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3 Best and Worst Reasons for Retiring Early

Don't call it quits until you've considered these rationales


(This article previously appeared on Money-rates.com.)

The client had a goal: He wanted to retire early to one day golf in the Senior PGA Tour. Dan McElwee, executive vice president and wealth manager with Ventura Wealth Management in Princeton, N.J., already knew that his client could afford to leave the workforce early. He had a pension that would pay out 85 percent of his annual salary as a police officer.

McElwee’s client faced one big question though: Was retiring at the age of 48 — which the client planned — leaving the workforce too early?

McElwee thought not. This client had a particular goal in mind for how he was going to spend his retirement years, and that made retiring at an early age the right decision.

(MORE: What 30-Year-Old Retirees Can Teach Us)

Don’t Retire Early Without a Plan

Unfortunately, too many others who retire early don’t have such a plan.

They retire for all the wrong reasons, such as being bored at work. When they leave the workforce, they find that they’re bored at home too. They planned for the savings side of retirement, but they didn’t come up with a strategy for how they were going to fill their days.

“For my client, there was no reason to stay in the workforce,” McElwee said. “Why should he go into work every day at a job that put his life at risk if he didn’t need to? It really was a no-brainer for him.”

It’s rarely such a no-brainer for others though. The decision to retire early takes plenty of thought, even if you are financially set for retirement at 50.

(MORE: 5 Reasons to Not Bother Retiring)

3 Best and 3 Worst Reasons to Retire Early

Here are three of the best — and three of the worst — reasons to retire early:

Best: You Want to Pursue a Passion

Ron Grensteiner, president in the Des Moines, Iowa office of American Equity Investment Life Insurance, says the best reason to retire early is to follow a new dream. Grensteiner, a self-described “customer-service nut,” says he plans to open a UPS store after retiring.

“I can take the skills I learned in the insurance business and use them in a new business,” he said. “I can bring excellent service to my customers. That’s something I’d really like to do.”

Those retiring early need to find what they really like to do, too. Otherwise those hours at home can get awfully tedious.

(MORE: Coping With Extremely Early Retirement)

Best: You Want to Preserve Your Health

Some have to retire early for health reasons; maybe their jobs require hard labor that’s wrecking their bodies. Grensteiner believes that retiring early to preserve your health — as long as you can afford the move — makes sense.

“One of the best reasons to retire early is to enjoy good health and to have fun,” he said. “If retiring early can help you do this, and it won’t put you in a financial bind, by all means, consider leaving the workforce early.”

Best: You Want to Take On Something New

Charles Massimo, CEO of Deer Park, N.Y.-based CJM Wealth Management, says leaving the workforce early to learn a new skill or trade is a sound decision.

Massimo notes that many early retirees return to school to earn a degree. They might not use it in their professional pursuits, but the degree could enrich their lives.

Others might retire early to open their own business or help their adult children run their businesses.

“There are so many things you can do after retirement if you have a plan,” Massimo said. “Retirement is as much an emotional decision as it is a financial one. If you are not emotionally ready for retirement, you will struggle, even if you can financially afford leaving your job early.”

Worst: You Want to Travel the Globe

If your only plan for your post-work years is to travel, you might be retiring early for a bad reason.

Traveling is expensive. And after too many trips, globetrotting might lose part of its allure.

“When you travel, you still have to pay those property taxes on the home you own in New York,” McElwee said. “Those don’t go away just because you’re traveling in Europe. Vacation costs and second-home costs can add up. If you take a $10,000 vacation once, that’s not a big deal. But if you take a $10,000 vacation trip every year for the next 10 years, that can hurt your finances.”

Worst: You Want to Spend More Time With Your Spouse

It might sound good to retire early so you can hang out with your husband, wife or partner. But, as Grensteiner says, if one or both of you have been working full-time, you haven’t spent all day, every day together before. You could find that you get on each other’s nerves.

This illustrates again how important it is to have a plan for how you’ll spend your time in retirement.

Worst: You’re Bored at Work

It’s not surprising that many people retire early to alleviate work ennui. But this can be a dangerous reason: Boredom at the office can easily become boredom at home.

And boredom at home can wreck your finances, notes Grensteiner.

“Most people think their expenses will go down once they retire,” he said. “But that’s not always the case. You need to be entertained after you retire. You tend to spend more on vacations. You might buy a motorcycle. You might go out to dinner more often. You might spend as a way to alleviate your boredom.”

Dan Rafter is a freelance writer with more than 20 years experience covering real estate and mortgage issues. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Business 2.0 Magazine, Consumers Digest and dozens of trade magazines.

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