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Reasons People Do Not Retire (Financial and Other)
Old 06-02-2013, 06:17 PM   #1
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Reasons People Do Not Retire (Financial and Other)

I signed up for this site a little over six years ago at age 47. My plan at that time was to retire sometime in the subsequent 6 years, with age 53 being the absolute limit of work. Well, I reached age 53 half a year ago but I’m still working. This isn’t completely without cause. For the past year I have been waiting for a “buyout offer” at my workplace due to funding shortfalls. And in fact, such a buyout was offered to all employees a few of weeks ago. I have one week to decide whether to accept this offer. If accepted, my termination/retirement date will be at the end of next week. The buyout offer is relatively modest - about 5 months of salary. However, I am uncertain about taking the offer and retiring. This is surprising. After all, I’ve been waiting for this moment for many years.

The hesitation on my part causes me to reflect on the reasons people do not retire. A non-inclusive list of 13 reasons is given below. Some of these reasons are very logical. Others less so. Some are financial. Others are emotional. Some reasons apply to me. Others do not. There is nothing particularly novel about this list. This subject has been discussed before and it will be discussed again.

Feel free to comment about the list. In the following post, I will describe my personal situation and request advice/insight. While this topic spans many categories, it is posted to the FIRE and Money forum since “financial psychology” is most relevant to my concerns. However, it is noted that this tread may be the antithesis of a current thread in the Other forum ("6 Signs You Are Ready to RE").


Reasons People Do Not to Retire

1) “I don’t have enough money.” This is a legitimate concern. Generally, people should not retire if they don’t have sufficient financial resources or reasonable plans to mitigate money shortfalls should they occur. Granted, the gray area can be large. It is often difficult to pinpoint exactly how much money is needed to retire.

2) “I will have more money if I work just one additional year, especially during my peak earning years.” The famous one-more-year syndrome. The statement itself is almost always true. However, it will be true at age 55, 65, 75, 85, and 95. It will never stop being true. When is enough really enough?

3) “I love my job.” OK. Makes sense. People who truly love their jobs shouldn’t stop working. Barring medical or related issues, why stop doing what one enjoys? However, very few people actually love their jobs. At best, most people find their jobs tolerable.

4) “I will miss the personal interactions and other aspects of office life.” Yes, there are often benefits and perks of the work environment that go beyond the work itself. Hopefully, however, these benefits are not confined to the office. In one form or another, most people can find the same or similar rewards in their personal lives.

5) “I will let my co-workers down if I retire.” This is often true. Your colleagues at work may need to assume your former responsibilities after you retire. This will be a hassle for some. It will be a “step-up” opportunity for others.

6) “I will be bored in retirement.” While this is a valid concern, a more practical approach may be to address the problem rather than the symptom. Instead of using work as a crutch, it may be better to seek ways to find personal fulfillment in retirement.

7) “I will have no purpose or goals if I retire.” Another valid concern. People need a purpose. People need goals. Interestingly, the goal of many working people is to eventually retire. Fulfilled goals can leave voids. There is no more excitement or anticipation. It’ s like the day after Christmas.

8) “It’s what I know, it’s what I’ve always done.” Interestingly, this is why many people remain in bad personal relationships. Bad habits, even painful habits, can be difficult to break.

9) “Work is expected of me; none of my friends and neighbors are retired.” This is particularly applicable to early retirees. Sometimes, doing what is expected is appropriate. Other times, it is keeping up with the Joneses.

10) “My identity and personal importance come from my job.” This is true for many people, especially workaholics and professionals. For some people, this is a difficult mental obstacle to overcome.

11) “I’ve worked hard my entire life, I will be giving up a lifetime of effort if I retire.” Retirement can be a significant mental, emotional, and financial loss. In some occupations, there is no turning back. When success is built on success, it is like every career accomplishment a person has pursued since their childhood days ceases to exist at retirement. It is not the loss of a job. It is the loss of a lifetime of work and achievement.

12) “I’m not mentally prepared to retire.” Understandable. Change is stressful, even good change. But if you are not prepared today, will you be any more prepared tomorrow?

13) “There are additional reasons why I do not retire.”
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:19 PM   #2
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Personally, from the above list of reasons people do not retire, I seem to be susceptible to Reason 2 (one-more-year syndrome) and Reason 11 (giving up a lifetime of work). There is also a pinch of Reason’s 4 (miss the personal interactions), 5 (let my co-workers down), 8 (work is what I know), and 10 (work is my identity), although these are not as significant.

Financially, I have no significant worries about retirement. My COLA’ed pension plus the SWR from my investment portfolio will provide me with over 10 times my needed retirement income based on my present very frugal standard of living (i.e., $150K+/yr potential income vs $15K/yr expected expenes, after paying off my mortgage and using a donor advised fund for charitable contributions). Throw in Social Security in 15+ years and this ratio is even higher. Of course, I don’t know what the future will bring. Will my standard of living or financial commitments increase? Will there be unusual medical bills? Will I need to support family members? Will I want to buy that well-groomed McMansion? But even the most conservative financial advisor would advise me that I have enough to retire. So this does not appear to be the specific issue.

However, I am in my peak earning years. My financial net worth grows by about 10% for every additional year I work (not counting investment returns). The fact that I do not need the money does not negate the real-world opportunity to make more of it. This opportunity is difficult to resist.

In addition, my entire life has been dedicated to my career. I can identify successes in high school that led to success in college that led to success in graduate school that led to successes in my job. Every achievement was built upon another. While there are some things I can do to mitigate this loss, for the most part, all of this effort will be for naught once I retire. Or that’s how it seems. No more big salary. No more pension growth. An analogy would be a person building a house when young, living in and improving the house for 35-40 years, and then selling it. Their life is inside the house. It will be difficult to sell, even if the selling price is very good.

Do you or have you experienced similar thoughts, and how did you deal with them? I really want to retire. I do not like my job. I do not like working. There are many activities in retirement I would like to pursue. But I do not handle loss very well and I do not want to regret lost financial opportunity. Granted, it goes both ways. Time is greater than money, and every year of additional work is a year of lost retirement. But at least for me, that concept seems to be easier said than done.
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:50 PM   #3
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Shawn, Shawn, Shawn.... if you don't want to retire, there is no reason why you must!

I can't personally relate to any of those reasons, but then I had to work two years past FI in order to qualify for retiree medical. So, by time I retired I was more than ready, financially speaking. I was pretty disillusioned with being a scientist long before that; like many careers, it lives differently than one might expect.

As for the psychological reasons, like "but where will I find social interaction?" or "I'm letting my co-workers down!", I have always been pretty skeptical that I was being sold a bill of goods. A good organization can survive the loss of any one member, and I have been transient enough in my lifetime as an academic that I learned to develop new friendships in each location.

Maybe you should investigate the possibilities (if any) of part time work, or consulting. That would help with the financial aspects. If you liked it better, great! If you didn't, you could go back to full time work.

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Originally Posted by Shawn
I really want to retire. I do not like my job. I do not like working. There are many activities in retirement I would like to pursue. But
What if, for once, you spent all of your time doing what YOU want to do? You could pursue the many activities that you would like to pursue, before you grow old. You have earned this privilege, and it is really a pinnacle of accomplishment.
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:54 PM   #4
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Go to a cemetary tomorrow and try to find as many tombstones as possible that say:

"I wish I had spent one more day, week, year at the office".

Let us know how many you find.....!!!!

If you can do it ( RE) now, do it now. One thing is certain...every day you stay in a job you dislike, when you don't have to, is one more day to tick off your life where you could be enjoying each day instead of dreading it.


Who cares what the co-workers think or need? Their day will come too, and they probably won't be calling you for your advice....10 minutes after you're gone life will go on in Megacorp....trust me.

IF you don't agree..how many times have YOU wrung your hands over someone who has retired in the past?!?!!?!?


Good luck!!!!
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:55 PM   #5
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All I can say is that freedom is addictive. Once I retired I came to resent any kind of schedule forced upon me. So, my point is that people change over time, but not in all the same way. You may be one that pines away for work and dies of a broken heart, but I doubt it.
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Old 06-02-2013, 07:06 PM   #6
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I briefly wrestled with number 11, very briefly.

"11) “I’ve worked hard my entire life, I will be giving up a lifetime of effort if I retire.”"

Once I realized that what I was actually doing on the j*b (managing R&D contracts) had very little resemblance to what I majored in for college (Physics) and was best at (laboratory experimentation and management), I quickly got over it.

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Old 06-02-2013, 07:07 PM   #7
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I have begun to condition my DW that I am out next year, this time next year, not just a saying. She is in the mode of serveral of these. I know I will go from corp prestisge to Mr. Nobody & I am fine with that.

The only one I am feeling is guilt. I know I have worked for our net worth, but many of my friends did not share our foresight.

Next year.
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Old 06-02-2013, 07:13 PM   #8
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Shawn, that was a very well thought out introspective post, I believe. However, I wasn't expecting that last paragraph of your second post, as it seems to conflict with the thoughts that you still really wanted to work. You definitely do not need one of those self help books, as you know all the parameters that are involved.

We are very different, so I will give you a snap shot of mine.. Although I had a good job and enjoyed my position and the employees who worked under me, I grew tired of the stress of a job. I liked an early comment you made about retirement being a goal. Yes, that was a goal for me, and no, I had no follow up goal. Oddly enough I do not want a goal. I just love leading a stress free life, and living a normal routine driven day, that really doesn't change except when I travel. I have no friends who have retired yet, including my GF. However, I enjoy this as I get most of the day to myself. I was around so many people all the time at work, solving their problems, I enjoy the solitude I have now, and that will not change.

Your definition of financial freedom as at a whole different stratosphere than mine. If I had a yearly retirement income of 10x my yearly expenses, I would tell my GF to quit working too! I quit at 45, and had less than 6 figures of money to my name, but have a retirement pension that is close to double my modest needs. Heck, I even left a 2 yr contract on the table and more than 15% more pension income by retiring early. But it is only money to me. I want enough money to sustain my needs, and that is really it. Stacking it high was never my priority or I would have worked more. Due to slight paranoia, I did work PT for 3 years and saved way more money in the last three years than I ever have in my whole life. I will never be rich, but I am already secure and that is all I need. My job did not define me, and I have not missed it all. My co workers, were just worker friends, not my life friends. I have enough life friends as I am not one who needs a big social net. I am not yet 50, and I do not regret leaving money on the table, and do not miss the past. I am happy to finally not have to always have to look forward to the future because I enjoy the present so much. Not saying I am right or wrong, just sharing my perspective as it appears to be different from yours. Good luck in your decision!
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Old 06-02-2013, 07:15 PM   #9
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I joined in 2004. I am now 60. Your list truly resonates with me. Even though I could live on 2% SWR from our portfolio, I still like to work a year or two until my younger daughter gets out of college. That's my plan for now but is subject to change at any time in light of uncertainty over which we have no control. I had planned to stay with a company for rest of my working years but was let go recently. Initially, I thought about calling it quits but have decided to seek another position. Luckily, I was able to find another position within a week.
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Old 06-02-2013, 07:16 PM   #10
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I was in a similar situation (financially) but worked several more years than I needed or wanted to just because it was hard to quit taking the big money while still at the top of my game. (So I know the feeling) But for me once I had "really" reached FI, I recognized that "time" had become a lot more valuable than the extra money I was making.
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Old 06-02-2013, 07:31 PM   #11
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A well thought out post with some legitimate questions - not all of which have easy answers.

There was a post on Yahoo! back in 2009 which listed 10 reasons you shouldn't retire. My response was written from the perspective of someone who was already committed to retiring as soon as possible: A Private Portfolio: Ten reasons to retire

Once I had got past the "can I afford it" and "is DW comfortable and fully supportive" questions, it really came down to asking myself whether I wanted to spend more time working for the sole purpose of making money I didn't need or get out and do some of the other things I would like to do with my one limited life.

Four months to go ....
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Old 06-02-2013, 07:36 PM   #12
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Very good list, good post too. In the past, I'd worry about co-workers (4 and 5), but now that many interactions are with faceless people overseas, that has diminished. They'll be OK, and I don't get anything social for them since we are 11 hours out of sync.

Your post resonates with me though. 1 and 2 are big for me right now. Like you, I'm currently in a "if I get a buy out, I'm outta here" mode. But your hesitation makes me wonder if I would? No danger right now as Megacorp is currently doing well.

The only thing is... 10x your needed income and you hesitate? Wow! Cola pension, healthcare? Wow. Not sure I'd be hesitating, but I'm still not "in those shoes" just yet.

Thanks for the update and thoughts. It has me thinking.
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Old 06-02-2013, 08:03 PM   #13
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All I can say is that freedom is addictive. Once I retired I came to resent any kind of schedule forced upon me. So, my point is that people change over time, but not in all the same way. You may be one that pines away for work and dies of a broken heart, but I doubt it.
I agree -- freedom is addictive. I had to take an hour to have my car inspected last month and I couldn't believe how I really resented the loss of than one hour. (Now I can't imagine throwing away over 40 hours a week.)
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Old 06-02-2013, 08:09 PM   #14
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I'm guilty of 2, 3-, 4, 5, 9. And #13: my DW thinks retirement is for old people to while away their final days on the porch.

Probably the biggest factor is #5. I feel an obligation to my coworkers and company to make this project happen and to bring the younger geologists up to speed so that they can take over for me when I'm gone. I guess I'll eventually look for some tipping point at work where I can say that now they don't need me. It's hard to say no to the money too.
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Old 06-02-2013, 08:30 PM   #15
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Shawn, Shawn, Shawn.... if you don't want to retire, there is no reason why you must!
This is how I see it. The only reason to retire in my book is that you expect retirement make you happier and/or more relaxed. I find some of the snarky comments whenever someone admits to being conflicted about retirement to be a bit strange.

If Warren Buffett doesn't need to retire because he has more money than he needs, or Paul Allen, or Larry Ellison, why should any lower ranking mortal need to feel that their retirement or non-retirement needs to be justified?

Just do it or don't do it, and if you are concerned in any way about doing it, don't retire yet.

Whatever is supposedly written on granite in some graveyard is totally beside the point. Maybe that person just doesn't want to insult their spouse by admitting that they were a heck of a lot happier in the office than at home.

Ha
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:08 PM   #16
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However, I am in my peak earning years. My financial net worth grows by about 10% for every additional year I work (not counting investment returns). The fact that I do not need the money does not negate the real-world opportunity to make more of it. This opportunity is difficult to resist.

<snip>
I really want to retire. I do not like my job. I do not like working. There are many activities in retirement I would like to pursue. But I do not handle loss very well and I do not want to regret lost financial opportunity. Granted, it goes both ways. Time is greater than money, and every year of additional work is a year of lost retirement. But at least for me, that concept seems to be easier said than done.
Oh my - my kindred spirit ! I wish I had an easy answer but I struggle with this also. If the financial decision were a "no brainer" I'd probably feel better about retirement, but as you say, determining when you have 'enough money' is a vague concept that we can manipulate.
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:27 PM   #17
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I retired three weeks ago from my company after 12 years. While I was somewhat enjoying ER, I felt like I was not quite ready for it. I missed my coworkers, and the challenges of the business world. I have now joined a new company, but this time, instead of running a company with 200 employees, I'm working from home, only having one person report to me, with no responsibilities to be in the office or know what's going on there.

I make a fraction of the compensation I made previously, but I get to do the fun parts of work, from home, while leaving the parts I disliked behind. I think for me, going from full time work to this will be a very nice transition. And while the comp is much less than before, it's still enough for me to cover all my costs and fully fund my 401K and IRA each year, so it takes the pressure off me to figure out if I really have enough to retire.

I hope it works out. So far, so good.
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:32 PM   #18
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I retired three weeks ago... I have now joined a new company...
Maybe you need to ask the mods to change your user name to NotReady.
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:35 PM   #19
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Maybe you need to ask the mods to change your user name to NotReady.
Yeah...I expected that.

Oh well...I hope I didn't disappoint my fellow ERs on the forum. Everyone has to move at their own pace I guess.
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:40 PM   #20
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Maybe you need to ask the mods to change your user name to NotReady.
Now that's not nice. LOL. How about "GettingReady" ?

Remember - even Dory36 went back to work !
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