That's because things can happen along the way to your so-called golden years - divorce, loss of a job, a health issue, or, on the plus side, a big inheritance or workplace bonus.
So how can you tell if you have done enough leading up to your retirement to make sure you have saved enough money and accumulated enough assets to retire with the lifestyle you want?
Have a few measurable goalposts you can aim at to see if you're ready to call it a career, according to Kevin Houser and Gary Plessl, certified financial planners with LPL Financial, founders of Houser & Plessl Wealth Management Group and authors of The Book On Retirement: Are You Ready for the Second Half of Your Financial Life? (Richter Publishing, 2015). One rule of thumb is to have saved 18 times what you plan to spend annually to cover a 25-year retirement. But a lot of feeling prepared and settling into a relaxed financial mindset is psychological.
For starters, if you don't need to focus on saving and worry about accumulating wealth anymore, it's a good bet you're in for a healthy retirement. But the way you save is just as important. "Saving matters most only during the first half of your financial life when time is on your side," says Houser. "Many people don't realize, as they approach the age of 65, that the strategies that helped them accumulate assets in the first half of their financial lives may not work as effectively during the second half."
William Seavey, author of the book Crisis Investing and Entrepreneuring (BCH, 2009), says if you're not worried about cash in retirement all the time, you're likely ready for retirement. "We know people who are fully retired but they worry about money all the time," says Seavey. "We really don't." Seavey says his wife and he "sailed" through the economic downturn, mainly by staying in the stock market, having a diversified portfolio and holding real estate investment property. "I also hope to sell at some point my Woodstock memorabilia collection - since I was there and have original photos," he says.
Also, if you're really close to retirement, ask yourself if your Social Security, pension, and 4% of your retirement savings is enough to live on each year, notes Andrew McFadden, a certified financial planner and founder of Panoramic Financial, a money management firm. "If you can't, then it is probably too early to retire, unless you are over 70 -- then you might be able to withdrawal more from your retirement savings per year," he says.
Another good sign you're ready to retire is if your home mortgage is paid off. "If the answer is 'yes,' you've likely just eliminated your biggest expense in retirement, which brings you that much closer to being ready," he adds.
On the downside, if you don't know what's coming to you from Social Security, have no long-term medical care insurance and aren't sure where you stand money-wise in terms of your own retirement, you're likely not ready for retirement. "We talk with people who are guessing at their income needs, yet think they're prepared to retire," notes Tony Hellenbrand, owner of Hellenbrand Financial in Green Bay, Wis. "Some of the most important numbers to know are the simplest to calculate, but simple isn't easy. Even so, it still has to be done."
To see where you stack up for retirement, check out J.P Morgan's retirement checklist calculator. "That will help you determine if you're in the ballpark," says McFadden.