By Byron Moore
Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, June 11, 2017.
Q: Our grandchildren live in another state and we are seriously considering moving to be closer to them. Work is stressful and I’d love to be done with it sooner than later. How do we know if we are ready to retire early?
A: Today’s stress always feels heavier than yesterday’s worries or tomorrow’s woes.
So it’s only natural to think that getting out from under the thing that is creating the stress (your work situation, your grandchildren’s distance) will result in less stress. Or maybe even no stress.
But sometimes that which is stress-relieving may not be goal-achieving. And may even be problem-conceiving…resulting in personal-grieving.
Said another way, the solution to today’s stress could be the seed of tomorrow’s mess.
Can I get an Amen?
So how do you avoid jumping out of the frying pan into the fire?
Avoid all or nothing thinking. Don’t let yourself fall into “all or nothing” thinking. It won’t be helpful if you to set this up as one big choice vs. another, such as, “I will either continue in my stress-filled job separated from my grandchildren or I will move closer to them and have a work free, stress free life.”
Evaluate various combinations. Rather than see this as a choice between two grand scenarios, try to break it down into the smallest pieces possible and consider the value of each piece.
Is there a way to reduce the stress of your current job situation?
If not, is another less-stressful job situation available where you are now living?
Or could you work part-time where you now live, freeing you to travel more to see your grandchildren?
Or could you move near your grandchildren and still work full-time?
Or could you move near your grandchildren and work part-time?
Do the math…conservatively. Everything would be easy if everything were free. But obviously each one of the combinations of choices I enumerated above has a price tag.
You are trying to balance financial and emotional costs. That’s tough to do. But the mistake I see most early retirees make is to over-estimate their ability to “cut back” and under-estimate the price tag of how much it will cost to procure a monthly income in retirement. Financial miscalculations of that sort then result in emotional stress. And you’re back where you started, full of financial and emotional stress.
Live the plan now. If fully or partially retiring will require you to reduce your living expenses, start living on that reduced income lifestyle today. If you can’t do that today, you won’t do that tomorrow. Or if you are forced to do so from a lack of income, I can assure you’ll have a new source of stress in your life.
Living the plan now probably means you’ve discovered that you can’t retire early. So you’re planning to retire ASAP…or at partially retire ASAP.
Either way, whatever you are telling yourself you’re going to be living on in retirement – live on that amount today, and save everything else you earn.
Living the plan now will help you reach your goal sooner (because you’re saving more money) and will also reveal whether or not your lifestyle reduction plan is realistic.
Can you afford to retire early?
By all means, evaluate your options, and then plan as carefully and conservatively as possible.
But the only way you can really know if your early retirement plan will work is to live the plan…now.