When meeting with new clients, the first question that most ask me is, “When should I retire?” That is a very good and very personal question to answer.
According to Gallup, the average age that people are now slipping into retirement is 61. You qualify for Medicare at 65. And you may start collecting Social Security, without penalty, between 66-67 depending on your age. If you wait to collect Social Security until 70, you can benefit by receiving the highest level due you.
All of these benchmarks are just numbers on a chart. The real answer to the question “When should I retire?” is when you want to—not when you have to. Don’t let Father Time come knocking on your door unexpectedly with your 3 p.m. cake and ice cream in the employee cafeteria. Take control of your exit, rather than the other way around.
Most people don’t retire on their terms
The top three reasons why people retire:
- A corporate realignment that does not include them,
- An unexpected health problem that makes retirement a very real solution,
- A spouse needs them to be their full-time caregiver due to an unexpected health challenge.
In addition, most people don’t have their priorities straight before they retire
So many people who have turned 60 ask: “What should be my top priority?” I answer: “Now is the time to shift from wealth accumulation to health appreciation.”
Most are in shock because they were expecting me to tell them that money is what they need to focus on.
They say, “Why health? If I don’t have enough money what will happen to me?” I respond: “If you don’t take care of yourself you won’t need the money, because you can’t take it with you.”
So yes, keep saving. But before you ask, “When should I retire?”, begin a regular exercise and healthy eating regiment. The big trap people fall into when they retire is gluttony. The best place to catch a retiree, in the first year, after they have traveled and eaten their way across that landscape, is sitting on the couch in their living room, watching reruns of “Friends” and munching on their favorite corn chip or other high-calorie tasty widow-maker.
Lethargy is the most common pathway to obesity, which is the most common affliction of retirees. Obesity in many cases is the birthplace of a number of cancers and other life-shortening vehicles. A good 20-minute workout, just three times per week, makes you sweat and gets that heart rate up. It can also do wonders for your metabolic activity, which slows considerably as we age without a steady stream of aerobic exercise.
Many people fear retirement because they feel that it leads to disease, depression and death
Yes, it can, but a good alternative to those three D’s begins with a well-oiled cardiovascular system, along with a pleasing yet responsible diet, a good night’s sleep and a reason to get out of bed the next day.
Sounds logical, but so many people I speak with after a few years into retirement fall into this category of self-imposed exile from humanity.
That last part—the having a reason to get out of bed the next day—is the real secret to having a happy, healthy and fulfilling retirement. During our working years we forge a work-related identity. This identity follows us for the majority of our adult lives. It’s there when you meet someone at a cocktail party, at your kid’s recital, at your cousin Joe’s second wedding. In many ways, it is what defines us.
When you go from the world of work to your next station in life, you need to have a new identity
This is where having a Certified Retirement Coach really comes in handy. Because we understand that it’s more than answering the question of “When should I retire?” It’s having the right battery of tests and knowing how to help you recognize the things that will help you to decide what you want to do not what you have to do.
It is the “want to do” that will bring you the most joy and will keep you healthy, wealthy and wise—and something to start thinking about if you are wondering, “When should I retire?”
About Bob Foley
Bob Foley is your Retirement Lifestyle Coach and you can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply by scheduling time on his calendar.