The Early Retirement Factor

September 22, 2010

Dr. Larry Anderson

Throughout the last part of the 20th Century most people retired between 60 and 64. Now the average retirement age is actually rising. With the growing economic uncertainty, some people may think that early retirement is bad for society; that those who retire, especially those who decide to retire early, will not be pulling their own weight. These attitudes reflect as growing attitude of ageism.

Let’s take a closer look at early retirement motivation. Generally, early retirement is taken by workers with health problems or those who have accomplished good incomes in anticipation of early retirement. Some companies providing private pension plans actually encourage early retirement so they can ether pay a lower salary to new employees or keep the job vacant.

People with low incomes and no pension plan report that they will never retire. One study in 1998 found that just less than half of all people reported that they expected to work after retirement and a large number of those who retired at 65 continued some kind of part-time work.

In British Columbia, the Provincial Government has recently dramatically cut spending and retirement itself is viewed creation of new dependency even though most retirees, early or not, continue to engage in socially useful activities including volunteering and part-time work.

Sometimes, older people looking for work after early retirement find re-entry into the workforce difficult. For example, Ted, a former CEO, now in his seventies, retired at 58, thinking that is what he should do. But after a couple of years he discovered the whole syndrome of being “young-old”. He reports that, “You have all your juices, all your ability but no obligations to go work just for money.” Ted believes that, “When you’ve had power for a number of years, your value is your power not your abilities.” He further explains, “When you are out of the ‘power loop’ your abilities are no longer valued.” He reports: “I’ve started looking for another job, but being in my 70’s, I get a very cold reception. They seem to listen to you but they don’t see you. You’re a non-person.” This suggests that, with early retirement, he has ignored his attachment identity to work.

When did you or when do you plan to retire? What factors are you or did you use when deciding your personal retirement age?

About the Author: Dr. Larry Anderson is university professor of psychology who is retiring soon. He has started a company called BC Community Building and plans on presenting workshops to prepare people for retirement. Dr. Anderson is on the board of the Langley Senior’s Resource Society. Read more of Larry’s articles at his blog.

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  • Mike Goad

    I became eligible for early retirement on my birthday on Feb. 3, 2007, at age 55. I retired on Feb. 28 and received my first pension check the next day.

    I had saved and planned for early retirement for years. I was looking for personal independence. The bullish market and my aggressive investing of my 401k made it possible to leave, though I had intended to stay for a few years past 55.

    Several years before I retired, I got into an impossible situation where I was the only one who could legally do some important time critical work. Others in the organization qualified to do the work were prevented from it by federal regulations because other activities they were performing presented the possibility of compromise. I was so frustrated at the situation and the lack of help that I was getting that I very emotionally told a manager, “If I was 45, I’d quit and if I was 55, I’d retire. I can’t do either and I hate it.”

    When other difficult situations arose in the middle of 2006, I recalled what I had said in the earlier difficulties and started looking into whether I could do it — and I could, so I did.

    I currently take 10 to 12 months off and then work for a little over 6 months…. as a short term supplemental contract employee in the same organization I retired from. The next stint should start in a few months.

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