Deciding when to retire: a financial decision or not?

Senior man looks out of the window of a train, thinking.

Image: lightpoet/

When are you thinking of retiring? I assume that if you’re reading this there’s the thought that somewhere down the road, maybe soon, you will retire. But have you really thought through the when? What would have to happen before you could?

Research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College helps to destroy a myth about retirement and finances.

Money is not the main reason behind most deciding when to retire. If it were, most of those financially prepared for retirement would exit the workforce at that point, and those under-prepared would continue. That doesn’t happen.

According to the report, those ‘most likely to be working at these older ages are those with the strongest finances—those with the most education, greatest wealth, and highest lifetime incomes.’

But the probability is that those still working at 70 are usually earning a lower hourly wage and are likely working part-time. For them, work is more like play than work.

Then, those who do retire also tend to retire for non-financial reasons. In other words, ‘non-financial rewards’ keep some working and make others—the majority—retire.

So much of this seems counterintuitive.

The choice to retire or not usually comes down to things such as how these prospective retirees think they can achieve goals like personal growth, meaningful relationships, a sense of identity, and passing one’s knowledge and values on.

Health issues are a factor in the retirement decision, but for less than 30% of retirees. Fewer than 10% said they retired because they didn’t like their work.

None of this means that you don’t need to think about or plan your finances for retirement. That would be a huge mistake. What it does highlight is the need to think broadly about your retirement.

Your finances are important but, for most, it seems it isn’t the main reason for when they retire. What do you think? Will it be for you, or not?

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Finances, Lifestyle, Working

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