The Top 11 Reasons People Retire Earlier Than Planned

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Happy retired couple
Monkey Business Images /

Some people can’t wait to retire. So they don’t.

Millions of workers retire earlier than planned by choice. Other workers retire early because they have no choice, however. Either way, the reasons why they exit the rat race sooner than they previously had intended vary from person to person.

Recent data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2022 Retirement Confidence Survey reveals 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.

They could afford it

Senior woman with money
Sean Locke Photography /

38% retired early for this reason

Perhaps the most uplifting reason to retire early is that you simply can afford to do so.

For most people, it takes years of hard work and planning to achieve this status. The good news, however, is that almost anyone can get there. All you need is a plan.

If you dream of joining these folks, enroll in the Money Talks News course Money Made Simple. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson teaches lessons that can help you map out your own journey to early retirement.

Health problem or disability (unrelated to COVID-19)

Worried senior holding a cane
fizkes /

32% retired early for this reason

The numbers are sobering: About 40% of adults who are 65 or older have at least one type of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No matter how long you plan to work, your body may have other plans.

Workplace changes (unrelated to COVID-19)

Happy senior on her last day before early retirement
Jeanette Dietl /

23% retired early for this reason

Sure, an old dog can learn new tricks. But does he really want to? Some people may see workplace changes coming and simply decide to avoid them by retiring. Others may be shown the door during a company downsizing or reorganization.

If you retire early but then change your mind, read “9 Tips for Finding a Job After Age 50.”

Workplace incentive

Senior businessman driving home from work with cash

19% retired early for this reason

As you enter the last few years of your career, it is possible that your employer will want to bring in new blood. Sometimes, this leads to the company making you an offer you can’t refuse. Generous workplace incentives were the motivation for early retirement among nearly 1 in 5 workers.

Desire to do something else

senior bartender
Minerva Studio /

15% retired early for this reason

Whether you suddenly feel burned out on your career or have always disliked it, trying something new can be reinvigorating. Some people may want to downshift to lower-pressure part-time work, such as a bartending gig. Others may opt out of work altogether and learn a fun new hobby, such as knitting or kayaking.

A loved one needed care

Middle-aged woman taking care of her older mother

13% retired early for this reason

As time marches on, the odds rise that you may need to contribute to the care of aging parents or a spouse with a chronic condition. For some people, it becomes too difficult to try to juggle work demands with the need to be present when loved ones need help.

Workplace changes (related to COVID-19)

Unemployed worker
Drazen Zigic /

10% retired early for this reason

The pandemic changed not only how many workers go about their jobs but also how employers run their workplaces. In some cases, companies had to downsize, reorganize or even close down. As a result, many workers at such companies suddenly found themselves retiring sooner than planned.

Mismatch between skills and the job

Senior worker unhappy at a computer
pathdoc /

7% retired early for this reason

Some older workers discover that changes in the skills required for their job mean they no longer are a good fit for the position. Rather than putting up with the grief of learning something new, many workers simply opt for more time on the golf course.

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.”

Other reasons related to COVID-19

Senior wearing a mask
Gladskikh Tatiana /

4%-7% retired early for this reason

COVID-19 has changed just about everybody’s plans in one way or another. So, it’s no surprise that the pandemic played a role in why some workers retired early.

The EBRI survey uncovered three other COVID-19-related reasons people cited for their early retirement. The percentage indicating each one is as follows:

  • The nature of your work or risk associated with work changed due to COVID-19: 7%
  • As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, you’re not comfortable with company changes, policies and/or procedures: 5%
  • Someone in your household had an issue that was related to COVID-19: 4%

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