He also enjoyed his job. My husband worked for the government (first in the military and then in the civil service) for over twenty six years. Although we had begun to discuss where we would retire in depth (mainly because we planned to retire in Germany that required certain logistical requirements), we had no plans to retire early. In fact, my husband was planning to work past thirty years-assuming we could control the location of those final years. With six years exception, I have always worked part time. I also was willing for our work lives to continue onward.
While I have many regrets and experienced a great deal of grief upon my husband's death, I do not think we/he made the wrong decision. I do not go around asking myself "what if we had retired ten years ago". In truth, while I love my life, I was retired at age 55 not by choice, but by my inability to find employment-even part time employment. I left my job to take care of my husband, stayed off the job while dealing with the attendant issues, and always assumed that I would return to work at least part time until retirement age. In fact, much of my spending during that period was predicated on the idea that I would again be working (and saving).
I enjoy my life, and I find it extremely fulfilling. I am rarely bored and always have things to do. My life, as this blog shows, is mainly rich and joyful. That said, I would not have chosen "early retirement". In fact, of the "early" retirees I know (in person or online), many have come to that place by circumstance and not by choice. Again, this does not mean that their retirement is not joyful and full. Many of those "forced retirees" would probably not choose to return to the work place even if that chance were to arise. Some would, happily. Of those couples who chose to retire early, most have been happy with their choice-on the other hand some have chosen to return to the workplace (or like me, start their own businesses). It's probably important to note here that for me at least "retirement" does not equal "financial independence", as it does for some people. That version of retirement assumes that you consciously planned never to work just because of money again-and I frankly doubt that particular definition applies to all early retirees.
I enjoy my enforced retirement to the fullest-in fact both I and my husband are the kind of folks that retirement planners hold up as examples: we both had multiple hobbies and interests, and some of those interests were joint and some were separate. Our social lives were not tied to our employment (although living on a military/government base overseas does have some effect). Even so, given the chance, I would probably have preferred to wait until at least my current age of sixty two to retire. Why, you may ask? These are my reasons,and my thoughts, which may or may not apply to you:
- We started our family late in life. That meant that when my husband died and I became unemployed, I still had a child in high school. While it's all very well and good to say "you are on your own" the truth is that ideally our children should at least be out of college and on their own prior to retirement (in my opinion). And pushing a child out of the house/and or giving him different opportunities than other children in the family simply makes the emotional upheaval even worse.
- We believed (I still believe) in living in the moment. I realize that on the surface that sounds like the ant and the grasshopper. Put another way, we were unwilling to live like no one else now (hello Dave Ramsey) in order to live like no one else later. Life is to be enjoyed at it's fullest in all periods. We lived in Europe for much of our marriage and the twenty percent plus that "planned" early retirees save was spent on family travel-pure and simple. Even with my current situation I have absolutely no regret in this area. My children may have fussed at being dragged to another cathedral or castle every weekend but they will remember it the rest of their lives. Almost every single weekend and thirty days a year were spent traveling as a family (and I fully admit that travel was not done via youth hostel). When we were not living in Europe we lived in Washington DC (by choice) with those living and culture costs.
- Working another ten years or less would have significantly increased our (my) bottom line, and allowed my son and I to have had a no loan (mainly) education. Having no dependent children, no debt ,and downsizing would have allowed us at that point in our lives to save a huge amount of income.
- We both worked in jobs that (mainly) energized us and were not physically taxing. My husband did not regularly have to travel for work. He worked long hours during the week but was home on the weekends. Yes, we worked for and answered to other people. This was not a large issue and for the most part both hand good relationships with our (sometimes quirky) supervisors.
- It is VERY difficult, almost impossible even, to change your mind once you have retired. Employers rarely hire folks with employment gaps these days (if my son is having this trouble, imagine a forty five year old who travels five years and then wants to go back to work). In some instances, I suppose, you might be able to call your early retirement break a sabbatical or research. In the real world though, add current hiring practices to age discrimination and the bottom line is that there is no going back. Some of us may find part time gigs relative to our own work history or start successful employment. Going back onto the career track for a few years? Doubtful.
- Even though our social lives may not be tied to employment, many of our friends may still be part of the working world. This is certainly true in my case. All of my friends and all of my family still work - some part time and some at home, but they still work. This means that most of my day time or weekday evening socialization comes elsewhere (obviously my sister and I live together, but if not, I would probably not see her during the week). When I was in Texas, the gals in my swimming group or quilting group all worked or were at home spouses/parents whose partners worked. While I enjoy socializing with all ages, this does mean that most of the people I interact with during the week (at water aerobics and such) are either young moms with kids at home or folks half a generation older.
- I personally feel strongly that we have an obligation to be part of and to contribute to society as much as possible for as long as possible. I realize throwing this one out there is asking for more comments/emails than I my be prepared for. In other words, even if I had the money, sail boating around the world would not be the thing for me. This does not have to be tied to employment, obviously. Still, the bottom line is that for every retiree who increases their volunteering time after retirement, there are as many if not more who concentrate on travel and personal enjoyment to the exclusion of all else. And the truth is, when it comes to retirement income, many of us are giving less than we were when working when our economy needs it most. Again, this is just one observation and I welcome comments and opposing viewpoints as always.
- In many cases, we may have spent long hours and large amounts of money and effort educating and training ourselves. Sometimes that training may be in something we never really cared for. Sometimes we are able to take those skills into retirement and use them to our advantage and to enjoy them. To completely cast them aside though, to me is a mistake.
- Finally, early retirement is often extremely costly. Why? Because of that elephant in the room I spoke about last month. Early retirement medical costs for me are NOT a major factor, but I recognize I am in a huge minority in this area. Almost every early retiree I know (in "real life" or online) is paying a huge cost for leaving their jobs prior to medicare eligibility-in some instances they are paying close to their after tax income. This is a huge financial cost, and for me, would severely impact any early retirement joy.
For myself, I have managed to forge a rewarding retirement life that includes enjoying my home, travel, volunteering and my own business. I would not change much going on in my life right now-except for my son's situation. That said, for those who are considering early retirement, it's worth looking at all the sides and all the costs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with working until sixty, or even seventy.
What about you? What have you done? What will you do about retirement, or early retirement?