Many people don’t think too hard about the reasons they want to retire, so they often don’t put enough thought into when it would be best for them to retire. And that’s not a good idea, since deciding when to retire is a critical decision that will impact your financial security and quality of life for the rest of your life. If you haven’t yet retired or have only recently retired, being clear about the reasons you want to retire can help guide your retirement decisions.

There can any number of reasons why people don’t think too much about their reasons for retiring. For instance, some people find themselves forced into retirement due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a layoff or a health shock. Others retire because they reach an age when they think they’re supposed to retire (65 is often that age), or when their spouse retires, or when all their friends are retiring.

People like this often slide into retirement without really examining how retirement could improve their lives.  They might buy into the concept promoted by our culture, insurance companies, and financial institutions: that they deserve to retire into their “golden years.”

There are both positive influences that can pull you into retirement as well as negative reasons that can push you into retirement. Many people have a combination of both types. Let’s see how you might thoughtfully examine your own reasons for retiring and how that evaluation can better inform your decisions.

Positive reasons that pull you to retire

The best reasons to retire are positive visions of the life you want in your retirement years. These often include more time for traveling, pursuing hobbies, spending more time with family and friends, and taking steps to improve your health. However, these activities often take up just a fraction of your time throughout the year, so it’s a good idea to think how else you would fill your time during the routine days of your retirement.

For instance, some people may have encore careers they’ve always wanted to try. Examples might include helping people by using your expertise and accumulated experience or writing that novel or painting that masterpiece you’ve often thought about. Positive-pull reasons to retire can provide motivation to spend time developing a financial plan to support the life you want in retirement.

If you have trouble coming up with positive-pull reasons to retire, try thinking back to the times in your life when you thought, “I’d love to try (fill in the blank), but I don’t have time right now.”

The next step is to consider whether retirement is necessary to realize the positive vision you have for future. Are there are alternative ways to achieve the same results? For example, if travel and hobbies are pulling you into retirement, could you still pursue those activities if you worked part time in your retirement years?

Negative reasons that push you to retire

It’s inevitable that there are aspects of work that some pre-retirees are tired of, such as constantly waking up to an alarm, a long commute, a new boss they don’t like, or new work requirements that might have been easier to put up with earlier in life but now require more patience that you have. Some people are just plain bored after doing the same thing for decades.

Negative-push reasons can be a compelling influence on your decision to retire, and they’re often part of the overall decision. However, if you don’t have any positive reasons to retire, then in a few years, when the pain of the negative reasons fades away, you might wonder why you retired when you did.

You might also want to explore whether there are ways to continue working for a while but changing the things you don’t like about your work. Can you reduce the commute or take public transportation? Work part time? Transfer to a new job at your company? Perhaps taking a step down in responsibility? Try working somewhere else you might enjoy more?

If you were laid off or otherwise pushed out of your job, you still have the option to try to find new work. Keep in mind that it might be difficult to find work that’s comparable to your current job, and you may need to make some compromises.

In the end, you might be able to boil down your decision to retire to these two questions:

  • Will retirement really improve my life?
  • If I choose to continue to work, is it possible to do more of the things I like at work and less of the things I don’t like?

These are thought-provoking topics to explore with your spouse or partner, and close family and friends.

The fact is, you’ll likely be retired for 20 to 30 years, so it’s well worth taking the time to be confident that retirement will make your life better.