As people have really dug into my new book over the last few months, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think: The Five Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees, I’ve had a common question come back to me:
“Given the fact that people are already living longer, requiring a longer draw-down period from their nest egg, how do you reconcile people retiring even earlier?”
It reminds me of the quote, “No man on their deathbed says, I wish I had worked more.”
My answer to this may sound a little grim but it’s realistic. While as a whole people in the US are living longer, it doesn’t guarantee that we’ll all live to age 100.
I have known too many wonderful people who spent years planning their retirement, but when they finally reached their “golden years” they sadly passed away unexpectedly just a few short years into their perfectly planned retirement.
Of course none of us knows exactly how long we will be on this earth. If we did know, retirement planning would be much easier. This leaves people with the difficult decision of retiring with the fear of possibly running out of money, or potentially missing out on the ability to enjoy retirement altogether. That’s why I suggest that if you’re looking to retire early, you might want to consider phasing into retirement.
Rather than diving straight into the retirement pool, you can wade in by first moving to part-time work. By continuing to work you may be able to stop saving for the future while also not spending from your savings. Just working part-time will give you more of the free time you’re looking for in retirement, but delays when you have to start using your savings.
Traditional retirement planning is often seen as black and white. Meaning you go from full speed building your nest egg to full speed spending your nest egg. By instead moving to part-time work you’re able to have more freedom with your time while also extending the life of your nest egg.
Think of this phase as your retirement happy hour before the party really starts.
It’s helpful to start planning that move to part-time work a few years out, before actually enacting it. While for many careers it may simply be a matter of reallocating priorities and cutting back, there are careers that do not easily offer part-time work. If that is your position, use the few years beforehand to start thinking through and planning your part-time career move.
Ideally, your part-time work just needs to cover your monthly expenses, so you may be able to switch to a new field. You could even take up a hobby as a part-time gig. If you’re crafty, enjoy woodcarving or have other skills like this, consider opening an online Etsy store. If you love shopping you should consider applying to work at your favorite store. On top of a job you’ll likely get an employee discount. You should be realistic, though. It’s probably pretty tough to get paid to go fishing or to watch college football.
An important happiness pillar from my book’s research stems from retirees participating in many different “core pursuits” also known as hobbies on steroids. If you can find a way to get paid while enjoying your core pursuits, then all the better.
Everyone seems to know someone who died too young to enjoy the money they had diligently socked away for retirement. I’ve personally seen it too many times to ever recommend that anyone stay somewhere they don’t love when they could potentially move to the next phase. Rather than focusing on continuing to build your nest egg, just be sure you’ve reached some of the benchmarks I’ve outlined before, and then get creative with how you ease into retirement.
Remember, it’s five-o’clock somewhere.
Certified financial planner Wes Moss offers financial and accessible investment advice to Atlanta Bargain Hunter readers.