The working world is divided up into two basic groups of people: those who can’t wait to retire, and those who dread it. Money and attitude are the biggest drivers of retirement plans. If you’re still paying off debts and don't have a big enough next egg built up to get you through your golden years, early retirement is not a practical option. Likewise, if you're financially set but have no desire to stop working, there's no need to retire early, either. On the other hand, if you are ready to call it a career, take the time to weigh the effects quitting early can have on your personal life, wallet and health.
Effects on Your Brain
Quitting work before retirement age can effect your mental acuity and trigger depression, according to researchers at both the RAND Center for the Study of Aging and the University of Michigan. Twenty years’ worth of data show that folks in Spain, France and Italy who remain in the work force stay mentally sharp longer than retirees. This provides powerful evidence that a person is no longer mentally stimulated on a regular basis, his brain suffers.
Effects on Your Wallet
Many people saw their retirement plans, stock portfolios and home values take a big hit as a result of the banking crisis and recession. If that's the case with you, long-standing plans to quit work before retirement age might have to be put on hold. Even if you didn't get hurt that bad by the economic downturn, you should figure out how much monthly income you can depend on when you retire. If your savings are not enough to cover all your bills for the next 20 years of so, find out how much Social Security income you can count on by using the retirement planner on the agency’s website. Go to the Retirement Estimator tool and plug in the required data. You will be shown details of benefits you receive by retiring early at age 62.
Effects on Your Health
No matter how much you have tried to keep fit and healthy during your adult years, you will likely run into bigger health and medical bills as you get older. It happens to everyone. When you retire you might have to give up a good health plan and depend on government plans such as Medicare and Medicaid to help pay your medical bills. Chances are the result will be much less coverage than before. Professional financial planners recommend using retirement modeling software with built-in “What If?” scenarios to decide if early retirement is a viable option. You can find plenty of these programs with a simple Internet search. According to an article on CBS Money Watch, these programs can "estimate your retirement income from all sources, compare the results to your projected expenses, estimate a shortfall between your income and expenses, and figure out how much you need to save to make up for the shortfall."
Effects on Your Lifestyle
Unless you are wealthy, quitting work before retirement age usually means adopting a more frugal lifestyle. This can have a big impact on your social life and ability to enjoy leisure activities. For example, while many of your friends continue working and moving within your former inner circle, you’re no longer an active part of it. Even if you make efforts to stay in touch, many of your friends will still be too busy to help you fill in the extra hours in your day. You need to make sure you have something that can help you pass the time before deciding to retire early.
- ABC World News; Study: Retiring Early May Be Bad For The Brain
- Social Security.gov; Retirement Planner: Benefits by Year of Birth
- Financial Samurai.com: The Dark Side of Early Retirement
- Forbes.com; Morningstar Personal Finance; Taking Early Retirement: Pros and Cons
- CNN Money: Can I Retire Early?
- CBS Money Watch: How to Choose the Right Retirement Calculator for You
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.