01 December 2023

Early retirement can seem like a great idea, but it’s not an easy decision to make. There are a lot of things to consider when retiring early. You’ll need to:

  • check how big your pension pot is and how much you’re saving into it
  • map out your ideal retirement lifestyle and how much it might cost you
  • think about how long you’ll be around to enjoy it.

Once you’ve worked through that, you’ll have a rough idea of how much you’ll need, for how long, to support your retirement. That’ll help you see if you’re:

  • ready to retire right now
  • on track to retire early when the time is right
  • unlikely to retire early unless you start saving more.

That’s a lot to think about! And there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Everyone will have their own unique take on it. So the answer to: “Should you retire early?” is really: “Well, assuming you can afford it, do you want to and what will you get up to?”

Common reasons for early retirement

When you’re thinking about whether to retire now or later, bear these key early retirement benefits in mind. You can:

  • give yourself more than just the odd weekend and a few weeks’ annual leave to get some proper travelling in and see whichever parts of the world you fancy
  • do what you love with people you love, which could mean anything from spending more time with family and friends to finding brand new interests and goals
  • make the most of your health while you’re still (relatively) young and energetic, so you don’t work too long then find your retirement dreams are out of reach
  • step back from a job (or even a career) that’s causing you too much stress or that you just don’t feel as passionate about anymore.

Early retirement pension options

Whether or not you can retire early often depends on the pensions you’ve built up.

Normally you can’t access a personal pension, workplace pension or other type of pension before you reach 55. But there are exceptions. Check with each of your providers to see what’s possible. You might be pleasantly surprised. And even if you need to wait until your mid-50s, that’s still early retirement.

Don’t forget to plan carefully, though. The sooner you start drawing money out of a pension, the less it can keep growing, and the more likely you are to use it up more quickly. Make sure you think through the whole of your retirement, not just the next few years.

There’s also your State Pension, but that won’t kick in until you reach your mid-to-late sixties. You can check the exact age you’ll get it at Gov.uk. Because the State Pension starts later on, it won’t help you retire early. But you can factor it into your long-term spending and saving plans.

Lost track of your old pensions?

If you're beginning to think about your retirement, having a good understanding of how much your pension is worth can make planning easier and more exciting.

The pros and cons of early retirement

We often build our lives around work, scheduling everything else around its needs and demands. Our sense of who we are and what we want out of life can too easily get mixed up with job titles and achievements. Taking early retirement can help us step back and start living on our own terms.

And retirement’s a very flexible thing these days. The benefits of saving for retirement early can be surprisingly varied:

  • You don’t have to stop working. You can find a new organisation that’s more in tune with your values and motivations, or even just your ideal work patterns. Maybe you can work differently for your current employer. Or you could even start your own business
  • With a regular retirement income, you might be able to start volunteering. That can take you in all sorts of new directions, from helping to grow a charity you’re deeply committed to, to meeting interesting people while doing fun, rewarding new things
  • Perhaps it’s time to go back to education. Was there a subject you always regretted giving up? Maybe you’ve always dreamed of getting a degree? Or do you just fancy learning something new at evening classes? Now could well be the time.

You’re probably already imagining your ideal retirement, and mulling over lots of possible plans. Starting on them sooner rather than later could be very exciting – particularly if you’re not sure how healthy you’ll be further down the line.

But don’t go too quickly. Early retirement factors include challenges, too. For the most part, they’re financial. If you retire early, you might use up your pension pot too quickly. So make sure you plan carefully, and are ready for the medium to long term, as well as the short term.

What’s next?

There are many different ways of seeing if you’re ready for early retirement, and working out what that retirement could look like:

  • our Retirement Income Calculator will show you how much money you could get every year, and how long you could get it for, once you reach 55
  • if you're not sure about the best way to access your pension savings, we've put together a tool to help when it comes to deciding how to use your pension pot. Answer a few simple questions to get an idea of the type of decisions you'll have to make before you start to take your pension
  • the Retirement Living Standards website will help you think about the kind of retirement lifestyle you’d like and work out how much it could cost
  • our free Midlife MOT (developed with The Open University) will help you look at your financial, health and work wellbeing, and give you a solid base for long-term life planning
  • our free Retirement Planning Made Easy course (also developed with The Open University) will help you lay out and firm up your retirement plans
  • Pension Wise will give you free, impartial pensions guidance about your defined contribution pension choices
  • if you’d like to talk to a financial adviser and don’t already have one, you can find one at the Unbiased website.


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