8 Signs It's Time to Retire

By Tim Lemke on 14 September 2017 0 comments

There will come a time when you consider making the shift from worker bee to retiree. But knowing the best moment to stop working is not always easy to determine. How do you know whether your money will last once you stop earning a salary? Is there a "magic age," when retiring makes sense, or do you just go with a gut feeling?

There's no science to knowing when to retire, but there may be some signs to follow. If most or all of these apply to you, maybe it's time to submit that resignation and begin the next chapter of your life.

1. You have enough money for the retirement you want

It's impossible to know precisely how much you'll need in retirement, but there are some basic calculations you can make to see how long your money will last if you stop working.

You must first calculate what your annual living expenses will be. Research shows that people tend to spend less as they get older, but be sure to factor in the potential costs of new activities like travel, eating out, and caring for grandchildren. Then, examine how much money you have saved, and what the return on that money might be as you age. Match those numbers up with your expected life span. There are other things to consider, such as whether you plan to draw equity from your home. There are many online calculators that can help you with these figures.

Generally speaking, if you take the annual expenses you expect and multiply them by 25, you'll be in the ballpark of what you need to retire comfortably. Once you are approaching this number, it may be a sign that you can stop working. (See also: 6 Ways You Can Cut Costs Right Before You Retire)

2. You must collect distributions from your retirement plan

If you have a 401(k) or IRA, there comes a point at which you are required to take distributions. For most people, this age is 70-½. You can delay taking 401(k) distributions until after you stop working, but not for the money in a traditional IRA. If you are being forced to take distributions, there's not much incentive to continue working.

3. You can collect the maximum in Social Security

The government incentivizes people to retire later by offering them more money from Social Security if they wait longer to collect it. You can begin collecting benefits as early as age 62, but those benefits will be higher if you wait longer. Those approaching retirement age can get full benefits if they wait until age 67, and may get additional credits if they wait until age 70. If you're already getting the maximum benefit from the government, perhaps it's a sign that you're ready to retire for good. (See also: 6 Smart Ways to Boost Your Social Security Payout Before Retirement)

4. Your expenses are the lowest they've been in years

Your house is completely paid off. The kids are out of the house and college is paid for. You're not yet at the point where you have high medical expenses. Your cost of living hasn't been this low in decades. Sure, you may have big ticket things you want to pay for (travel, for example), but your day-to-day existence no longer requires a bi-weekly paycheck. It's still important to assess whether you have enough saved to last, but if you've downsized your lifestyle to a super-low level, it may no longer be necessary to keep working.

5. You no longer get any pleasure from work

We've all heard stories about older people who continue working simply because it makes them happy. Often, working gives them purpose and a sense of satisfaction that can't be replaced in retirement. But what if you're not one of these people? What if the work itself isn't rewarding, and you find yourself drained rather than energized by it? Then it may be time to consider retiring, assuming that your financial ducks are lined up well. Life is too short to work at an unsatisfying job if you don't have to.

6. Your health is starting to decline

In a perfect world, you will be healthy and spry enough to take advantage of all that retirement can offer. You will be perfectly able to handle that long bike tour through the south of France, and those backpacking trips on the Pacific Crest Trail. You'll have energy to spend time and keep up with your grandkids. But, if you are starting to see your health fade, perhaps it's time to stop working before you're unable to enjoy retirement the way you wish.

7. Your spouse wants you to

If your significant other is done working and has an urge to begin the next chapter of their life, perhaps it's that time for you as well. Many of the happiest retired couples are those that retire at the same time, and make post-work plans together. How fun is your spouse's retirement going to be if you're still schlepping into the office every day? (See also: 5 Money Conversations Couples Should Have Before Retirement)

8. You are confident in your post-work plans

Many people continue working because they honestly don't know what they'd do otherwise. But if you have mapped out your retirement life, have a good sense of how you'll fill your days, and feel excited about what you want to do, that's a sign you may be ready to retire. If work is actually preventing you from moving forward on your plans, maybe it's time to think seriously about stopping work, assuming you are also ready financially.

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