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When’s the right time to retire?

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, May 23, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

As part of our retirement planning, my husband and I are designing a new home. We're including a couple of offices because I've worked from a home office for 15 years, and my husband contemplates working from home when he finally retires from his full-time job -- if that ever happens.

My husband will be 65 in a month, and he's finding the idea of leaving the workforce unappealing. For one thing, his company was sold recently and he received some financial encouragement to stay in the saddle. He was initially afraid that the acquiring company would change its mind, but nearly six months have passed and he's more comfortable with the new ways of doing things. He sees a place for himself in the foreseeable future. When his boss asked him last week about his plans, my husband told him that he may work another five years.

I was grumpy at that news. I shouldn't be, though, because I benefit from his continuing commitment to bringing home a paycheck. But working has a price -- your time isn't your own. I'd really like for us to be able to do some of the fun-but-time-consuming things we've talked about -- like taking the boat from Detroit to Chicago and back.

In response to my grumbling, my husband ran the numbers on our retirement plan and showed me that for every additional year he works, we'll be able to buy more of the comfort and freedom from worry that neither of our parents were able to enjoy. His dad was a truck driver; mine worked on the line at National Cash Register. And both sent their children to college so we could avoid doing the kinds of work they did.

We've been enormously lucky and we're grateful, but my husband thinks we should be doing what we can to pay it forward -- make sure that our own children have even more opportunities than we did. I'm not so sure about that. We sent our children to college. We helped them get on their feet, and now that they are in their 30s or close to it, I'm inclined to think that they are on their own.

If there's money left when we're past needing it, I hope they use it well. But I'm not offering any guarantees. As far as I'm concerned, their inheritances could be fond memories.

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Steven Tenenbaum
June 09, 2011 at 11:49 am

Life is what you make it...I thought that if I gave up the income and status I held as a licensed professional by giving up a successful practice of psychology at age 50 it might be like dying.

Two years later, I am divorced from the partner, who unlike you, insisted that I keep making that huge income, and am with someone new. I am working a near-entry level job that has good health insurance, and just covers the rent in our beautiful little apartment overlooking the San Francisco Bay. I work maybe 2/3 the number of hours I used to and have loads of time to play with my adult kids! I call it "working retirement." No mortgage, no stress, LOADS of play time!

Life is WONDERFUL!! My retirement continues to grow, while I am still young enough to do fun activities, and my kids are not yet married or with kids of their own, and thus have time to share with me. My fiancee and I have time enough to ride my motorcycle to the most interesting of places and ...
a. I never get woken up in the middle of the night to talk someone out of suicide.

b. I never have to beg managed care not to try to kill my clients.

c. I never have to negotiate with any supremely self-entitled fellow professionals in my employ!

In short, There are amazing possibilities out there if you can let go of defining yourself solely by your work. You just have to take a leap, much as you probably did at the beginning of your career... The rewards are amazing!

June 07, 2011 at 9:23 am

My husband, too, wants to keep working til he is at least 70. Since I know him well, I can tell you he'd be miserable if her retired now. He loves his job as a scientist and has no other interests or hobbies to occupy him. His income is good and I benefit from that. I am retired and the only downside for me is that we can't travel as a couple to see grandchildren as much as I might like. But he gives me freedom to plan my own schedule. So I am fine with this time line.

May 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm

If you can retire at 65, do it. Too many people pass on from this life at 65 to 75 while thinking they are going to live to their 80s and 90s. As for me the big issue is house mortage which will be paid off when I'm 64.

May 23, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Dear Jennie,

You never actually said what YOU want out of retirement. Your husband wants to work - and maybe he convinced you it is in your best interest to let him work. But we all only have a limited time left. Yes your children are probably on their own by now, but in today's economy, you never know what hardship they might encounter. One of my sisters is in her late-40's and nearly bankrupt, and she went to college too. Its not like you should retire from something, but have a place or activity to retire to.