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Why did you retire early (or not)?

Largest surprise to me when I retired was the decrease in taxes because I was no longer receiving income that I could not manipulate.
I wanted to go, my employer wanted me to go and offered me a little money if I went, so I went at age 59 (retirement age was 62).  I did part-time work for a year until the work went away and then did a little temporary work to make enough money so that I could put off  taking Social Security until age 70. 
I was one of those folks who really looked forward to retirement, but I found that I liked part-time work, a lot.  If the part-time gig that I had was still available, I would probably continued with it well past age 70.
Great question!
I first considered retirement upon completion of a major project at age 46 in 2000; my employer talked me out of it. 
Then, in early 2002, I completed another major project and told my employer I would spend 6 months wrapping up some loose ends they had for me and then be done.  Five months later, they made me an offer I could not refuse and locked me in for another seven years.
I tried retirement and failed again in 2009 and in October of 2011, I decided I was finally through.at 57.  A former business associate heard I was about to be "available and asked me to help with a manufacturing business he had started and a few weeks of assistance turned into 15 months of project work.  I wrapped that up in October of 2012. 
My wife and I were in Mountain Home, Arkansas looking for a home in April of 2013, when the phone rang and a recruiter asked me if I would consider a project driving improvement initiatives within a manufacturing business wishing to improve its competitive position in the market.  I did that for the next year and was asked by the owner of a business where I sit on the advisory board to accept a full time role with the company.  And that is where I sit today.
In addition to my "normal" employment, I now write and publish investment analysis for several websites and manage my own investments.  It seems I am not very good at retirement.  
Best regards and better profits,
Retired once.  When my wife asked me one day if all I was going to do was read a book, I figured maybe I'd better find something else to do.  Got a real estate license and have been doing that since.  I go into the office most days.  As to why I still do that???  I love my wife.  She's a great gal, but if we were together 24/7??  Too uncertain.  LOL.
Diverse views showing up.   Took a package at 62 after 38 years working in my discipline area.  Noticing everyone who joined the company 30 years before either retired or gone was a hint of a change in the season.... Wife is younger professional by 5 years and still has not crossed over.   That was one factor for what I would do next.    For me it was time to do something different with the life energy and you don't do that by staying in the same position and role.   I created a year of transition ... taking the art class I never took,  working on projects long tabled.   Now working part time with a consulting company doing related work to prior career .. keeping the grey matter engaged, learning new stuff, building in the hour or so of exercise almost every day and putting around when I feel like it .   Surprised it takes effort to get the balance right.    Once you pass the point where you don't have to work... that is when you need to create the time and space where you need to challenge yourself to define what is important.   Working for the old employer isn't one of them. 
Only after I reached the point that I no longer "had" to work did I come to appreciate how much I actually enjoy all of the things I do and the feeling of being "behind".

I must agree that "consulting projects" are better than a real job as I can pick and choose the ones that really interest me.  I suppose I am fortunate in having more opportunities than time these days.  The best part is, my writing and investment research is ALWAYS there for me to play with and, like digging a hole, you never find the bottom and long as you keep digging! 
I am 62 years old and if retirement is doing what you really want to do, then I “retired” 4 years ago when at 58 I moved to Southern California to take my dream job. I had been employed in the private sector for 25 years, but was getting estranged from my true values by the pressure for productivity.  My dream had always been to go back to school, study and teach. I got the chance to join a major public university and re-start my career. I now spend 70% of my time mostly unscheduled in research and teaching and 30% of my time working under a formal schedule, often serving an indigent under served population. Unlike matchewed, I love this aspect of my job—it connects me to my core values as a devout Democrat. I work with students, faculty, management, and industry. I travel a lot, including Asia and Europe. If I won the lottery, I would pay to do this job.  But, in fact, I earn the same salary I always earned, continue to contribute to my 403b and 457b, and if I work to 70 will receive a pension equaling Social Security. I also contribute after-tax to a defined contribution plan, which is a backdoor to a Roth. We sold our house, made a 10% down payment on a new house, and received a 3% APR (floating) mortgage amortized over 40 years—I thus pulled home equity into investments and improved cash flow with low monthly. My retirement assets were transferred into a rollover IRA, which I will draw on if my salary decreases. But I am discovering that I like saving more than spending, so continuing to accumulate our nest egg is psychologically better for me and I think I would be stressed by spending down in formal retirement. In the end, I will need to fund a special needs trust for my disabled daughter and we also want to provide an inheritance for our other 3 kids.
I just retired a few weeks ago at the age of 52. Some of your reasons for retiring early are the same as mine. Wanting to exercise regularly, keeping up with things around the house, just finding time to do a few things, like tennis, golf reading, etc, without feeling like I have to rush around. I lead a simple life, health club is only $10/month, house and car paid for, no expensive hobbies, so at this point I generate income from investments to meet my needs. I was in a blue collar union job with my last company, paid well and good benefits, but shift work, weekends, overtime. Between this job and my previous job, I had worked shift work and OT for most of the last 30yrs, since I got out of college in 1985.
I'm 52 (nearly 53) and I had a countdown of 2610 days until I hit 50.  When I hit 50 though to the surprise of many I did not retire.  I'd say there are 3 reasons I didn't retire at 50 (1) My employer, knowing I could retire, was careful to make sure I didn't have a reason to walk, (2) The money I was making, especially on my defined benefit plan was fantastic allowing a much better quality of life in retirement and (3) uncertainty about the future.  Layoffs are coming to my company though (I work in oil) and I doubt I'll be willing to pay the price in time and stress to continue to work so I suspect I will not be working in a year.
Benefits to retirement are the ability to schedule my day (could be helpful in getting adequate rest), better eating and exercise, better monitoring of my investment portfolio (my new job), and maybe the opportunity to relocate closer to home.  I'm single so I don't need to worry about getting on my wife's nerves!
Very interesting reading through these.
I never had any particular target date in mind.  I'd always really enjoyed my work, and still did even after I began to realize that with increased supervisory responsibilities and encroaching technology the job was beginning to get away from me.  When a modest buyout was offered I decided, at 61, to quit while I was ahead.  I'm 82 now and have no regrets whatsoever.

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