Do we really have control over when we will retire?

For most of us, we like to think we have control over when we should retire. That’s the goal anyway. Many think retirement is primarily a money issue where is we just save enough, we will be in a position to retire.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again . . . money is important but there is more to retirement than just money.

Here are some things that can affect the timing of your retirement. Some of these things may or may not be within your control.

Will you carry significant debt into retirement that may hamper your retirement lifestyle?

Can you retire with debt? There was a time when this question did not get asked because it was simply assumed that you had to pay off all your loans before you retired. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. Some can afford to maintain their debt in retirement, while others will struggle. The best retirement plan is to be debt-free, but that is not always possible.

Today, many people are planning to retire with debt. Some because of forced early retirement due to health concerns or downsizing. For others, they may have unexpected demands from family. For others, debt is simply because of years of overspending and a lack of spending discipline. Delaying retirement in order to diminish your debt-load can allow you a superior lifestyle once retired.

Do you expect to provide ongoing financial assistance to adult children or grandchildren?

Financial support to adult children can significantly hamper your retirement plans. Since the trend is to start families later, your children could still be living at home or barely launched when you are contemplating retiring. Parents will go to nearly any length to support their adult children, but are you prepared to sacrifice your retirement to meet their financial needs? Will you pay for the first degree, but suggest they fund their own way through graduate school? Will you allow them to move back home in a pinch, but expect them to pay rent? Help where you can, but know your limits and clearly communicate them to your children.

Do you expect to have financial obligations to aging parents?

Many retirees provide assistance to aging parents; a phenomenon intensified by longer life expectancies. Retire at 55 or 60 and one or both parents could still be living and maybe requiring progressively more financial and caregiving assistance. Caring for parents can cost you directly out of pocket if they cannot meet their basic needs and indirectly if you are forced to reduce your paid work or retire early to provide care.

If your spouse passes away, will you be able to meet your financial obligations?

Couples tend to plan for retirement together and fail to consider if the plan works in the event of divorce or the death of one of the partners. Each partner needs his or her own plan because it is likely you will spend some time in retirement alone. Quite often the loss of a spouse means less income and maybe fewer expenses but overall how will this impact the surviving spouse? Every spouse should evaluate this and take time to see what their answer to this question will be. If they will be short, life insurance may be needed in retirement.

What happens if your health prevents you from going to work?

Health plays a huge role in the quality of life you have. If you don’t have your health, it may prevent you from your ideal lifestyle and may also prevent yours from working which may impact your ability to make money and change your ability to lead a certain lifestyle.

If you want to maintain independence and security, you not only need money but you also need your health. Answering these questions will help you recognize some of the key issues to help minimize the impact of financial obligations on planning or delaying your retirement. Consider professional advice if you are not sure or need help to see the solutions.

Can you think of other things that affect our retirement that may be out of our control?


  1. Dave @ Financial Freedom Advantage

    This is a great article. So many things to think about for retirement besides just having one’s finances in order. People who were planning to downsize their home as part of their retirement plans may find themselves trapped until the real estate market gets better.

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