Managing your financial life is not just about money.

When do I want to retire?


This is article number two in a series. In the previous article I listed 32 questions that everyone must answer before making a decision to retire (the biggest financial decision of your life).  In this article I will begin helping you answer these questions. This will take a few more articles.

  1. When do I want to retire?

First of all, I hope that you are asking this question in your thirties and forties. If so, you have a lot more time to get it right than if you start asking this question in your fifties and sixties.

When thinking about this question, start with what I call Plan A. Plan A is when you would like to retire, whether or not you think you can afford to do it.  Don’t try and do the math before you pick the date, that is the idea behind answering all 32 questions first.  If Plan A does not work, then try a Plan B and so on until you get there. Work through the process and then adjust.

Most folks choose their retirement date with Social Security payments in mind. Social Security payments could start at age 62, but full benefits for most of us don’t start until age 66 or 67.  If you are fortunate and have a pension, many folks plan to retire with full benefits, which usually involves 30 years of work. It is possible (but a low probability) that may be able to retire before age 62 or 30 years of service. It is possible that you might not be able to retire at age 66 or 67 or after thirty years. That’s why you have to go through a process and do some serious math.  Stay tuned for those math questions in future articles.

If you hate your job, your retirement date might be next week. If you love your work, you may plan to work into your seventies. If you have a serious hobby or two, you may be itching to retire.  If you have no hobbies or interests outside of work, you may be in no hurry at all. The important thing is to pick an exact date in the future. You need to establish a deadline and stick to it through your retirement plan calculations. Be specific! Get motivated!

  1. Will my spouse retire at the same time as I do?

Obviously, all off the commentary above applies to your spouse as well.  However, remember that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. So the answer to this question is maybe yes or maybe no. Just because you are ready to retire does not mean your spouse may be on the same schedule.

Now is the time to have a very serious, specific, and long conversation (and perhaps multiple conversations) with your spouse about your respective retirement plans. If your marriage is like mine, there may have been one or two times in your life where the two of you had a miscommunication. Okay maybe hundreds or thousands of miscommunications. You both need to take the time and be very clear about your plans. This is a biggie!

In my practice I have seen it work wonderfully both ways (simultaneous retirements and not). The decision must work for the both of you.


The questions for next time:  3. Do I choose to work part-time in retirement?  4. Can I retire with a mortgage and/or a home equity line of credit outstanding?

All articles in this series can be found on my website  If you have any questions or comments for me, I can be reached at  I promise that I will respond.


Mike McNamara - McNamara FInancialMichael J. McNamara Ph.D., CFP®


*Any financial advice in this article is intended to be generic in nature. Readers should consult with their own financial advisors before implementing any advice or suggestions above.

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