Signs you may not be ready to retire

A New Year. A new start. New resolutions for the future. This is the time of year for a cool assessment of where life is leading and adjusting course as need be. If you are contemplating retirement is part of that review, here are some signs that retirement readiness may not be on the horizon just yet.

With a little help from our friends

We all need a sense of purpose, structure to our days and lives, and social networks as we are social animals. If most of your friends and social circle are at your place of work, you may need time to establish friendships and social circles outside of the workplace. If you want to hang on to those relationships at work, start a regular meeting or event outside of work now. It could be a dinner or breakfast group, a pub or games night, a walking or fitness group, or anything that will keep those people you value in your life. Then look for people outside of work to connect with on a regular basis. Find your people as a couple if you have a partner as well as an individual.

If you are caretaking or supporting aging, ill, disabled, or dependent family members, you may not be able to retire just yet. You are financially responsible for their care and support. This can be exhausting and demanding but that is your reality for now. This is the pressure cooker of the sandwich generation. Of Canadians in their 20’s about 42% are still living at home. Some parents are helping adult children buy their first homes. About 20% of first-time buyers do so with the addition of parental funds. This can cramp retirement plans or delay them.

Let it be

I once spoke to a woman who said that if her husband did not retire, she would leave or kill him. He was in his late 70’s and a professional who saw no need to quit. Those who still feel challenged and engaged in work may not wish to retire. They have not written the last chapter of their career epic. Often their identities are wrapped up in what they do. Farmers, small business owners, artists and musicians, and many professionals are a large contingent of those who do not want to change their lifestyles or activities as that is who they are. As long as they have a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and usefulness, they do not want to make the transition to retirement. Each year of working reduces active retirement by that year. This may be what that wife was lamenting.

We can work it out

The transition to retirement can be hard on a couple who are not on the same page about their expectations and plans for retirement. It is a whole new negotiation for many. Timing choices like who goes first, decisions like downsizing or relocation, a more restricted budget, and way more time together can prompt some touchy territory for couples. For some, the status quo may seem like the easiest path to avoid those conversations. However, eventually, those conversations do need to happen.

Attitudes to retirement can also be a barrier. If retirement is seen as being put out to pasture, or the start of a downhill journey, then it does not seem like a positive choice or outcome. Figure out what you are retiring to, how to find your purpose and structure your time, and get something to look forward to outside of work and find your people.

How do you know you are ready to retire?


  1. Veronika Boog

    If you feel happy and satisfied on job you are doing, why to retire? Only thing which you need to balance is your partner and your expectations. Partner should be involved in your life and your job and realize purpose of every act. That is key of managing successful relationship in older ages. it is similar with hobbies.

  2. Mia

    y husband is an artist. An artist who has received accolades from the government, and is listed on some websites as one of Canada’s most important artists.
    I am about to retire. I want him to ‘retire’ too; at least scale back dramatically. This is a big issue with us right now, I actually feel ‘done with the work world’. He also has interests and talents he has never had the chance to explore. I want a NEW life now. We are just working out this dilemma.

    • Donna McCaw

      Working out visions of retirement as a couple and as an individual as well can be tricky. Communication and respect come to the fore in discussions and negotiations. Know that you are not alone in this process and all the best!

  3. Eva Rabinovic

    Great post, but I wonder what is best age to be retired. Working til you die is not my personal wish. I wish to be retired in years in which I could still travel and visit friends, etc…

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