The Top 9 Reasons People Retire Earlier Than Planned

    Jeanette Dietl /

    Many workers dream of retiring early. For others, premature retirement comes as an unwelcome surprise.

    There are many reasons people stop working before they planned. J.P. Morgan Asset Management recently combed through data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2021 Retirement Confidence Survey to find out why people stopped working sooner than they originally planned.

    Following are the top reasons workers gave for their early retirement. It is worth noting that when asked why they retired early, respondents were allowed to choose multiple reasons.

    9. COVID-19 risk

    Chaay_Tee /

    5% retired early for this reason

    For some people, working a job is not worth risking your health — and possibly your life. Five percent of those who retired early said they did so to reduce their chances of contracting COVID-19.

    7. Other work-related reason (tie)

    Angry senior worker
    fizkes /

    7% retired early for this reason

    There can be myriad other work-related reasons why you might retire early. Maybe you simply dislike your boss or hate your commute. Perhaps being surrounded by twentysomethings makes you feel like a dinosaur.

    A work-related reason not on this list was the impetus for early retirement among 7% of those who stopped work before originally planned.

    7. Outdated skills (tie)

    Senior worker unhappy at a computer
    pathdoc /

    7% retired early for this reason

    The world is moving fast, and it can be tougher and tougher to keep up with those changes as we grow older.

    For some people, it’s just not worth the effort, as evidenced by the 7% of early retirees who threw in the towel due to outdated skills.

    If you have said “so long” to your career but still want to keep busy — or earn a little extra cash — check out “20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees.”

    6. Care of a spouse or other family member

    Middle-aged woman taking care of her older mother

    11% retired early for this reason

    Even those of us who treasure our careers are likely to admit they take a back seat to the well-being of our family. Just over 1 in 10 workers who retired early did so to take care of a spouse or other family member.

    5. Employer offered an incentive to retire early

    Senior businessman driving home from work with cash
    MAYA LAB /

    15% retired early for this reason

    Sometimes, you just need a little push to realize your dream of early retirement. If your workplace is trying to cut costs, it might sweeten the pot to encourage you to step away from your desk, as was the case for 15% of those who retired early, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute survey.

    4. Wanted to do something else

    senior man holding flowers
    Iakov Filimonov /

    19% retired early for this reason

    Many older workers are simply fed up. Maybe they have worked in their career for so long that they’ve become bored stiff. Or perhaps they always hated their job and can’t wait to get out.

    About 1 in 5 early retirees left their jobs simply because they wanted to try something new.

    3. Company downsizing/closing

    Laid-off senior worker
    Pormezz /

    32% retired early for this reason

    Getting a job after a layoff can be tough at any age. But once you reach a certain birthday, finding a new gig can feel downright impossible.

    If you are laid off later in life, you may just decide to ease into retirement. Nearly one-third of people who retire early do so in these circumstances.

    But if you really want to work, don’t give up. Instead, read “9 Tips for Finding a Job After Age 50.”

    2. Health problems or disability

    Worried senior holding a cane
    fizkes /

    36% retired early for this reason

    We all hope to stay healthy late into our golden years. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Many people who dreamed of working well into their 60s and beyond are unable to do so because of sudden health issues or a disability.

    That is reality for more than one-third of those who retired early.

    1. Able to afford early retirement

    Senior woman with money
    Sean Locke Photography /

    41% retired early for this reason

    The millions of workers who fantasize about early retirement often butt up against an unpleasant reality: They can’t yet afford to give up their day job.

    So, what a joyous day it is when they run the numbers and realize they can punch their ticket to freedom. More than 4 in 10 workers who retired early did so simply because they could afford it.

    If you dream of joining these folks, you need a plan. Enrolling in the Money Talks News course Money Made Simple can show you the way.

    Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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