot share in your excitement and activities because they are still working? Are you sure you can fill your days satisfactorily?
2) Sense of purpose. You may never have considered your job to be the most meaningful sacrifice a person could make towards the betterment of the world; you may even have considered it boring and mundane. But it did give you a reason to get up in the morning and helped you to define your goals (retirement being one of them) for the future. What will give you that same feeling now?
3) Money. You may take your early retirement with a nice stockpile of money to back you up, but life and inflation can be fickle investment partners. What may seem like a lot of money today may not even be enough for you to get by on in ten or twenty years. How do you feel about the prospect of having to return to the work force at some time in the distant future? If you have to spend more years of your life working, wouldn’t you rather do it now while you’re young enough to manage it instead of at some point well past your seventieth birthday when, by all rights, you really should be retired?
4) What will it cost you to retire early? Many employers offer reduced benefits to early retirees. Again, what seems like enough money now may not look quite so bountiful down the road. There’s a reason why the terms “fixed income” and “retirement” are often used together in a sentence.
Early retirement may seem like the perfect solution to your feelings of job burn-out when, really, what you may need is a change of career. Before taking what could be a very disappointing jump into early retirement, stop and consider the wide range of options available to you. Maybe early retirement for you means leaving one field behind and taking on a whole new adventure. Maybe it means switching over to part time work. Working gives meaning and purpose to our lives. Don’t let go of that too hastily.