Do we retire early or not? That is the question

Do we retire early or not? That is the question

Do we retire early or not? What motives could we possibly have to retire early or to postpone retirement

The answers to these questions are a very personal matter. However, in practice, when we contemplate on them, we will very quickly realize that the answers are not easy to give. This is because so many concerns are at stake.

Money is an issue, of course. Our wellbeing. Our health. Our partner will have some idea. When employed, the employer usually has made proper arrangements. However, in the end the decision comes down to us.

I am at the helm

“I am at the helm when it comes to deciding whether or not to retire. I will not let anyone force or seduce me. I’ll decide for myself. If necessary, I adapt. If necessary, I settle for less money when I stop. And if I continue with my job, I am the one who determines the conditions.”

During the 10 years before Hannie and I moved to Spain, my very good friend Bert Breij and I thoroughly investigated early retirement. We talked with many women and men, either on the brink of or already early retired. This quote contains some strong statements made by an employee during an interview. The words express the idea that in the end the decision comes down to ourselves. 

During our research we were struck by the fact that whenever employees talk about early retirement, the first thing they reflect on is their job. Full of details and full of passion. So, apparently, we have to ask ourselves: how do I value my job, my work?

Our job is an investment

Our job is an investment

No matter whether we’re an employee or self-employed, our job, our work, is a huge investment. More often than not, an investment for a lifetime. This means that we value our jobs highly.

However, why do we invest so much value in our jobs? Most jobs come with some routine. Such a routine never comes easy. It requires competences, experience and craftsmanship. More often it also requires creativity and a lot of social skills. How do we value each of these components for our job?

Moreover, there are other features of a job that we value. For example, to socialize with our colleagues. Or to have our skills challenged. Can we cope with the newest technologies? How much control do we have over our job operation? What about management? Do they support us?

Fresh and fruity

In the Seventies and Eighties, of the last century, older employees were motivated by droves to retire early. This has radically changed. The political rhetoric is quite clear: we have to work longer. However, politicians rarely ask how we get this job done.

Employers ask: “How do we keep our staff ‘fresh and fruity’?” Until the mandatory retirement age, of course. Because almost everyone, employees and employers, still reject work after retirement. That’s bad luck when due to circumstances we have to work past the mandatory retirement age.

Indifferent colleagues and employers demonstrate why employees struggle with the early retirement question, and often pushes employees to do just that. This is such a pity. We think it is very important to be able to discuss such issues. This will help to be happy at work until the last day.

Do you retire early, or not?

The future always comes with a measure of uncertainty.

Trust and confidence are important issues when you evaluate yourself in your job. However, trust and confidence in your future, whether at work, in your job, or retired, are perhaps even more important. The problem with the future is though that you cannot predict it.

The future always comes with a measure of uncertainty. When you’re happy at work, why retire? When your partner works, why retire? Why take the risk?

This is why, for most people who work, the question ‘Do you retire early, or not?’ is so tricky. You have no idea what’s waiting out there. You invested all your trust and confidence in your job. The future in retirement carries no such trust or confidence. These will have to be created out of the blue. That’s a job by itself!

Plan ahead

However, when we’re able to argue why we work, and why we want to, or not, retire early, we will also be able to imagine our future. When we keep our thoughts about our job out of the way, what motives could a future in retirement carry for us?

When Hannie and I discussed moving to Spain, we had some notion that we would continue to work. One way or the other. As it turned out, our move made us aware that we want to help others to define how to age with care. This choice matches with our combined competences, experiences and skills.

Of course, we’re lucky to have each other and are able to support each other. We’re of the same age. This also makes it easier. What if your partner still has to, or wants to, work for another 10 years? Or your partner has no idea what to do after retirement? Or that being at home together all day, doesn’t work out as planned?

Healthy feelings

From German research we understood that 55% of the early retirees are in good health. In contrast, 35% of the employees that still worked at the same age, are in poor health and wanted, but could not, retire early. 

This is strange. Because why would you retire early when you’re still in good health?  The answer to this question is quite simple: people retire early in good health to be able to enjoy retirement as long as possible. This makes very good sense, because research confirms that early retirement in good health offers more happy years in retirement.

This is the reason why we, already before we moved to Spain, started to plan our health ahead. We both were too heavy. This made us decide to lose weight, however, in a very slow and easy way. It took us both 2 years to get to our below BMI-weights.

Money

Do we retire early or not?

When we were young we hardly invested time and thoughts in retirement. However, halfway into our self-employed lives we changed our attitude and became a bit more serious when it came to future income and retirement. To have a proper pension, we started planning ahead. To prevent boredom after retirement, we started planning ahead. This did not come by itself.

We both spent a lot of time together calculating the financial possibilities before we moved to Spain. This was important for us because we wanted to share the responsibility. We needed enough money to bridge at least 2 years and to be able to buy a house.

Both goals were achieved when we sold our house in The Netherlands. We’re again assured of a regular income, because we reached the mandatory retirement age, . Because we were both self-employed, for the majority of our working lives, this is a rather new, yet satisfactory, experience we enjoy every day.

Well, do you retire early, or not?

To summarize, when we contemplated retiring early from our self-employed status, we asked ourselves:

  • How do we value our jobs? Do these still give us a full measure of trust and confidence?
  • What will our future status be? Can we imagine our road ahead?
  • Are we happy with our health? How much do we need to invest to get our bodies in shape?
  • Are we able to bridge any financial gaps? Does retirement come with a proper and regular income?

If you think we forgot anything important in this to-do list, please let us know in the comment box below.

18 thoughts on “Do we retire early or not? That is the question”

  1. Hi great article, I know I want to retire soon that’s the reason I started affiliate marketing. With this business I will be able to retire maybe one year from know…”I hope”. I think people must think about affiliate marketing for retirement, it is a good investment and good return on investment.

    thank you for sharing this post with us,
    Lyne

    Reply
  2. Hi Tom (I think for the first time, as I usually seem to comment on Hannie’s posts), firstly nice to meet you.

    I think I can actually offer a perspective here.

    Some may consider me to be fortunate to even discuss these issues at my age, but my story is laced with tragedy too (but I won’t go into detail on that).

    I actually “retired” early at the age of 35. I had worked throughout my (short) adult life in a high-profile (and well paid) job in the Banking industry.

    I owned two properties as well at the time and both mortgages were repayed through a life insurance policy (I’ll allow you to work that out without providing any further details).

    So, I decided to take a break from working life for a while.

    I think I managed a total of about 2 years until I started working online, but eventually by the time I hit 40, I decided I was far too young to even be considering retirement, so I returned to the workplace, albeit to a far less demanding job.

    I have rebulit my life since the “events” of 2007 and am far more stable in every aspect of life.

    I now only work part-time and have returned to working online this year.

    I think I’m always going to be somene who needs to keep busy and therefore I can’t ever see myself as someone who 100% retires.

    I believe that if anyone has the opportunity to retire early though, based on the factors you’ve written about here, then I actively encourage it.

    I don’t think anybody particularly wants to work until they drop dead, so you may as well enjoy life to the full while you still can.

    Thanks for a great read Tom

    Partha

    Reply
    • Thank you for your compliments Partha. The past 10 years before we ‘retired’ to Spain, together with a good friend of mine, we researched early retirement (long-term contract research). In my article I only touched very lightly on the results of all these years. Moreover, I try to leave out as much personal opinion as possible. After all these years, there is, however, one personal conclusion I can share with you. Purpose is one of the most important aspects of life. Retirement, as such, never is a purpose. What comes before and what comes after retirement counts. Retirement is often just a bureaucratic event.

      Reply
  3. When I was in the military in the early 90’s they came out with a retirement plan for anyone wishing to retire early they would go out with a large sum of money. This was to cut back on the military at the time. 10 years later (early 2000) they started to hire new people again and even increased the age from 25 to 50 in order to fill the gaps that were caused by those earlier mistakes that were made due to demands from the government.

    For me, I retired because I got tired of the system but deep down it was me that needed to go out and adventure on my own. Build something of my own and be proud of it. We both love to travel and meet new people all the time. We also love to help, it’s just so much fun to do. Now 3 yrs later and we are still enjoying our lives much better than when we were working albeit we have less money.

    If you are thinking about retiring, then maybe that time is not so far away.
    A job is not us, it’s what we do to make money. And when making money starts to get in the way of living then the obvious happens for most of us.

    Great article and some really good points for anyone heading that way.

    Reply
    • Hi Rick. Thank you for your compliments. Always nice to read. From my reply to Partha you can imagine I talked a lot to (early) retirees during research. Never a dull moment. And interesting. Once I spoke a man whose retirement plans were postponed five times due to changes in jobs and in government and business arrangements. He planned to retire at 50 (from the navy). At the end he was 67. Yet, what displeased him most was that no one took him serious anymore during the last years of his working life.

      Reply
  4. In my country our government encourages retiring at a later age, 65 and above. Our (me and my husband) goal is to retire early and we are even willing to settle for less and live minimally. Financial is a big issue when it comes to retirement.

    Reply
    • There are all kinds of reasons that push, or pull, people into (early) retirement. However, You’re quite right that no one is able to retire (early) without proper financial back-up. Why governments want people to retire on a later age, I never understood. There is such a big mismatch on the labor-market between people who want, and those who do not want to work, and between people who are totally stuck in a job and would love to change to another one. By the way, I hope you and your husband succeed in retiring early.

      Reply
  5. Hi Tom,
    It’s a good article to show us that you and your partner planned well about life before and after retirement. I am also surprised about the perseverance you two have about your goal. People forget often to only consider the money without a good condition of health they have when they reach retirement.
    For self-employment, do you build your online business through affiliate marketing to support you two financially? If yes, I must go learning everything to start planning my retirement when I still have time for better planning.

    Thanks in advance.
    Matt

    Reply
    • Hi Matt. Thank you for your compliments. Appreciated. Yes, (early) retirement comes with as many conditions as life before retirement. That’s also what makes it interesting. To answer your question, the following. We both had regular jobs when we were young. From this we receive at the moment some pension. During the years of our self-employment we used to save money for our retirement. From this we now receive some money. Because we lived in The Netherlands from the day we were born until the eligible age, we now both receive a state pension. For all the extras we desire, we develop several businesses using affiliate marketing. Take it from us, it’s worth the effort. Hannie wrote an article about that on our other website: https://nogeraniums.com/earn-a-side-income/ Earn a Side Income as a Pensioner – Become an Affiliate. This gives you some idea.

      Reply
  6. Tom,

    I watched both my Uncle and Dad age faster after they retired. They seemed to lose a part of who they were when they stopped working. I think that’s one of my major fears, that and the standard money worries will probably keep me working as long as I’m physically and mentally able.

    Sean

    Reply
    • Hi Sean. Nothing wrong with working as long as you can and have the appetite for it. As I told Partha Banerjee, the feeling of purpose, the feeling to be meaningful, is a major drive throughout life. Many people worked very hard to fulfill their purpose in their jobs. This in itself is already a message to be cautious when aging at work, in a job. There will always be a moment, expected or not, that your job comes to an end. Be prepared. That is a job too. Don’t waste it. Moreover, it’s great fun to phantasize about all kind of different purposes in life outside your job. This might help you, in your job, in your private life, as well as in your decision to (early) retire or not. However, I must admit that I always had the most challenging jobs imaginable, and outside work I was never ever bored.

      Reply
  7. This is a very interesting article on early retirement and you’ve covered everything needed to be taken into consideration. Money is a big factor and having enough to live on into old age is a must. You are fortunate in being in a happy relationship, but many dread early retirement if they can’t stand their partner’s company! Health is very important and I can understand people retiring early while they’re in good health. As we’re all living longer many retiring at an earlier age could expect at least 30 years ahead of them.

    Reply
    • Hi Kathy. Thank you for your compliments. Much appreciated.
      Yes, you are right, many people will have at least 30 years ahead of them at retirement. Moreover, probably 30 years in good health. Such a long period requires a substantial income, or assets, preferably both.
      This also requires, as you noticed, a healthy (= happy) relationship, you might even say healthy relationships. Retiring and aging, the two seem to go hand-in-hand, will be very frustrating without a proper social network. Unless you thrive on solitude. That’s fine, if it’s a personal and conscious choice.

      Reply
  8. Good afternoon Tom,

    I “retired” in 1986, quit my job and my life changed drastically. I started to work hard on my farm and still do but a tic less intensive.
    Michael, who emigrated from to U.S. in 2016 to Spain, retired 1 year earlier than planned. The financial loss was minimal, but he gained peace of mind and that is priceless.
    Now we take good care to remain healthy so we can pester each other for at least the coming 20 years.

    Regards, Taetske

    Reply
    • Good morning Taetske,
      To be honest, in my opinion, you never retired, and you probably never will. No work, or job, is more gratifying than farming.
      Never knew though that pestering and health were such a good combination. Should try it out myself, I think.
      Have a nice weekend, Tom

      Reply
  9. Thanks for sharing. I think retirement can happen at any age. Even if you are in your 30s you can still retire if you use the right vehicle. The most important thing is to find a meaningful thing in life to do that contributes to people’s lives.

    Reply
    • You are right Delyana, to contribute to others is the most important and meaningful thing we can do. Thank you for your comment, Tom

      Reply

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