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7 Reasons to Retire As Soon As You Are Financially Able - Inspired by Jonathan Clements’ Story Thumbnail

7 Reasons to Retire As Soon As You Are Financially Able - Inspired by Jonathan Clements’ Story

As the founder and editor of HumbleDollar and personal finance columnist at The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Clements has been providing readers with practical financial analysis for decades. But an article from early June might be the most impactful that he's ever written.

Reflecting on his recent cancer diagnosis at age 61, Clements is candid about how facing mortality has forced him to reevaluate his personal, professional, and financial priorities. Sadly, Clements’ story also brought to mind so many folks I've worked with in my career who struggled to find the "right time" to retire, only to have life get in the way.   

Please, take these lessons from Clements’ experience to heart and don't put off retirement any longer than you have to.

1. "Chance is a cruel mistress."

Nothing in Clements' medical history suggested he was at a high risk for cancer. And he says managing risks to his money and his health has always been a high priority. That's why it's almost impossible to delay retirement "until the time is right." You never know if your health is going to fail you, or if your spouse will have an accident that forces you to become a full-time caretaker. For most folks, "the best time to retire" will always be when you have the financial means to stop working and the physical and mental means to live a full life. Under those circumstances, working longer will only get you more money that you might never get to enjoy.

2. "I find my greatest joy comes from small, inexpensive daily pleasures."

There's a lot of retirement to fill up between taking big vacations and crossing off bucket list items. Learning to appreciate the little things, like sharing a cup of coffee with a friend or taking a long walk with your spouse, can make the everyday experience of retirement more gratifying.

3. "Money is intimately bound up with regret."

You could imagine someone in Clements' position wallowing in "Coulda, woulda, shoulda." And while he does admit to living frugally in recent years, Clements says he has avoided regret by focusing on gratitude for all the good things in his life. And, as his health allows, he is planning to cross a few things off his bucket list as well. Folks who retire as early as they can, learn to become comfortable with their spending, and embrace gratitude can also minimize regret during their golden years. Take the trips you want to take, spend time with the people you love, and immerse yourself in activities that interest you, and instead of “shoulda’s,” you’ll have rewarding experiences and happy memories 

4. "I do want the time ahead to be happy, productive and meaningful."

Clements' diagnosis hasn't taken away his drive. Neither should retirement. Folks who just retire "from" jobs they don't like often struggle to find meaning and purpose in the second half of their lives. That's why we encourage seniors to build as long a runway towards retirement as they can and start thinking about what they're retiring "to": more time with loved ones, more rounds of golf, more volunteering, more reading, more crafting, more traveling.

5. "We can control risk, but we can’t eliminate it."

Other than following his treatment plan, there's not much Clements can do about his health. But he can control how he's spending his time outside of his doctor visits: tidying up his finances, having meaningful experiences with his loved ones, and continuing to work on his website. Retirement can put you in charge of every moment of every day. In fact, as we help folks prepare for the retirement transition, we often help them sketch out a new daily and weekly schedule that's focused on doing more of what they love with the people they love the most.

6. "Most folks have an inherent goodness and they’re constantly struggling to do the right thing."

Many seniors have a hard time discussing the motivations and mechanisms of their giving plans. Optimizing tax strategies, choosing the best beneficiaries, and imagining goodwill reflecting back on us can make us feel like we're not really giving for the right reasons. But Clements reminds us that acknowledging the goodness in other people -- and ourselves -- is what really matters. And the more thoughtful you are about planning how and when you give, the more generous you'll be able to be over the course of your financial plan.

7. "I so want them to be okay."

Naturally, Clements' thoughts go to the family he's eventually going to leave behind. While knowing that you may only have a few years or so to live is a heartbreaking reality, that timetable does give Clements an opportunity to tie up any loose ends in his legacy plan and put in some extra work on his most important relationships. Far too many people don't have that chance. And if an accident or a heart attack happens before you get your legacy plan in order, then settling your estate falls to the courts.

No matter how old you are, how healthy you are, or how wealthy you are, time is your most valuable resource. You’ll never get back what you’ve spent, and you’ll never know how much more of it you’re going to have. Come visit Keen Wealth and let’s talk about how our comprehensive financial planning process could help you make the most of your time and live the most fulfilling retirement possible.

About Bill

Bill Keen is a financial advisor with over 30 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he focuses on providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.

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