How to Decide if You Can Retire Early

Deciding to retire early is not always a voluntary decision.
My husband and I didn’t really think a lot about retiring early until my husband lost his job. Suddenly we were faced with a decision that many older Americans have had to make. At age 59 should we retire now? My husband sent out his resume to many employers with no luck. This was the first time in his life that he was without a job. We decided to seriously consider an early retirement.

When you're planning for retirement, most people think that you have until you're 65 to complete your retirement nest egg. The truth is that you better be prepared by the time you'r 60. All too often the older worker gets pushed out of his or her job before they are ready. Especially in bad economic times.

I created several spreadsheets to help with analyzing our spending habits, and estimating our income from various sources. I took a look at our stock portfolio and made some adjustments. I was very detailed in gathering information to determine where our money was going. I got all of our credit card and checking account statements and went month by month. Believe me that was an eye opening experience, but it gave me the knowledge I needed to plan what to do next.

I then developed a budget based on our average monthly spending categories and looked for ways to cut costs. Prior to this we had never used a budget. As long as we were able to pay our bills and save money, we had never felt the need for a budget. Probably not a wise decision as I feel that the discipline of using a budget would have been a worthwhile exercise.

My husband was a bit apprehensive about not having a job. He didn't know what he would do. We are finding, though, that it's not all that difficult to find things to keep us occupied. He purchased a used boat that needed some work. That kept him occupied with renovating and now he enjoys fishing and boating on a lake that is only five minutes from our house. We love to go to the symphony, and for the first time since my son was small, I went to the zoo. I have always had many hobbies that I enjoy and I am a bit of a homebody. A couple of years ago I learned how to do stained glass and am hoping that now I'll have time to work on a couple of projects that I have planned.

After all the analysis, we still are worried about our decision. We have a pension, our retirement savings, and hopefully Social Security and Medicare, but nothing is a sure thing. Investments can lose value, pensions can fail, government can make changes to Social Security and Medicare. These times, more than any other in our lives, are so uncertain. We did plan for retirement and saved, but is it enough? There are other options to consider, such as working part time or one of us trying to get a full time job.

Insurance benefits are another major issue. Health insurance for older people is an issue if you are too young to get Medicare. Even with the new Health Insurance Reform, there is no relief for us until we are 64. Until then we are at the mercy of the Health Insurance companies.  It still remains to be seen as to what this Health Care Reform will mean to the American people.

We have decided that we're going to give this a try for a couple of years. Wouldn't it be fun to enjoy your retirement? If things don't work out the way we plan then we can always make another plan.  We are not jumping blindly into this, but we are taking the tentative steps to try out our plan.

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Pat Bartels
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Posted on Apr 9, 2010
Kaleidoscope Acres
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Katie
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Posted on Apr 8, 2010