To Escape Stress, Some Workers Retire

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Call it the “fed-up factor” – the uncomfortable circumstances at work that spur some older people to retire, sometimes prematurely.

Squared Away’s readers recently shared their personal experiences in comments posted to a blog post about three job characteristics, identified by researchers, that are linked to earlier retirements: stress, inflexibility, and increasing demands.

Working in the healthcare field has had unique stresses – at high levels – for one reader, Elin Zander, a dietician. Stress “is experienced by clinicians trying to provide quality care in an ever more difficult environment,” she said. “That is why I will retire as soon as I can afford to.”

Paul Brustowicz and his wife both retired to remove themselves from uncomfortable situations – her retirement was to relieve her stress from working as a manager in the demanding healthcare field. As for Brustowicz, “an abrupt change in management with a supervisor who treated me like a newcomer changed by mind,” he said.  He had planned to work until 68 but didn’t make it to 67 in his non-managerial job as a training professional for a life insurance company.

John Schmidt’s stress came in working as a high-tech consultant after 30 years in the field – though not for obvious reasons.

“My biggest annoyance is for the people who think just because you are older, you can’t understand the technology.” The truth, said Schmidt, as a member of the generation that “put men on the moon,” is that “understanding a cell phone or social media is not difficult.”

“The net result is a person feels they have had enough, and if they can afford it, they pack it in,” he said. Schmidt retired at age 64.

Another reader, Carol Klay, said the flexibility to transition from a five-day to a four-day work week relieved her stress, and she strongly recommends it. In fact, the researchers did find that people who are able to work part-time – such as taxi drivers or security guards – are more likely to delay their retirement. However, working part-time isn’t an option for most older workers.

Clay’s stress came from “not feel[ing] like I had enough time for myself, for family.” She was also dealing with health issues. Now working four days a week, “It feels like I have so much more free time from just that one extra weekend day!” she said. “Financially, I need to keep working, but now I don’t mind.”

A reader named Peter said that he saw people leaving a major Connecticut corporation in their 50s in the wake of workforce reductions, which increased the demands and hours for the employees who remained.

The problem with retiring prematurely, of course, is that it can hurt one’s retirement finances. For those who continue working, their monthly Social Security checks will be larger, their 401(k)s will be fatter, and they will have fewer years of retirement to finance.

Mark Tonoff, a New Jersey financial adviser, urged readers to weigh the strong appeal of an early retirement against “the serious financial consequences for a couple if at least one of them lives into their 80s.”

Note: since writing this blog, even more readers have weighed in with their comments. To read more, click on the article here and go to the comments section at the end of the post.

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Paul Brustowicz

Maybe Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” would have been a better graphic for this blog. Thanks for the summary. Glad to know I’m not alone.

Mark Zoril

I see this all the time as I work with my clients. So much depends upon how they feel about their work situation. Some just want out – others want to stay as long as they can.

Gerry Smythe

I am soon to retire at age 63 1/2. For me, the stress and frustration come from management refusing to address quality issues and being required to stand on concrete for an 8 hour shift. I requested from HR for accommodation from an on-the-job foot injury and the response I got was that I was going to be kept where I was until hell froze over.

After meeting with my financial planner, I determined that I could retire early, so it is off to the golf course.

Larry Littlefield

“Now working four days a week, “It feels like I have so much more free time from just that one extra weekend day!”

I suggest dropping the word “retired” for leaving one job, even one worked for many years, and taking another. Those people are working. Others are volunteering.

You wouldn’t say someone who changed jobs at 35 retired.

As they get older, most people’s energy, productivity, and cognitive ability drops. But it doesn’t drop to zero instantly. Taking a less demanding or time consuming job is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I may do so myself in a decade or so.

Paul Brustowicz

Can I add something? A friend of mine recently closed his one man insurance office after 50+ years in business. He is over 80 and loved going to work every day. The rent zoomed to $60k a year and he had no choice.

He admits that his big mistake was not finding a successor 10 years ago. He was too fussy and finally made an arrangement with a successful agent nearby to take over his dwindling client base (he has outlived many of them).

I can tell he is unhappy not having a place to go to and people to see daily. While he was concentrating on helping others solve their problems, he neglected his own. I’m afraid some health issues along with this retirement may shorten his life span.

Zaria Papa

This is such an interesting article. It is true that companies almost give deadlines to the older people because of technology. I can relate to this because my father had to retire for this reason earlier than he was planning. In the school he was working, there were those new programs about computers, so he attended them. The headmaster bluntly told him that he was not fast enough while working on his computer.

Over the last months, I noticed that he started to have health issues related to stress. He was a healthy man and within months he had high blood pressure. The stroke alarmed the whole family. The days he was in the hospital, he decided to retire. That is a sad story but at least I know that my father will be away from that stressful environment.

Vishva Patel

My mother is now 60 years old and she deals with this topic all the time. She has some pretty extreme arthritis, so to continue as a school clerk for much longer puts lots of stress on her to make it through without completely damaging her hands.

There are too many factors that come into play when discussing retirement, but emotional and physical stress is very much the leading cause of early retirement.

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