Why Early Retirement is Not for Everyone

Some people don’t enjoy leaving the workforce behind.


Many people would like to retire early. Some super savers are aiming to stop working as early as age 30 or 40. However, the reality of early retirement is not always what we hope it will be.

I agree there are some situations when retiring early makes sense:

  • The nature of the work is physically taxing and your body can only take so much.
  • You absolutely hate your job and the stress is killing you.
  • You get laid off and cannot find another job.
  • Your health is poor and working is no longer an option.
  • [See Why You Should Take a Retirement Test Drive.]

    But aside from these and a few other cases, do we really want to retire at age 40? Here are a few reasons it isn’t in your best interest to retire young.

    Mental sharpness. Work and engagement with others helps to keep our minds sharp. We think, reason, and calculate on a regular basis, and the more we do it, the better we get. I noticed a difference in my sharpness after 18 months out of work, so what would 18 years be like?

    Financial security. Once we retire, regular income stops. We have to diligently track every expense against our savings to be sure we will not run out of money down the road. And it’s impossible to accurately foresee what the next 30 to 40 years will look like and how they will impact our savings. The past ten years have been a roller coaster and we have no way of knowing what the next decade will bring.

    [See What My Sabbatical Taught Me About Retirement.]

    Keeping busy. Work takes up 8 to 10 hours of your weekdays. During that time your employer and the duties of the job dictate what you do. Deadlines, projects, quotas, interactions with coworkers, and keeping the boss happy occupy your waking hours. You are only responsible for the evening hours and weekends. Once you retire, every moment of your day is yours to fill. Are you creative enough to entertain yourself for 40 more years?

    Social interaction. If you retire early and your friends and colleagues are still working, who will you play with? You may have lots of free time, but they will still be working for a living. Retiring too early can be lonely.

    [See Cultivating the Right Retirement Attitude.]

    I do plan to eventually retire full time, but remain cautious of pulling the trigger too early. Initially I would like to reduce the hours I work, perhaps to three or four days a week, doing something that I find stimulating. It may be a new career or something along the same lines as what I have been doing to this point. If I am able to enjoy myself more, I will consider myself successfully retired.

    Dave Bernard is not yet retired but has begun his due diligence to plan for a satisfying retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.