10 Surprising Reasons You May Retire Sooner Than You Think

Life often takes twists and turns, and such unexpected events may force you to leave work earlier than planned.
Updated May 14, 2024
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Even if you plan to work for many more years, something might arise that means you have to retire sooner than you think.

Some early retirements are a good thing, while others are unwelcome, especially if you want to continue working. 

So, before you map out retirement, here are a few things to take into account that could change your plans and help you retire faster. 

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Job loss

Andrey Popov/Adobe fired employee with box

Some people find the decision about when to retire is taken out of their hands. For example, layoffs can happen as a result of a downturn in the economy, a merger, or other cost-cutting measures.

So, prepare for the possibility, particularly if your company is facing economic challenges. It might be wise to add a little more money to an emergency fund or retirement portfolio.

Family changes

Chaay_tee/Adobe grandpa sitting at sofa couch with his family

Different types of family changes can affect your retirement plans. 

Perhaps your children have all graduated from college, which might mean your extra money no longer is going to tuition. That can speed up retirement.

Or, perhaps an elderly parent needs financial help, which could slow down the journey to your golden years.

Health issues

DC Studio/Adobe clinic specialist talking with retired woman about health risks

As you get older, there is the possibility of health issues getting in the way of your ability to work. Perhaps you have a physically demanding job that you can no longer carry out. 

Or, maybe you have a medical issue that prevents you from putting full effort into your work.

If this causes you to retire, check to see if you qualify for programs such as Medicare or Medicaid that can help reduce healthcare expenses.

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Caring for a loved one

Akarawut/Adobe senior man using walker while walking for exercise around the garden with his son

Sometimes, health issues don't affect you, but rather someone you love. You may have to retire a bit earlier than expected to care for that person.

Depending on the care needed, you may have to dip into an emergency fund to pay for medical bills and other treatments. 

So, see if there are ways you can add additional cash to your emergency fund now in case a need for medical care arises later.

Age discrimination

fizkes/Adobe senior woman reading paper documents at workplace

While age discrimination is illegal, it still exists. 

For example, if your company is laying off a slew of workers, you may be included in the group, even if you aren’t told that age is a factor in why you are being included in the layoff.

Pursuing new things

peopleimages.com/Adobe young entrepreneur standing in his business

Have you found a way to make extra money with a hobby or side hustle? You may want to consider retiring early to take on that new project full-time.

Do some research and find ways to estimate your potential income before you quit your current position to pursue something else.

Good investment strategy

itchaznong/Adobe analyzing technical price

A sound investment strategy — particularly over decades of work — can lead to a happy early retirement. 

Remember to check your portfolio regularly, and consider talking to a financial planner to help you navigate a strategy.

The goal is to have a big nest egg that can supplement your Social Security once you have stopped working.


Maridav/Adobe woman looking out the window

Sometimes, a job just doesn’t turn out the way you expected. If you have saved enough money, unhappiness on the job is a perfectly acceptable reason to retire earlier than planned.

Quitting your job may be worth it for your mental health, as it can give you a more positive outlook on life.

Once-in-a-lifetime events

blvdone/Adobe People walking in city with masks

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of older Americans have retired as part of the Great Resignation. Some decided to retire early instead of staying in the pandemic workforce.

While there may not be another once-in-a-lifetime pandemic shortly, other unexpected events could drastically change your retirement outlook. 

A major event could make you reassess your career and perhaps inspire you to get out of the workforce earlier than you expected.

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Workplace changes

leonidkos/Adobe businesspeople walking at modern office

It’s not uncommon for a company to announce it is moving offices to another location. 

Perhaps your employer has told you that your position is going to move to a new office, or your company is moving to headquarters in another state.

Moving can be a hassle for employees, and there are reasons why you may want to retire instead of going somewhere else. If you’re already close to retirement, it could be wise to retire instead of starting over in a new location.

Bottom line

Cozine/Adobe hand putting coins in glass jar with retro alarm clock

Anticipating changes — both good and bad — can help you better prepare for retirement and adjust plans as needed. 

For example, you might want to find ways to make extra money now in case something unexpected forces you to quit working prematurely.

Even if retirement is many years away, preparing for your golden years now almost certainly will pay off down the road.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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