Does the Pandemic Have You Suddenly Considering an Early Retirement?

Aug 07, 2020 by Mary R. Donahue, Ph.D

Unexpected life events sometimes force us to reevaluate where we are and how best to move forward. In my own case the sudden death of my husband when my daughters were fifteen and ten resulted in my having no choice but  to address the financial side of my family’s needs. 


For years, my husband had attempted, without success, to sit down with me and have us look at our overall financial picture together. My response was always the same; “You’re absolutely right, honey but let’s not do it today”. Today never came and suddenly he was gone.  In addition to dealing with overwhelming grief, it was necessary for me to pay immediate attention to the financial side of our life. No time for any more excuses


As a result of the impact of the Corona Virus, many people that had not given much thought to retiring are rethinking that decision. Based on my personal experience following the death of my husband, I cannot sufficiently stress how important it is for all women to understand where you are in life relative to your retirement - before you might feel that you have to make a decision of that magnitude. Previously, you may have thought that there was no need to focus on this issue because you had plenty of time to do so when you were ready to retire. I can assure you that you never know what life might throw at you. There is no substitute for knowledge  


This was brought home to me this past week when Frederick Ingram, the President of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union was interviewed on the Today Show. While discussing the problems associated with reopening schools prematurely, he also said that many teachers that had not previously given any consideration to early retirement were suddenly considering retirement due to the potential danger to their health and lives as a result of staying in the classroom. Many of these folks had not given any consideration to retiring early until the ramifications of the corona virus impacted their lives in a major way. There is no substitute for knowledge. 


If you are struggling with what to do in regard to retirement on an emotional level, allow yourself to begin to think about how you would fill your time if you were not at work. We address these complex issues in our book Your Next Chapter. If you have never given any thought to what your life might look like if you were no longer working, give some serious thought to this possibility.


Think about what you would like to do to fill your time. Would you like to investigate doing something other than teaching? Would you like to attempt to utilize your teaching skills in a  slightly different manner? Investigate your state’s teachers union for ideas, groups, and resources. For example, the Florida Education Association (FEA) has the FEA Retired Network. Think about how much time would you like to devote to a specific activity? Would you like to work on a paid or volunteer basis? Do you need to work? What aspects of your current life would you like to be able to maintain? What would you like to change? There may be all sorts of thoughts and feelings swirling around in your mind. You are not alone!!!! 


As when addressing any change, it is imperative to gather as much information as possible to assist you in ultimately making a decision. What you do not want to do is make a rash decision based on an emotional reaction that has not been thought through.


Unfortunately, in our current unsettled times, it is too easy to get caught up in something on an emotional level without allowing yourself time to think through your course of action. What might be right for you may not be right for a fellow employee, friend or family member. Give some thought to where you are in your life; and what you want to do when moving forward. While it is critical to sort out your emotions, you also need to pay close attention to your financial situation.


Your Next Chapter will provide you with invaluable information on both emotional and financial bases. You are not going to make a decision based on just one aspect of your reality without assessing the others. You need to balance one aspect of your life with the other. If you do not have the available funds to live the life you envisioned for yourself in retirement, but you feel you must go ahead with an early retirement from your current position, do not rush ahead with that plan. Hopefully you will have the time to process both the financial aspects of your retirement and the emotional and social ones.


If you are being forced into an early retirement don’t panic! Carefully review what is involved for you before you make any drastic decisions as to what to do. As for the financial plan, my co-author Alexandra Armstrong will address that in more detail in our next blog.