Deciding when to retire is a big decision; in fact, it may be one of the most important ones we make during our lifetime. With our increased longevity over previous generations, many of us will live another 20, 30 or even 40 years after we leave our full-time careers. Whether our retirement date is our own choice or determined by outside forces such as a layoff or a global pandemic, we need to think about what our post-work life holds in store.

As we prepare for retirement, there are all sorts of decisions to be made. We need to plan for our financial well-being, especially if we’re no longer earning any income. When to take Social Security (which we spoke about in our 7/23/20 post) and how/when to use our pensions and savings—if we’re fortunate enough to have either—are key considerations. Some of us may choose (or be forced) to continue working in some fashion.

Besides the obvious need for financial planning, there are other decisions we’ll probably face, such as where to live and whether to move or downsize, and how we want to spend our time and with whom. Our own health and that of our loved ones—some of us will be called upon to become caregivers—will also influence how our retirement unfolds.

Facing and planning retirement involves working through a complex series of questions and answers, and it’s unique to our individual circumstances. For many of us, it’s natural to seek support, guidance and/or affirmation when we’re faced with such an important life decision—particularly when that decision can have a major impact on those closest to us.

Roxanne and I thought it would be interesting to explore this aspect of retirement. So when we asked the respondents to our online questionnaire to describe how, when and why their retirement came about, we also asked them if they got support from friends and family about their decision to retire. As with every other question we asked, their answers vary widely.

Didn’t ask for support

Some of our respondents never sought or expected support from others—particularly single women who felt the decision was theirs alone or women who see themselves as self-sufficient.

  • I’m very independent so when I made the decision to retire, I didn’t ask for or seek support from others. (Federal service financial manager, retired in 2017 at age 59, Durham, NC)           
  • I was, and am, my own family, so family support wasn’t an issue. I was in charge of me with respect to the decision. (Senior level project manager, retired in 2011 at age 70, Boston, MA)

Got unanimous support

Many of our respondents reported getting full support for their retirement decision from their families and friends.

  • With wonderful support from my husband and a cheering squad of sisters and friends already [retired], I took the leap. (Educator, retired in 2017at age 65, Durham, NC) 
  • My friends and family, especially my husband who is still working, were extremely supportive and very happy for me. (Executive assistant to bank co-chairman, retired in 2018 at age 66, Mashpee, MA) 

Got mixed reactions

We were surprised at how many women told us that they got mixed reactions. Some had support from their family but not their friends, and some had the opposite.

  • All of my family and friends did not agree that I should retire at the early age of 56.There were those who thought I should wait and build a more solid financial retirement plan. I disagreed because I felt even stronger that there was so much more for me to do. (Various positions in airline reservation sales, customer service and diversity training, retired in 1999 at age 56, Aurora, CO)
  • Family was supportive; they agreed I needed to learn how to live a life and not just work. Friends could not comprehend not working and so were not really supportive. They challenged me to just find another job, start a second career, or at least volunteer 20 hours a week doing something. Most of my friends were actually work-related and those relationships did not survive the transition of me retiring. (Technical product designer, retired in 2014 at age 53, Cincinnati, OH)
  • Some folks, especially my children, could not understand why I would retire and start a business at “my age.” Others cheered me on. (Volunteer coordinator for hospice, retired in 2015 at age 66, Aurora, CO)

Got no support

A few of our respondents received no support at all.

  • Did I get support from friends and family? Not in the least. In fact, some of them are still not speaking to me! But then, they are women who have always been supported by their husbands; they cannot relate to my life experiences and decisions. (Adjunct professor, freelance book editor, food columnist, writer, retired in 2015 at age 70, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)
  • Friends and family were very much against [my decision], with “you’re too young!” being the main objection. (Artist, teacher, writer, retired in 2009 at age 58, Lecussan, Haute Garonne, France)

This variety of reactions and levels of support highlights the fact that there are differing views and feelings about retirement—a subject we explore more fully in chapter 1 of the book, Retirement Voices, that Roxanne and I are writing. So, we shouldn’t be surprised if everyone around us doesn’t react with the same hope and enthusiasm that we feel toward our approaching retirement.

Ultimately, each of us must make our own choices when it comes to the why, when and how of this transition. And, as our respondents illustrate, we should expect varying levels of support from those who care about us. As the scouting motto goes, “Be prepared!”

What level of support are you getting (or did you get) for your retirement decision? Who are your biggest supporters or detractors? Please share!