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Deciding if and when to retire

Part 2 - Do I want to retire

You may feel that you never want to retire. Some people are very happy at work: they like meeting their friends and colleagues every day, they like the buzz that it gives them, they enjoy the challenges that it provides etc - and someone is paying them to do it! If you're one of those people, you may feel that you want to go on for ever. Now that the default retirement age has been abandoned, you can – there is no set retirement age. If the positives of work outweigh the negatives then you may well decide that you can't replace those positives if you retire and so you're better off at work. That's a perfectly understandable and valid decision to make. Although do make sure you have thought it through and genuinely understand the opportunity that you are giving up. One of the dangers that removal of the default retirement age brings is that some of us will just drift on, especially if we are slightly concerned about how we would spend our time in retirement.

On the other hand, you may long for the day that you can stop full-time work and get on with all those other things that you want to do in life. Some people want to spend more time with their family, they want to travel more, to concentrate on their hobbies and so on. If you're one of those people, you probably can't wait for the day to retire to come along and you no longer have to get up for work every morning.

Most people fall somewhere between those extremes; they quite enjoy work and feel that they will miss their colleagues when they go but, on the other hand, want to have more time to get on with other aspects of their lives. These are the people for whom the decision-making process about if and when to retire is most important and, in many ways, most difficult.

However, even those people who feel that they want to work for ever should do some thinking about, ‘When should I retire? We can't predict the future and we never know when we might have to leave work, for whatever reason. We might even change our mind about wanting to go on for ever - things may alter at work that means we don't enjoy it so much. If that time comes and we've done nothing to prepare for it, the chances are that it won't work out as well as it might.

Those at the other end of the spectrum, who can't wait to retire, also need to think about retirement. They need to consider if and when they can afford it and when is the earliest that they can finish work.

Of course deciding when to retire may not be something based entirely on our own logical decision making. It can often be based on a variety of practical or emotional factors such as

  • the offer of a (redundancy) package

  • a change in the work situation (new boss, new role, relocation) which is unwelcome

  • an impending detrimental change to T&Cs (esp. pension rights)

  • a weariness with work coupled with a growing cynicism

  • a partner's retirement

  • illness or incapacity

However everyone needs to consider the question of retirement and to do it well ahead of time if possible. Planning for it will increase the chances of our making the right choices in retirement. We obviously want to enjoy our retirement and how we achieve that enjoyment is entirely up to us. Therefore, we need to choose what to do in retirement in order to make the most of it. We spend a lot of time choosing and planning our annual holiday, so that we choose one that we believe we will enjoy. If we do it for a holiday we should do it for retirement - plan it so that we give ourselves the best chance of making the right choices in retirement.

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