Can I Retire? What are the Common Traits of Those Who Can’t Retire?

Can I Retire? What are the Common Traits of Those Who Can’t Retire?

Knowing whether you can retire comes down to understanding your complete financial picture and readiness. You must review your savings, income sources, debts, and expected retirement expenses. Ideally, you want around 10-20 times your annual living expenses saved up. Look at all your obligations like a mortgage or rent, multiple income streams like Social Security and a pension, and adequate insurance coverage, including health and long-term care. If your situation checks these boxes, retirement may be within reach. If not, improving your preparedness in areas lacking will help determine when you can realistically retire.

Retirement is a significant life transition that requires extensive planning and preparation to ensure you are financially and mentally ready. Many pre-retirees wonder if they have the means and mindset to retire successfully. When can you comfortably leave the workforce and embrace retirement? There are common traits that potentially delay or prevent retirement altogether. By understanding and addressing areas of vulnerability early, you can put yourself in the best position to retire when desired.

This article explores the leading causes that block or postpone retirement. We will cover financial factors like savings and debt levels. But retirement readiness also links to lifestyle elements like career attachment and having interests outside of work. Additionally, practical concerns like retirement budgeting, healthcare costs, and financial knowledge gaps impact one’s retirement ability. You can make changes proactively by learning the top traits that precede retiring.

Why are some people unable to retire?
  1. Limited financial savings
  2. Lack of retirement planning
  3. High debt levels
  4. Healthcare costs
  5. Lack of Social Security or pension
  6. Job attachment
  7. Economic environment
  8. Family obligations
  9. Lack of financial literacy
  10. Behavioral traits
  11. Lifestyle choices
  12. Job market factors
  13. Educational background

Retirement can only be pushed out if you shore up weaknesses beforehand. Examine your unique situation to surface potential roadblocks. Then, create solutions tailored to your circumstances. With diligent preparation, you can confidently leave the workforce and enjoy your golden years as planned. The keys are self-awareness of vulnerabilities and taking corrective steps early.

Limited Financial Savings

Those with adequate retirement savings often can retire when they’d like. The most popular recommendation is saving 10-20 times your annual spend to retire comfortably. This provides the nest egg to withdraw 4-5% annually while growing your principal. With an average yearly spending of $50k/year, target $1-2 million minimum in retirement savings. Those needing more capital in their 401k, IRA, brokerage, or other dedicated retirement funds often must delay retirement until their sixties or even seventies.

Lack of Retirement Planning

Many need to plan appropriately for retirement and are surprised at how much they’ll need. Create a detailed retirement budget accounting for all current and future expenses—factor in costs that will increase, like travel and healthcare. Run projections to see if your estimated savings will last 30+ years. Use retirement calculators to run different scenarios on your portfolio’s growth. Failing to plan with a comprehensive retirement strategy makes successfully retiring extremely difficult.

High Debt Levels

Entering retirement with sizeable debt like mortgages, credit cards, car loans, and student loans severely impacts finances. That debt remains; servicing loans can drain limited retirement income. Besides a manageable mortgage, debt-free should be a top priority in the decade before retiring. This gives you time to pay down liabilities so they aren’t carried into retirement.

Healthcare Costs

Most people need to pay more attention to hefty healthcare expenses in retirement. This can quickly drain retirement savings. Do thorough research on costs like private medical insurance, Medicare premiums, Medicare Supplement plans, Part D prescription coverage, long-term care needs, and other out-of-pocket medical expenses before retiring. Build these expenses into your retirement budget with room for increases over time.

Lack of Social Security or Pension

Retiring without Social Security, an employer pension, or other guaranteed lifetime income stream is risky. These sources provide foundation income that makes retiring far more secure. Maximize Social Security benefits by delaying filing. Seek employers with pension plans, even if it means staying longer before retiring. Annuities can also provide guaranteed income to cover essential retirement expenses.

Job Attachment

Some become so attached to their careers they can’t imagine life without work. Their identity is their job title. They may need counseling to overcome fears of boredom, loss of purpose, or identity issues once they retire. Reflect on passions outside work and plan new pursuits like volunteering, hobbies, or time with family—travel and schedule activities to replace your working hours. Retiring successfully requires shifting your mental perspective years beforehand.

Economic Environment

Weak economies, recessions, falling stock markets, and low interest rates can delay retirement. It becomes harder to withdraw 4-5% of your portfolio during downturns, risking depletion before recovery. Ensure your savings can withstand fluctuating economic conditions over decades. Plan for larger withdrawals in good years and trim back during downturns. Consider phased retirement by working part-time to cushion the volatility impact.

Family Obligations

Caring for children, elderly parents, or other family members can preclude retirement in your 60s. If obligations last into your retirement years, waiting on retiring or retiring part-time may make sense. Could you wait until these responsibilities subside before considering full retirement? In the meantime, communicate with your family to balance their needs with your retirement desires.

Lack of Financial Literacy

Many don’t understand basics like retirement accounts, Social Security strategies, employer pensions, annuities, Medicare, or long-term care options. Seek to become financially literate by taking courses, meeting with advisors, and reading reputable resources. Make informed retirement-related decisions based on your new expertise. Knowledge shortfalls can lead to costly financial mistakes.

Behavioral Traits

Impulsive spenders who fail to budget or lack financial self-control may be forced to work indefinitely. Retirement requires reigning in reckless spending and saying no to temptations to spend more than you earn. Curb impulses like automatically raising credit limits or buying on whims. Adhere to a budget that aligns with your retirement lifestyle. Behavior changes are crucial years before retiring.

Lifestyle Choices

Those who fail to maintain health, keep job skills updated, network, pursue hobbies, or develop non-work interests will struggle to adjust in retirement. Begin expanding your lifestyle well before retirement. Adopt positive new habits to have a happy life after work. Retiring successfully requires life changes in advance.

Job Market Factors

Age discrimination, evolving skill demands, physically demanding jobs, technology, and lack of flexibility can block older workers from getting higher-paying jobs. Consider career changes to roles with longevity or returning to school to improve skills. Seek accommodations like telecommuting or flex scheduling to make working more tenable. Stay relevant and adaptable so you choose when to stop working and retire.

Educational Background

Higher education often leads to more lucrative careers and more considerable retirement savings. Lacking education can reduce access to well-paying jobs and retirement readiness. Complete a degree or additional certification to boost income. Learn new skills to change careers into a field with better pay and retirement benefits. Education expands options.

Key Takeaways

  • Having inadequate retirement savings and assets will hinder your ability to retire comfortably. Target 10-20 times your annual spending.
  • Failing to plan extensively for retirement by budgeting and running projections will leave you underprepared.
  • Entering retirement with unpaid debt creates an ongoing financial obligation that drains limited income.
  • Not factoring in significant healthcare costs may quickly deplete your nest egg.
  • Relying purely on retirement accounts without pension or Social Security income magnifies risk.
  • Strong emotional ties to your career can prevent you from envisioning life after work.
  • Economic downturns and market volatility can force you to delay retirement.
  • Caring for family members may postpone your ability to retire fully.
  • Lacking financial knowledge on topics like Social Security and Medicare is detrimental.
  • Impulsive spending habits and lack of budgeting discipline will undermine retirement.
  • Not expanding your lifestyle outside work makes it hard to transition happily.
  • Aging out of your career field or lacking updated skills reduces options.
  • Insufficient education and credentials can hamper access to well-paying jobs that enable saving.


Retiring comfortably takes diligent preparation and proactive changes to your finances, career, and lifestyle. Identify shortcomings across these areas early and take corrective action. Curb impulsive behaviors and expand your interests outside of work. With proper planning and adjustments over time, you can eventually retire securely.

Retirement delays often link back to a need for more planning and preparation. Take a holistic view of your finances, debt, healthcare, job prospects, and lifestyle years in advance. Honestly assess where you need to improve and shore up any shortfalls. This will put you in the best position to retire comfortably when you desire.