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When planning for retirement, you probably have a specific age in mind. Circumstances often get in the way of our best laid plans, however, as recently detailed by The New York Times ("When Outside Factors Dictate Retirement Age," January 2015).


While you may have chosen your retirement age in advance, basing your choice on personal factors such as when your partner is retiring, there are many "outside" factors that can make this decision for you.


Life expectancy: If your health is good and you expect to live to a ripe old age, you may feel compelled to work a few years longer to save money for a long retirement. Having friends or loved ones die early, however, may lead you to retire earlier than expected despite your health and longevity.


Technology: Some older workers struggle with technology and feel themselves to be a "dying breed." This lack of confidence may lead them to retire early.


Age discrimination: It's no secret that competing with younger workers often makes it difficult for older, more experienced people to find jobs — especially jobs that pay well. This leads many to give up and enter retirement early.


Forty-nine percent of American workers retire earlier than planned, according to a recent Retirement Confidence Survey from EBRI ("Why so many workers retire earlier than planned," cbsnews.com, October 2014).


The survey also looks at why people retired earlier than they had anticipated.


Poor health was the biggest factor leading to early retirement, as 61% of respondents reported leaving their jobs due to health problems.


Getting laid off and providing needed care for a loved one were also cited by a substantial number of respondents.


Forced early retirement can take a toll both emotionally and financially: There are steps you can take to minimize the potential harm, such as taking care of your health, saving for retirement, and keeping your skills and job contacts up-to-date. Cultivating a strong social network is also important.


Are you leaving the workforce sooner than expected? Or did you in the past? Tell us your story.