Is Tom Brady the Model for When to Retire?

Tom Brady -who earlier this month led the New England Patriots to a comeback Super Bowl victory- may be 39, but has no plans to retire before next season. He told the Fox pregame show that there was “no way” he’d retire if he won the championship: “This is the time to capitalize. I’ve worked too hard to get to this point.”

The prime of your career is most likely the best time to capitalize on your earnings. Unlike Brady, who is most likely could live quite a comfortable life if he decided to hang up his cleats and pads after winning the big game’s MVP honors, most of us need those prime-year earnings, even if you’ve topped your earnings potential.

We need those prime earning years to shore up our retirement funds. Americans ages 35 to 44 have a median balance of just about $24,000 in their 401(k)s, for ages 45 to 54 it’s $46,200 and from 55 to 64 it’s about $71,500, according to 2016 data from Vanguard. Experts say that’s far too little: Fidelity Investments recommends that by 40 you have three times your salary saved, which for the median household would be roughly $150,000; by 50 it would be six times your salary, or $300,000.

On the other hand, there may be a risk to staying at your job. For example, your performance could decline, as may be the case for Tom Brady. As Brady grows older in age, he is more likely to become injured playing football and some say he could tarnish his reputation with poor performance. A valid point, but having more championship rings than any other quarterback in NFL history (five) would most likely far outweigh any damage he could do to his legacy on the grid iron.

Most of us don’t have such options, like parlaying his success on the field into a broadcasting gig, or Brady’s bank account, so continuing to work during your prime earning years is most likely a solid strategy.

In what can be a harrowing process, many business leaders who do attempt to create an exit plan take on too many tasks by themselves. Others simply don’t start early enough to identify and prepare the right people for future roles. With so much at stake – both emotionally, financially and professionally – the key is simply to bite the bullet, start early, and be thorough. Doing so can create a smooth transition that keeps confidence strong among customers, investors, and employees. This confidence can play a major role in ensuring the success of your company’s future and enhancing your own personal legacy.