Many working Americans dream of early retirement and the leisurely lifestyle that tends to go along with it. But pulling the trigger on retirement prematurely can have serious consequences that negate the benefits of doing so in the first place.
Boston College reports that the average retirement age in the U.S. for women is 62, while men retire, on average, at 64. And while 62 is when recipients can start collecting Social Security, it's also well before what's known as full retirement age, or the age at which claimants can receive benefits in full.
But it's not just that early retirees risk slashing their Social Security benefits. Those who retire before age 65 also don't get health coverage under Medicare, which means they could end up on the hook for thousands of dollars each year in bills and insurance premiums. And let's not discount the fact that many folks retire without having adequate personal savings in the first place, which means they're essentially doomed from the get-go.
If you come to realize that you retired when you weren't ready, don't panic. You have several options to remedy the situation and salvage your remaining senior years.
If you need money
If you retired and are depleting your savings more quickly than expected, you have several choices for preserving your cash flow. First, consider working part-time, whether in your former field or someplace new. Even a few hundred dollars per month might give you ample breathing room in covering the bills.
Another option is to downsize your living space and move to a more affordable home. Housing and healthcare tend to be retirees' most significant expenses, and while you can't skimp on the latter, you have more wiggle room with the former. If you don't want to leave your home, try renting part of it out to generate income from a tenant. This setup especially works if you have a finished basement or separate area of your home you don't tend to use.
One final cash-saving opportunity comes in the form of unloading your vehicle and relying on public transportation instead. Of course, if you live in a very rural area, this may not be an option, but if you're in a city and don't need to travel every day, taking the bus might prove far cheaper than paying for car insurance and maintenance, not to mention fueling your vehicle.
If you're bored
Retirement increases the likelihood of suffering from clinical depression by 40%, or so says the Institute of Economic Affairs. If retirement ends up leaving you feeling lost or hopeless, finding meaningful ways to occupy your time can lead to a major attitude shift.
Depending on your interests and financial needs, you might consider volunteering for an organization you support, enrolling in college or adult education classes, or even starting a business. In fact, seniors 65 and older have the highest self-employment rates in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, so if you go this route, you'll be in good company. And, as an added bonus, you'll have an opportunity to earn money, as opposed to just spending it.
Finally, make sure to take advantage of the many senior discounts available on entertainment. From movie theaters to concerts to museums, finding low-cost leisure will enable you to do more with your days and thus enjoy them to the fullest.
If you're downright miserable
Maybe you had no idea how much retirement would actually cost you, and with every day that goes by, you're growing increasingly stressed. Or maybe you're just a workaholic by nature and can't quite come to terms with the idea of not having a job. No matter why you're truly unhappy in retirement, if you're convinced you've made a mistake, your best bet may be to simply reverse it.
You can start by asking your last employer for your old job back and resuming your old routine. If you left on good terms, and there's a need for the type of work you do, your former company might actually welcome you with open arms. If that's not an option, you can always try applying for a new job, or venturing out on your own by consulting in your former field. Not only might returning to work restore your sense of purpose, but it'll also certainly help alleviate whatever financial stress you're experiencing.
We all make mistakes, and sometimes we think we're ready for retirement when, in fact, we're not. If retirement isn't working out the way you hoped it would, just know that you do have options for earning money, filling your time, or going back to the workforce. The key is to make some sort of change rather than resign yourself to what could be a very long period of unhappiness.