Ready or Not, Here Comes Retirement

Health problems and layoffs push many people into retirement ahead of schedule.

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Since the baby boomers started turning 65 in 2011, the world has not been the same. Each day for the next 20 years 10,000 more people will reach age 65. With so many beginning their second act and so many more to come, issues such as health care, Social Security and retirement living are becoming increasingly more important. Not only must these aging boomers come to grips with the realities of getting older, but they are entering the stage in their lives when society has traditionally said it is time to retire.

But you don’t necessarily become ready to retire just because age 65 rolls around. Savings and investments may be insufficient to allow for the lifestyle you hope to live as a retiree. And beyond the financials, few people have seriously considered how they will spend their free time to make the most of this next chapter.

What if you are not yet ready to retire but suddenly find yourself compelled to do so for reasons beyond your control? Here’s why many boomers are forced to retire before they planned to:

Health issues. It is not uncommon for health issues to become a factor as employees advance in age. As the years progress, some things just begin to wear down, ranging from knees and hearts to stamina and patience. It is not surprising that we may not have the same intensity and energy that our younger self was brimming with. If the job is physically demanding, we may not have the strength or agility required to continue at our duties. Sometimes we simply can no longer do what the job requires. Once the boss figures that out, aging employees can find themselves without a job. To make matters worse, at a time when you are no longer able to bring in money your health care costs are increasing.

Reorganization or downsizing. More and more older workers are finding themselves out of a job due to changes in the company and nature of the job they perform. The frustrating thing is these reorganizations and the corresponding reductions in staff do not necessarily have to do with performance. You may be doing a good job but find your job eliminated in a wave of cutbacks. Tenure is a thing of the past in most industries. And if you lose your job after age 50, the job market competition you will face tends to be younger candidates earlier in their career, candidates who are often attractive to growing companies.

Once you are over 50, loss of employment can force a premature retirement. Even with careful saving and investing, you may find yourself forced to exit the paying world before you achieve your goals for financial security. It is increasingly challenging for those over 50 to remain or return to the workforce.

Mandatory retirement. Some companies and organizations have a retirement age employees must adhere to. When 65 rolls around, it is not a matter of choice but rather a policy that your career comes to an end. Even though you may still be very capable of performing your duties, you won’t be welcome to stay on the job.

Stressful work environment. How often do you hear of individuals who are stuck in a stressful thankless job, but unable to exit because they need the money? Even in the case where the money is “too good” to leave behind, one has to wonder about the real cost of continuing with the status quo. Stress takes an incredible toll on mental and physical health. It is a sad state of affairs when someone survives a career and makes it to retirement only to find they are too beaten and worn down to enjoy their second act.

Retirement on your own terms. Then there are the lucky ones who because of a combination of hard work and good fortune find themselves able to retire when they want to. Finances are under control and good health is the state of affairs as they begin their second act with high hopes about what the next 20 or more years will hold. When they decide they are ready to retire, these fortunate individuals do so with a bright future waiting to be lived.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.