I am always aware that September is a month that serves as a reminder of going back to school, yet September is also a time when many individuals return to work after taking holidays throughout the summer. The middle of autumn, which occurs in September, is analogous to the middle years of a person's life. The decade of the 50s is also the time in people's lives when they begin to entertain the idea of retiring early or begin to harbour the hope that this choice may arise. This dream may or may not come true depending on a number of circumstances, some of which are unfavourable, such as losing one's job, while others are favourable, such as being the beneficiary of an inheritance or winning the lottery.
Even though many of us are aware that thirty years exist between the ages of twenty and fifty, more often than not, we remain unaware that another thirty years exist between the ages of fifty and eighty. What are the consequences of this time scale?
The most important consequence is the failure to plan and prepare for these years. They are not set in stone as one may live to celebrate the century or die much earlier. However, the average life expectancy in Western Europe was 79 years for males and 84 years for females in 20221 which fits in broadly with a lifespan of 30 plus years if one takes early retirement.
There's something alluring about the idea of retiring early, whether it's the image of strolling on sun-kissed dunes and sipping cocktails in the evenings, or the freedom of not having to commute, meet deadlines, or answer to anyone. Early retirement has a certain allure. But the authors of this study from the National Bureau of Economic Research2 point out that the reality of having an infinite number of days with no goal is not always a pleasant experience. They came to the conclusion that an early retirement is detrimental to one's mental health, and that this is mostly due to a decrease in the number of social networks. Naturally, if one's place of employment is a difficult one, retirement presents an opportunity to restore one's sense of self-worth. It is very obvious that leaving a job or workplace that is stressful can be an effective way to reduce stress levels dramatically and reduced levels of stress have been linked to improvements in both mental and physical health.
People who retire earlier have more time for activities such as hobbies, working out, and relaxing and participating in enjoyable pursuits has been shown to improve one's health and well-being.
Also, as a result of not having to worry about meeting work obligations, early retirees might have improved sleep habits, and this ultimately results in improved cognitive performance and overall health.
To avoid a negative outcome, it is essential to make preparations in advance in order to take advantage of the possibility of retiring earlier than expected. The years between the ages of 50 and 80 demand just as much preparation as the working life that occurred between the ages of 20 and 50. This preparation requires you to focus on a variety of aspects of your life, including your work, neighbourhood, lifestyle, finances, and responsibilities.
The abilities and skills that an individual has obtained and developed throughout the course of their work can now be utilised to make new opportunities available. It is vital to take a careful look at your place of employment in order to assess the positive and negative aspects of working there. Determine the talents that were gained and investigate how these abilities might be applied in new and different contexts.
Are you content with the place that you live, or do you long for a cottage in the mountains or a house by the sea? Do you plan on purchasing a camper van so that you can travel around the world at a more leisurely pace? There are also other advantages,
As a retiree you are able to prioritise healthier eating habits, regular exercise, and preventive healthcare due to the increased time you have for self-care, which can have a good impact on your sense of well-being.
There are also more opportunities for increased social interaction, which is essential for mental and emotional health. Keeping up healthy social ties is one way to fight the negative effects of emotions of isolation and I have already mentioned loneliness.
One advantage of eliminating the daily commute, as well as saving time, is the reduced exposure to air pollution, which may well be beneficial to the health of the respiratory and cardiovascular system. Remaining mentally alert after retirement can be accomplished by engaging in intellectually challenging activities such as learning new skills or continuing one's education. There are so many opportunities available at universities for older folk that it is an opportunity not to be missed. Also, mixing with so many young people at college offers a window into the life and hopes of the next generation as well as the opportunity to be a ready listener as they negotiate their journey into the adult world of work and training.
One advantage of retirement is having more leeway in organising the day. Rush hour traffic can be avoided and there are more opportunities for leisure activities throughout the middle of the week.
An early retirement can also provide the opportunity to launch a new company, get involved in volunteer work, or investigate the possibility of a second profession that you may have secretly longed to do for many years.
All of the good things about early retirement rests on the premise that there is enough of an income to lead the life you dreamed of. Lack of sufficient income to meet the dreams of retirement may be due to many things, not least, inflation, unforeseen debt, financial meltdowns etc. Also, even if there is a good pension pot it is prudent to anticipate more volatile financial situations in the future.
So perhaps the most important part of early retirement is to actually phase it in. This also reduces the negative effects of early retirement such as income becoming a bit tight. Pensions may not keep pace with inflation and a significant purchase such as a car or home improvements may strain weekly income to undesirable levels. Even if working reduced time there is always the satisfaction that any income increases will also be applied pro rata to your pay. Similarly, if you enjoyed the social camaraderie of your workplace, reducing the time spent at work still allows you to maintain the daily connections with colleagues. Even though in Europe, we have excellent free health care there are times when an illness involves costs which are not reimbursed, and these can put a strain on a pension. One other advantage of easing out of job rather than cutting it off completely is that it gives the opportunity to start a venture of one’s own. This side hustle can be a source of income but even more significantly it can be the means of meeting new people and situations. Moving into retirement gradually also reduces the sense of boredom and lack of purpose that a lot of retirees feel. This is especially true if one’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth are tied up with position held or profession.
So, just as September slips into October, it is a time to remember that Autumn takes its time. Let’s look at autumn, its glorious hues changing by the day, and the abundant fruit on the trees and learn from it. The colour changes gradually, the fruit ripens in its own time, and the leaves fall slowly. Why then should we move from work to retirement in an instant?