The latest in my series of retirement guides has been published – it looks at the timing of retirement decisions.

The guides are downloadable, quick reads paired with a podcast interview on the subject at hand.

Why a guide on the timing of retirement decisions? Simply put, this can be a really important inflection point for your financial success in retirement, so it’s worth thinking about carefully.

The last years of work usually are peak earning years. And working even a few years more years – or less – will impact your retirement math significantly. Your timing affects the number of years that you’ll rely on savings to meet living expenses. It impacts the number of years that you can contribute to retirement saving accounts. And perhaps most important, working longer helps sets the stage for a delayed Social Security claim. That’s because it provides the income you need to meet living expenses while you wait to file.

But setting a retirement target date and sticking to it can be very difficult . . . even risky.

About one-third of workers tell pollsters they plan to work well past traditional retirement age, or not retire at all. But the data also tell us that about one-third of workers retire earlier than expected – and that the farther out you push your target date, the less likely you are to work to that date.

The most common causes for unexpected early retirement are health problems and job loss. But the study uncovered clear reasons for unplanned early retirement only in about one-quarter of cases.

Other reasons are more difficult to measure. The pull of leisure activities and time with family are factors, along with possible age discrimination. But the quality of work also matters.

Click here to download the guide.