When should you retire? Consult this checklist of questions

The question sounds simple, but it is tough to answer: At what age should you retire?

I get this question from readers and friends more often than any other. It is difficult to answer because it brings into play such a wide range of issues: Do I have enough money to retire? What will I do with my time in retirement? Will I have adequate medical coverage? When should I claim Social Security?

The answers are highly subjective and personal.

Sometimes the retirement timing decision is outside your control. Research shows that roughly half of all workers retire sooner than expected due to job loss, illness or the need to care for a family member.

But few people are thinking about the question far enough in advance. “The decision is complicated, and often it’s not well thought-out,” said Carol Bogosian, an actuary and volunteer member of a committee studying post-retirement needs and risks for the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

“It might start with a small hand on the back from an employer, and the person hasn’t really taken the time to look at her finances, how long the money needs to last and the needs of other family members. We’re trying to get people to think about the broader issues, and not just what is right in front of them now.”

The SOA recently published a research brief outlining questions to consider when trying to decide when to retire. The full list is worth reading, and it can be downloaded at no charge. I run down some of the key issues to consider in my Reuters Money column this week.

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