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Work Less Longer

Janet is a 55-year-old heart surgeon earning $250,000 a year, and she is burned out working every day. Her husband Jack is also 55, but he spends his days “birding” and has only a modest earnings history. Their 16-year-old son will head off to college to study ornithology in three years. Janet can’t take the work load much longer and plans to retire at age 60.

That said, she’s about at the end of her rope and has asked ESPlanner to provide her some options for working fewer hours per work or even taking a lower paid, less stressful job. In either case, Janet's willing to retire later. She just wants to earn enough and work long enough to give her family the same, stable living standard.

Living standard refers here to discretionary spending per household member adjusted for economies in shared living and the fact that children aren't as expensive as adults. Discretionary spending is the spending the household can do after paying its taxes, making contributions to retirement accounts, meeting housing expenses, paying life insurance premiums, and covering college and other special expenditures.

ESPlanner can readily show Janet the tradeoff -- the price in terms of more years of work for working less in a given year. There are a large number of critical interconnected variables that must be considered here. Fortunately, ESPlanner can handle the complexity within a matter of seconds. The variables include changes in the amount and duration of labor earnings, changes in the amount and duration of retirement contributions, changes annual federal and state taxes, and changes in Social Security benefits.

So what's the trade off between earning less and working longer?

  • If Janet works through age 65, she can cut back her hours at work by over 50 percent, earning earn just $113,555.
  • If she works through age 70, a salary of $73,250 will provide the same living standard.
  • And if she works through age 75, she needs to earn only $65,300 each year.

This is great news for Janet who adores bypass surgery, but doesn’t want to perform so many each week.