Have you spent your entire working life dreaming of the time you could retire to worry-free, unscheduled existence? If so, it's important to remember that retirement isn't always that simple. It an emotional, financial, and physical change—and is not a decision that should be taken lightly. As life expectancies increase, we may end up spending as much time retired as we did working. Here are some important factors that will help you determine if you're ready to retire:

1. You have a guaranteed constant income. Before you retire, it's important to understand all the details surrounding your 401k and find out at what age you can begin making withdrawals. Although nearly all workers can begin collecting Social Security at the age of 62, the longer you wait, the higher your social security checks will be. In fact, in 2006, nearly 30 percent of Americans between the ages of 65 and 69 belonged to the workforce (up from 18 percent in 1985, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.) If possible, it may make more sense to hold out on retirement for a few more years.

2. You've calculated your desired retirement spending. Statistics say that when we retire, we'll require between 60 and 80 percent of our pre-retirement income. Of course, this will vary with lifestyle, and any extremes will skew this projection. There are those who choose to cut costs when they retire while others spend more than they did during their working life. There is also the question of relocation, and what the cost of living will be in your new locale. When figuring out your financial needs, inflation must also be considered. According to experts, it's safe to assume an inflation rate of 3 percent per year.

3. You have health insurance. Health insurance, or lack there of, continues to be a major problem in this country, and most companies don't offer subsidized health insurance to retirees anymore. If you retire before you're 65 (the age at which you become eligible for Medicare), you'll need to find another form of health insurance, which can be quite expensive. Studies show that even people who do qualify for Medicare will need a substantial amount of savings to pay for premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.

4. You have a part-time or short-term job lined up. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but working after retirement can be extremely beneficial. It provides time for your savings to accumulate, shortens the time your savings will need to last, and allows you to increase your Social Security checks for life. Also, many jobs provide health insurance. Working into your twilight years (if it's a job you enjoy, of course) can also do wonders for your mental and emotional health.

5. You have an established social network. Retirement can get lonely if you don't have people with whom to occupy your newly found free time. Studies show that a person may be retired for up to 30 or 40 years, so it's important to have a strong support network as well as different activities you enjoy partaking in.