12 Lies We Tell Ourselves about Retirement

Category: Retirement Planning

June 12, 2015 — Oh, the things we say we are going to do in retirement. And if only we did them! We were inspired by a recent MarketWatch story, “Five Lies We Tell Ourselves in Retirement“, which focused on lies people tell themselves on financially related aspects of retirement. We liked the idea enough we decided to create our own list of lies, but with a different focus – (mostly) non-financial fibs. This is our list – we encourage you to add your own in the Comments section below!

First, we give you the list of retirement related lies that we think get told the most. It could be argued some of these are just retirement mistakes, while others are overly optimistic expectations. Unfortunately the outcome is often the same. In the second part we will explain why, unfortunately, these things are so often not true. The point of this article isn’t to point fingers or make ourselves feel bad about our failings, rather it is to try to prepare against unrealistic expectations.

Some common retirement lies we make
– Will retire at age 70 (or fill in an age) so I have enough time to plan and save
– Will never retire
– Will get a part-time job
– Will somehow get enough money to retire on comfortably
– Will take out money on an even enough schedule to make it last
– Will travel a lot
– Stay in my current home until they carry me out
– Will live in one place the rest of my life
– Will get physically fit and live a healthy lifestyle
– Carefully research a great place to retire and then move there
– Won’t have any trouble figuring out how to keep busy
– Continue to see my old friends from work

And here is what happens more oftten than not:
Will retire at age 70 (or fill in an age)

The truth is when we actually retire is often quite unpredictable. Far too many baby boomers have found themselves unexpectedly retired in their early 50s, years before they wanted to. Sometimes they got laid off, other times it was a health issue. The point is to be prepared if your plan goes awry.

Will never retire
This stretcher is related to the one above. Layoffs and/or health issues can change plans quickly. But sometimes we realize the job just isn’t fun anymore, or we can’t do it as well as we expect. If you love what you are doing – keep doing it! But be realistic and open to changing circumstances.

Will get a part-time job
A surprisingly high number of boomers say they are going to get a part-time job when they retire – either to help make ends meet, or to stay busy (both good reasons!). But the reality is different for many folks. If you move to an area where unemployment is high or the only part time jobs are not very desirable or physically demanding, that might be tough. Likewise if you have health issues or need to take care of a spouse of family memmber, you might not have time.

Will somehow get enough money to retire on comfortably
This is one of the more serious delusions we can make for ourselves. If before you retire you haven’t figured out what your living expenses are going to be in retirement, and if you have enough resources to pay those, you are officially in trouble. The money is not magically going to appear once you quit working. You need to go to Plan B immediately. Delay retirement, save more, cut your expenses, downsize your home, get a job – you need to do all or most of these so you do not jeopardize your lifestyle.

Will take out money on an even enough schedule to make it last
Even if you do have enough money for a comfortable retirement it won’t last if you aren’t disciplined about how you withdraw it. It might be tempting to spend lavishly on a new home, trips, or luxury items with your now accessible retirement savings – but restrain yourself. We have met too many financial advisors who see clients taking money out too soon, knowing that a day of reckoning is out there. Likewise many boomers rationalize that they can spend more when they are young retirees because they will won’t have such ambitious dreams as they age. The downsize to this approach is that old age has its own expenses. We will get old and sick someday – if we are lucky! Nursing homes and CCRCCs can easily cost $7000/month. Expensive operations, rehabs, and home health care can burn up even more. Steady as she goes is our recommended approach.

Will travel a lot
We hear this a lot, particularly from folks who haven’t done a lot of retirement planning. Sure, we’ll travel. And most people do travel – a little bit, and for a while. Don’t plan on travel to fill out your days, unless you are a very adventurous, planning kind of person. Start with a Bucket List and see how it goes. If you like travel, keep at it and have fun. It does get harder, but not impossible, as you age.

Stay in my current home until I die
Long time visitors to Topretirements know this one of our pet peeves. Sometimes it becomes impossible, expensive, and socially a bad idea to stay in your current home. It can also put a terrible burden on your family members. Sure, it can be wonderful for some people who have the resources, family and social networks, and good health to pull it off. Others will have no choice, as health issues or disabilities force them from homes ill-designed for that situation. In our opinion it is better to have a flexible rather than a hard-headed approach on the topic. As your health and living skills decline, you, and your family members, might be better off in an independent living, assisted living, or CCRC kind of facility.

Will develop a healthy lifestyle
We hope all of our members are physically fit now or plan on getting that way as soon as they retire. The sad fact an increasing number of us are not. For the most part we will live longer and have fewer health issues if we adopt a healthy lifestyle – eating right, exercising, and moderation/abstinence from alcohol and tobacco. Our point: Don’t lie to yourself about getting healthy – develop a plan and a schedule to get there. Talking to your doctor, hiring a trainer, or going to classes on a regular basis is the best way to get on the road to success.

Carefully research a great place to retire and then move there
Certainly the approach that involves exploration, frequent visits, and renting first is the best advice. But a surprising number of people take the default approach. They visit a place once and buy. They go to where their friends live and buy there. They find a rental on the Internet, rent for a month – and never go anywhere else. So here’s our counter to this stretcher: the more places you visit and the longer you stay there the happier your eventual choice will probably be. It takes discipline, but it pays off with better odds of success.

Won’t have any trouble figuring out how to keep busy
If we were ranking these retirement lies in order of severity, this one is near the top. Like nearly everything else in life, having a thought out plan is the key to success. So here is the Topretirements lecture: Think about what you are going to do… before you retire. Prioritize on paper what you (and your significant other) like to do. Develop a hobby and a passion. Then think about places and developments where you can enjoy those activities. Visit those places and try stuff – it might take a while but you can enjoy the process!

Continue to see my old friends from work
Many people find seeing old friends an enjoyable part of retirement. Just realize it won’t happen unless you take the initiative and have a regular schedule for it.

Bottom Line
Retirement is a chance to have a do-over on life. So try to be honest with yourself and realize where your good intentions either need a mid-course direction or a stern talking to!

Comments? Please share your experiences with the lies you told yourself about retirement. We can all learn together!

For further reading:
Wow, Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing
Free Retirement Ranger Quiz
Free Baby Boomers Guides to Choosing a Retirement Community
Worst Retirement Mistakes

Posted by Admin on June 12th, 2015

16 Comments »

  1. This is the best advice I’ve seen on retirement. Certainly, it’s the mos realistic. Retirement is not as easy as we were told.

    by Michael Levin — June 13, 2015

  2. I agree with you, especially the point about thinking we will stay in the same house until we die. It might be a nice thought, but it’s not realistic if it isn’t convenient and cannot meet all of your needs.

    by Mary Couzens — June 15, 2015

  3. We have done pretty well in avoiding the lies! We planned for our retirement for many years, investing and saving to have a good nest egg. We researched a lot prior to selecting our retirement community. Our hope is to stay in our home until we die but we know that may not be the case. We keep busy with lots of activities in our community, my husband volunteer coaches at a local high school and we both work at staying healthy and physically fit. We just returned from a 2 week river cruise in Europe and are working on planning our next trip. We meet with our financial adviser regularly to make sure we our on track with our spending. All in all, I would say we have done a pretty good job!

    by Kathy — June 16, 2015

  4. Just unexpectedly learned all about the first point – “plan to retire at age ___”. Our plan, developed with our financial advisor, including spreadsheets of planned withdrawals was based on my 64 yr old husband working to 66. He had worked for the same family- owned company for 33 years. To everyone’s surprise, the company was sold to a national company and my husband amongst others was “retired” with a small severance package. Others were just flat laid off!!! Two years short of hitting our retirement “number” in the 401k, two years short of SS FRA and two years short of debt-free nirvana! Lesson learned: plan to hit the goals 5 years before your anticipated retirement date: just in case the unexpected happens!!!

    by SandyZ — June 17, 2015

  5. I don’t yet have the answer to having enough to last until the end, but as yet, I don’t know when the end will be! As for the rest of the “lies”, I seem to be doing great. I won’t retire until I am 70, I have part-time work (almost more than I want!). I am so busy that I wonder how I had time to work! I keep in touch with people from my past and make new friends, just as I did when younger. My health is fine, but I pay attention and work at it. I live in a home that could work for many years to come, so I don’t have to move. I travel at least twice a year on a lengthy trip and locally on shorter ones whenever I wish. I find that travel schedule to be sufficient now though I may have wished for more in the past. I know that as I get older, I won’t want to travel as much, so I am doing as much as I can now.

    The key to being happy, no matter what stage of life, is to be in the moment and deal with the reality of “now”. That includes being aware that you will be around for awhile and you may want to plan financially for the future. I was just thinking that I might want to think about other ways to generate an income, at least at some level, after I quit working. That will keep me busy investigating different ideas. If I can find the time! I also try to continue to look for ways to simplify how I live and let go of ways that don’t help me financially and are not appropriate for my situation now. Example: cable TV- I hate paying for that, so I am going to explore internet streaming. Example: stocking my pantry as though I were still responsible for feeding a growing family. (Old habits die hard!)

    When you were 30, did you have a perfect plan for the years until you were 60? Of course not! So why do we think we can know exactly how it will go from 60 to 90? Be flexible.

    The two things that I would tell anyone approaching retirement are the following:
    1. Try to have your house paid off before you retire. (It is usually the biggest bill you have.)
    2. Give yourself a couple of years to adjust to the new reality of not working 40,50 or 60 hours a week. I found myself spinning my wheels at first. Racing to nowhere. Create a new structure in your life. Set up a schedule for yourself at home. You won’t go off in six directions at once, or worse just sit staring at the walls. Schedule in time everyweek for the things you used to wish you had time to do. After a while, it starts to feel normal and you come out of your funk and happily go forward. It’s just another opportunity to prove your excellence!

    by Lulu — June 17, 2015

  6. Reading the “fibs” and the responses above, I am reminded again of a few things.

    First, I may have a plan and goals for retirement, but some things are out of my control, making a selection of contingency options necessary. Plans can change as needed, but not having a plan puts is risky.

    Second, since I came to retirement planning and prepping at a late age (50), my options are more limited than someone who has been on the track for decades longer. I’ve always lived a counterculture lifestyle, and I learned how to successfully survive in ways that I may not have realized if I hadn’t. Many of these ways will serve me after retirement. I will have a unique and unusual retirement, consistent with how I’ve lived my life.

    Third, being healthy is probably the best predictor of how successful my retirement life will be, since good health keeps me from running up medical bills, contributes to obtaining and keeping part-time work, helps me to work longer, allows me to travel and do what I want to do, and promotes my being able to make choices that are not based on dealing with poor health, for as long as possible.

    Fourth, living a sustainable lifestyle now will benefit my retirement: living without debt; integrating exercise into my daily activities; eating healthy food and avoiding unhealthy habits; strengthening family ties and friendships; discovering how to do what I want for free or with little money; refining possessions and responsibilities to what I can manage in the future. I’m not perfect, but I’m aiming for my best.

    Fifth, My bucket list is based on a “small is beautiful” concept, which includes gardening, writing, creating art, reading and libraries, tuition free college courses for seniors, my 1986 Tercel wagon, sharing my home with a compatible roommate, keeping fit, being involved in community, selected travel, and other similar activities.

    Finally, retirement won’t be about getting what I’ve always wanted, but about continuing the life I have. I’ve always believed that living life is a journey that leads to the ultimate destination, so it’s the living that is important. The biggest luxury of all will be free time.

    by Elaine C. — June 17, 2015

  7. I have to laugh now at one of the ‘lies’ I told myself years ago as we were moving around the country with my husband’s career. I was telling myself -when we retired we can choose anyplace to live that we want without worrying about schools and employment and how fun that would be to actually choose!!

    Now that we are retired, we find that we can’t really choose ‘anywhere’ we’d like if we want to be relatively close to our sons (and their families – grandchildren!). Oh I suppose you could say to heck with family, but realistically for us it wouldn’t be wise as they are too important to us to only visit once or twice a year. So we are living now where my husband’s last employment was as our sons have lives now in this area as well.

    by CJ — June 17, 2015

  8. update 17 june 2015. so far so good on our new retired life. staying busy staying healthy with the PICKLEBALL crowd. wife is doing ZUMBA 2-3 times, tai chi 2-3 times, bible study, book club, etc, etc. walking the cities GREENWAY TRAILS is a pleasure for me. becoming a NEWS JUNKIE with my morning coffee. going to start the 4% mandatory dance in AUGUST 2015. our money guy thinks OUR plan is sound and do-able. time will tell. while enjoying life, we are doing more research, on our eventual end days. our trips in this FANTASTIC country include stops to visit facilities for INDEPENDENT, ASSISTED & CONTINUING CARE. the range of options and cost are perplex and challenging. just another adventure to fill in the blanks. we are currently in our PLAN A. PLANS B & C are in the computer room.

    by david — June 17, 2015

  9. Our friends considered us the lucky ones. We planned out our retirement well, purchased a beautiful lot in a gated community in Arizona to build on, sold our large home and moved into a rental so we could build on our 20 year dream lot. Well, the house came in 80% over budget. During the design process we also discovered we felt too far away from family and friends, and learned to love the freedom of being renters. It’s only a four hour flight, but in reality it took about twice that including the logistics. Also, spur of the moment airfares are very expensive. We enjoyed the experience of living in the desert,which we still love, but have packed and moved home to a smaller place. We have discovered the joys of being renters in various locations for the winter months, and combine that with lots of travel. Who knows where life will take you. Learn to be flexible, open minded and enjoy the moment!

    by Gabriela — June 17, 2015

  10. I’ve arranged care for my mother the past 9 years, and am very aware that we will probably need help if we live long enough, even if we’re financially independent. We’ve moved her from an apartment, to assisted living, to board and care. No guarantee our children will step up to help, but hate to get too far away from them.

    by Robin Caltabiano — June 17, 2015

  11. After retiring a little over a year ago, I’m now in the process of selling my home, moving to my new home in another state and along with my sister, selling my deceased parents’ home. All of these major events have included cleaning, painting, packing and getting rid of no longer needed items. These tasks, while difficult to manage as a young person, are absolutely exhausting at this age. I think that it is important to realize that we may not have the stamina to do things that were no problem when we were younger. All could have been made easier if I could have paid for help, but I feel it necessary to be careful with my expenses. I guess the lie about retirement that I’ve told myself is that I’ll have all the energy to do the things that I’ve always done.

    by Georgia — June 17, 2015

  12. The biggest lie, to me, is calling these the Golden Years. My golden years were when I was young, healthy and fit enough to do whatever I wanted. Now I can’t do 90% of the things I want to do, and used to do. Like Georgia, just the idea of emptying my house and otherwise getting it ready to sell is exhausting! This being said I still feel lucky in that I was not one of those people who waited until retirement to do the things I’ve wanted. I’ve heard many people complain about how they were going to do this or that in retirement only to find out they no longer could. I had a life of adventures. Of course, maybe that is one reason it has hit me so hard that I can no longer do them. Perhaps people who pretty much do nothing when young can be OK with doing nothing when old! LOL

    by Bob — June 18, 2015

  13. I love reading everybody’s comments. I’m about 4 years away from retiring from decades of self-employment. My financial advisors and all the retirement calculators online tell me I’m set with my savings. But I’m still doing exploring online and in person of retirement communities in different states. Even though my home is paid off, my property taxes are so high that I feel I will need to move away from the area when I retire. I am okay with downsizing my life, in fact looking forward to it. But my biggest worry is starting my life over somewhere that I do not know a soul. Feeling like the retirement communities for active adults are the way to go for that. My plan is to continue to live beneath my means so that I, hopefully, will always have enough for all my needs.

    by Bonnie — June 18, 2015

  14. Bonnie, Do you like where you’re presently living? Is downsizing possible where you’re currently living? Perhaps you can you lower your taxes by moving to a smaller house. A network of friends and family can’t necessarily be replaced in a few years, and sometimes, ever. If i liked where i currently live, i’d stay put; but i don’t. Please think through your options, and understand, i’m not discouraging a move. That’s not my place. My best to you.

    by ella — June 19, 2015

  15. I didn’t lie to myself. I worked and lived in the “middle class life”. Now I live a “middle class retirement” with a paid-off home and no stressful job. I love it. Could I have done things differently? Sure, but it’s too late now and I’m not going to regret the past.

    by John H — June 19, 2015

  16. I started planning five years before my retirement at 67. I had good long term savings. We visited a number of States and Retirement Communities. We picked the State and approximate location. We sold our home a year ago and rented so our plan could be implemented. Nothing ever stays the same. The savings grew but so did the price of real estate we wanted to purchase. The area we wanted changed too. The population grew to the point we didn’t like it anymore. We wanted quiet but near a larger city. It was hard to adjust everything we wouldn’t in a retirement area. Now we are looking at building a downsized home where we currently live and leave the sunbelt and coasts to others with lower expectations. We have been doing International traveling and love to come back to familiar but cold surroundings to recharge.

    Kurt 6.20.15

    by Kurt — June 20, 2015

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