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Nearly everyone has days at work where retiring as early as you can sounds like the best possible strategy for happiness. Yet we all face the challenge of figuring out where the right balance is between working longer to get the financial security of a larger retirement nest egg and taking the plunge into retirement. There are some situations in which most people would agree that it's smart to retire as early as possible. Here are three of them.

1. Your health depends on it.
Nearly any job takes its toll on your body and mind over time. Some jobs that involve hard physical labor become difficult for people to do even after relatively short careers. Other jobs can have the opposite impact, requiring long periods of inactivity that can lead to health problems like obesity. From a mental standpoint, jobs that involve constant immersion and stress can have cumulative effects that make it difficult to find time to relax and unwind.

Regardless of what your job entails, it's important to have a long-term game plan for exactly how long you think you can keep doing it. If the physical and mental demands of your job will eventually take their toll on you, making a smart estimate in advance of how much endurance you're likely to have will help you implement a savings strategy that will get you to your financial goals within the right time frame.

2. You'll be able to restructure your life.
What many retirees find out the hard way is that leaving the workforce entirely isn't necessarily the right answer for them. The financial and social aspects of working bring different but equally important benefits, and even once your finances are secure, it can be important to keep other work benefits as part of your life.

Early retirement lets you choose what to do based not on financial needs but rather on your interests and passions. All the things that most people put off because they feel that they don't have enough time during their careers are suddenly available, whether it involves learning for its own sake, seeking a specific longtime goal that could bring longer-term benefits, or simply spending more time with people who are important to you. Regardless of the motivation, having the flexibility to retire early gives you more time to do what you want with the rest of your life.

3. You can't predict how much time you have.
One of the most difficult things about planning for retirement is that it's impossible to put a fixed time frame on how long your retirement will last. The threat of running out of money is a very real one, and it motivates many people to work longer than they otherwise would -- even if it turns out not to be a realistic fear.

For those who are 50 years old, life expectancy tables indicate that men can expect to live to age 79 and women to age 83. But by age 60, about 1 in 14 men and about 1 in 22 women will already have died. Those numbers rise to 1 in 8 men and 1 in 12 women by age 65. Those odds aren't bad, but they do show that if you're dead-set on retiring no earlier than the traditional full retirement age of 65, there's a very real possibility that you'll miss out entirely on your retirement dreams. Every year you retire early is a year longer you have to do what you want with the time you have left.

Early retirement is a dream for many people, and sound financial management can help you achieve your money goals and give you the resources you need to retire as early as you can. The larger issue that you have to come to grips with is why early retirement is truly important to you. Once you have a core idea of what's motivating your desire to retire early, it'll be that much easier to put plans in motion to get there.