4 Myths That Could Ruin Your Retirement and How to Avoid Them

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If you’re in your 40s or 50s you’ve probably started to wonder when you can retire and what your retirement lifestyle might look like.  You’re ready to be free from the set schedule of work and have more control over how you send your days. You’re ready to spend more time with your family and travel more. Maybe you’ve even played around with online calculators to see what your retirement might look like.

So why do you avoid putting together a plan to work towards the retirement you’ve dreamed about?

Let me guess:

    • You feel you haven’t saved enough and are afraid of what type of retirement is truly possible.
    • You have a awesome concept of what you want retirement to look like but you’re not sure how to put it all together.
    • You want help, but you’re not sure where to turn or who to trust.
    • It’s on your to do list, but somehow it never gets treated as a priority.

Busy people (like you and me) can easily get trapped in the urgent demands of day to day life. When we do have time to plan for our future, it’s easy to seek out quick, simple solutions rather than being intentional about creating a great retirement.

In my experience, I’ve found four major myths embedded in “simple” retirement plans are to blame for many people sacrificing too many of their retirement dreams.

I’m going to debunk those myths for you and show you how to work towards a better life in retirement.

Myth #1:  Your Retirement is a Number

True. You need to save for retirement, but it’s not as simple a specific amount of money. You don’t have a retirement “number.” Saving and investing is just part of the process of creating a great retirement..  If you make it your only focus,  you're placing the success of your retirement on things you can't control or predict (the markets).

In short, finding your retirement number may feel good in the moment but does little in helping you create a great retirement.

How to Avoid

A truly effective retirement planning process involves implementing strategies in 6 areas:

  • Setting meaningful priorities (needs, wants, and wishes).
  • Planning lifestyle expenses in retirement (see myth #2).
  • Planning future income sources (see myth #3).
  • Managing your balance sheet (assets and debts) not just your investments.
  • Having the right “little conversations” to manage the uncertainties in your life and in the world.
  • Investing in your health and relationships.

Myth #2 You’ll Spend a Consistent Amount Throughout Retirement

In reality, spending in retirement typically goes through 3 stages.

  • In the “go go” years of retirement, your spending may be at its peak. This is the time for travel, activities, adventures and family.
  • in the  “slow go” years, your spending may slow as you become more settled.
  • In the “no go” years, you may spend even less as you settle in even more.

Absent, unforeseen health issues, these stages are becoming more the norm.

A “simple” retirement plan, just assumes you spend the same amount each year, adjusting for inflation. This seemingly reasonable assumption can drastically overestimate how much money you’ll need during retirement potentially forcing you to work longer or lower your lifestyle during retirement.

How to Avoid

Start by having a realistic discussion of how you'd like each phase of retirement to look like. Then put reasonable estimates of what each phase would cost on an annual basis. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you want to front load your travel why you're healthy?
  • Do you want to extend the time in your home before downsizing?
  • Do you want to create experiences with your kids and grandkids while their less busy.
  • Are you willing to live more simply later in life to experience more now?
  • Are you willing to live more simply now to have a more consistent lifestyle throughout retirement?

Once you've defined the spending estimates for the different phases of retirement, you can start to create a more thoughtful plan to work to achieve the things you care about most.

Myth # 3 Retirement Means Not Working

In the past, retiring meant quitting the rat race and never working again. Today, more and more people are finding ways to transition from a full time career to a more independent style of work. They’ve seen the benefits physically, mentally, socially and financially.  Whether it’s freelancing, consulting, advising or normal part time work, the trend is to stay engaged….and earn some income.

Earning even small amounts of income early in retirement can have a big impact on what you can achieve during retirement. If you see yourself always doing something, then factor this into your planning. Doing so could allow you to take less investment risk, save less now, retiree earlier or increase your lifestyle during retirement.

How to Avoid

Stop thinking of retirement as an event and approach it as gradually transitioning to a more independent lifestyle. Think about what you enjoy doing that you could earn income doing. Nearly everyday, I hear of unique ways people are turing their interests it to money making ventures. Some questions to consider are:

  • Can you become a consultant for your current employer?
  • Could you transition to working from your home?
  • Is there a side business you start now to discover what you'd enjoy?
  • What skills could you use to do freelance work?
  • Do you have a skills you could use to teach others?

Myth #4 Having a Financial Plan is Enough

Sure having a financial plan is important but it’s just the starting point. As soon as the ink is dry on your plan, everything starts changing. Your life starts to unfold in unexpected ways.

  • Interests change.
  • Family priorities change.
  • spending patterns change
  • Employment and income change.
  • Health changes.
  • Inflation changes.
  • Taxes change.
  • Markets move through cycles of bull, bear, and flat markets.
  • EVERYTHING changes, most times quicker than we think

How to Avoid

The secret to creating a plan to help you work towards your ideal retirement is not figuring it all out in one, hundred page document. It’s faithfully implementing a process to make sure you’re having the right “little conversations” as your life unfolds so you can make LOTS of minor adjustments along the way.

Learn From Other's Retirement Mistakes

I’ve been creating financial plans for over 20 years now and have witnessed MANY mistakes along the way. You don’t need to do the same. I've created a cheat sheet on the 3 Talks You Should Be Having Now to Work Toward a Great Retirement (and How to Have Them). Click Here to Get the Cheat Sheet