Is it advisable to retire early after making it big? Why not, if you have enough money and can live comfortably?
At first glance, there seems to be an almost vehement opposition to retiring early, with people citing fears of deteriorating mental health, being idle, restless, and lost. I hear the sounds of a flat ‘no’.
‘There’s so much left to do’
An intense discussion brews in my separate professional and personal circles. “It’s not a great look for your mental health,” says one Dubai-based entrepreneur, who prefers not to be named. “I still have so much to do and achieve. I love what I do,” says Maya Menon, a Dubai-based businesswoman. “There's so much happening and retiring early would just make me feel restless and bored,” she says. Some agree, and feel that “they’re just getting started” in their late fifties, despite being responsible for several flourishing businesses.
“I am too ambitious. I don’t think that I can just rest on my laurels and retire early,” says JS Anand, who changed his career graph by starting a Dubai-based hotel chain several years ago. “I am not building a brand, just because I want to make money. I do want to make a mark in the hospitality sector,” he says. It hasn’t been an easy task to build a global brand; it has been years of ups and downs and rejections. Yet, it seems rather pointless to Anand to let it all go waste and retire early. “We still have a long way to go,” he says.
I am too ambitious. I don’t think that I can just rest on my laurels and retire early. I am not building a brand, just because I want to make money. I do want to make a mark...and we still have a long way to go.
However, early retirement is an entirely subjective perspective.
‘What is right for one person, might not be right for another…’
There’s normally no right or wrong to early retirement; it depends on the individual’s mindset, their physical, mental strength and their financial security.
Everyone doesn’t have the same way of seeing the world, explains Luz Villagras Surco, a UAE-based psychotherapist and founder of Positive Living UAE. “What is right for one person, cannot be right for another,” she says, adding that even our bodies respond differently to experiences and situations. “So, for some people, retiring means resting. They need to rest, as they feel that they have worked for so long and that they need to rest. For some others, they don’t wish to, even though they have the money,” she says.
For some people, retiring means resting. They need to rest, as they feel that they have worked for so long and that they need to rest. For some others, they don’t wish to, even though they have the money...
For these people, working gives them a sense of accomplishment and makes them feel energised. It makes them feel alive, she says. That’s not wrong either, as long as they’re not putting their health or others at stake, in the case of certain professions like surgeons. “If that makes feel you good, young and lively, then why should you stop,” she says. Essentially, there’s no rule set in stone to decide who can retire and when. It’s almost unfair to judge a person for wanting to retire early and project individual views on them, without taking in the entire context.
However, as the experts explain, early retirement also carries with it benefits as well as disadvantages. There are many factors to be taken into consideration, before you take such a decision.
Early requirement requires careful consideration and planning
“Early retirement, although a cherished dream for many, carries with it a set of advantages and disadvantages,” says Devika Mankani, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist. “On the positive side, early retirement offers an unprecedented level of freedom. It affords people boundless time to pursue passions, hobbies, and interests that may have been restricted due to employment. It also provides an opportunity to explore new avenues of personal growth, such as travel, volunteering, pursuing academic interests or even entrepreneurship, fulfilling latent dreams and enhancing the richness of life's experiences,” she says.
Retirement allows people to have more control over their time, pursue activities and interests, that they might have had limited time for before. It also provides the opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones, and engage in personal hobbies or passions..
According to Maida Kajevic, a clinical psychologist based at the German Neuroscience Center, retiring early can alleviate the pressure and demands associated with the working life, potentially improving mental and physical well-being. "It allows people to have more control over their time, pursue activities and interests, that they might have had limited time for before. It also provides the opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones, and engage in personal hobbies or passions," she explains.
Financial and psychological challenges to be taken into account
James Gregory, CEO of boutique global financial services firm ARIA Capital Management, breaks down the financial aspects of early retirement as well, which one needs to keep in mind. Even if you have enough savings, you need to plan for the long-term.
“Retirement means different things to different people, and early retirement, even more so. In order to retire fully at any age, you need to replace your salary with another source of consistent income. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can retire. This can take many forms, such as rental incomes, or other benefits,” he adds. However, you need to ensure that you have diverse sources of income, so that they do not dry up. “Retiring early also means that you have less time to build up your savings, and you need to rely on it for longer,” he says. Remember, unforeseen events can also take place, which can hamper your interests over time.
As Kajevic explains, "Retiring early means relying on savings and investments for a longer period of time. If one hasn't saved enough or planned adequately, finances can become a major concern."
While finances might be cushy for many, there are other issues to take cognisance of, explains Mankani. “Retirement, whether early or not could potentially lead to a sense of loss in social identity and purpose, which was previously tied to one's career and the life built around it,” she says. “As a result, early retirement, while offering the promise of freedom and self-discovery, also presents substantial financial and psychological challenges that require careful consideration and planning,” she says.
Retirement, whether early or not could potentially lead to a sense of loss in social identity and purpose, which was previously tied to one's career and the life built around it....
“For many people the most interaction they have with others is in the workplace. When retiring early you need to find ways to keep yourself occupied and if your friends and family haven’t retired early as well, that can be a challenge,” explains Gregory.
The fear of being idle
Others equate the idea of early retirement with sitting “idle”. “An idle mind is a devil’s workshop,” says Carol Meyers a Canadian Abu Dhabi-based public relations manager. “I love working and being busy. I feel that if I just retired now, I would be so lost and confused, I would not just want to do. I’m not the kind to just sit at home and watch television for relaxation with my feet up. I always need to do something,” she adds.
Radhika Mittal, a UAE-based wellness entrepreneur has witnessed both sides of the coin, as she says. “I grew up with grandparents, who were entrepreneurs and they never retired,” she says. They loved what they did, and they enjoyed going to office till late, even if was for a few hours. “It kept them sharp till the last,” explains Mittal. On the other hand, her parents had always “dreamed” about retiring early, and took the plunge. “Within the first year, they deeply regretted the decision,” she says. “My father found himself lost and idle. It took him years to figure out what he wanted to do in the next chapter of his life.” Her father-in-law suffered the same predicament, she explains; he also did not take early retirement well.
Don’t retire yourself from cognitive and mental stimulation
If you do plan to retire early, you need to follow the rules of self-care and maintain a healthy lifestyle, explains Surco. Moreover, keep your brain busy.
“Never retire yourself from cognitive and mental stimulation,” explains Mankani. “You may redefine your identity by switching your role from one context to a more self-directed role, but the focus should be on mental and physical health,” she says.
Preserving cognitive health is both a science and an art, requiring an interplay of physical activity, mental stimulation, and social engagement, she adds. She advises regular physical exercise, as it benefits memory and thinking abilities. The pursuit of intellectually stimulating activities such as reading, solving puzzles, or learning a new language can also enhance cognitive reserve, keeping the mind agile, explains Mankani. Focus on your relationships, maintain a strong network, and manage your well-being through mindfulness practices.
Another way is to give back to the community, says Kajevic. "Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Look for local organisations or charities that can align with your interests and skills. You can contribute your time and expertise to causes that you care about, and make a difference to your community," she says.
Pursuing a passion makes for a happy retirement
Regardless of age and retirement in the traditional sense of the word, pursuing a passion is what keeps the mind alive. Arnab Ghosh, a Dubai-based martial arts exponent and marketing manager reveals that he has taught and trained with people who are well advanced in their age. “Some are in their mid-fifties and are already retired, in the traditional sense of the word,” he says.
“What I have observed is that, regardless of age, a major factor that contributes to a happy retirement is pursuing a passion. No matter what age one retires at, if they are actively engaged in doing something they have a passion for, which doesn't mean doing something for the sake of doing it; it means really enjoying what they do. They will gladly welcome the opportunity to devote more time to it, as long as the bills remain paid,” he says. “Largely, what contributes to a deterioration in mental and at times physical health is idleness. The old adage an idle mind is the devil's workshop truly manifests. And in no small way, sometimes. By pursuing a passion or even an alternative career, for that matter, gives one a sense of purpose. That's what keeps them occupied. More importantly, it keeps them active,” he explains.