Busting the Top Retirement Myths

Many people in our society are clinging to retirement myths, despite the publicity and information available. Holding on to these myths as truth can be very harmful to your happiness in retirement.

To help you avoid holding on to these detrimental myths, I’d like to offer my take on some of the most widely held retirement myths.

Myth #1: Retirement is an event that occurs on the last day of your career. This is false. Retirement is a new phase of your life, quite unlike any previous stage of living. Few people step from the career phase of life to the retirement phase in a single action. The truth is that there will be a transition period of moving into a new lifestyle. The truth is that it will probably take a year or more for you to create your new retirement lifestyle.

Myth #2: Someone or something else will take care of me in retirement. This is unlikely today. Whether myth is that Social Security will take care of you or that you will be taken care of by an inheritance from your parents or by your children, it is increasingly unlikely that someone else will take care of you. Many retirees cannot subsist on Social Security alone. Many pensions have evaporated. Your parents now face the same economic challenges you are facing and will probably need to use much of their savings. Your children will also face these economic challenges, will need to be attending to the needs of their children, and must be saving for their own retirement. While I don’t think Social Security will disappear in the next ten years, as some predict, I do think it likely that retirement income from the government will decrease in the future.

Myth #3: I won’t need much to live on. The truth of this statement depends on how you define “much.” A recent study indicated that the average retiree will spend $250,000 on medical expenses between age 65 and death. We can expect to live another 18 to 30 years after retirement. As the cost of many essentials for living continues to rise, you might need to be thinking seriously about how you will supplement your retirement income.

Myth #4: Retirement is easy – it’s just one great long weekend. For the vast majority of people, this is simply not true. We all need meaning and purpose in our lives – this does not end when we retire from a job. The retirement transition can be difficult and can result in depression. Many people enter the second phase of life (retirement) with the attitude that they will spend the rest of their lives relaxing on a beach somewhere or pursuing other leisure activities. Most discover within one to three years, that a steady diet of leisure and relaxation creates a pretty empty and shallow existence. Our rest needs to be balanced by activity; our relaxation needs to be balanced with purposeful activity.

Myth #5: Retirement will be wonderful because I’ll spend all of my time with my spouse or significant other. Spending all of your time with your spouse or significant other will introduce new challenges to your retirement lifestyle. Many couples actually spend only about 20% of their time with their spouse before retiring. They don’t realize there must be some adjustment to spending significantly more time with their spouse. Statistics are indicating now that the highest divorce rate is with couples over age 55.

Myth #6: Once I retire, I’ll never work again. For the baby boomer generation, and for many of the previous generation, this will not be true. Retirees work for one of three main reasons: (1) they need the income; (2) working gives them purpose and meaningful activity; and (3) working is a way to be out with other people. A growing portion of the middle class is discovering the need to work to supplement retirement income. Many of the baby boomer generation might work both for a sense of purpose and connection with others and because they need the income.

Myth #7: If I save enough money, retirement will be wonderful. This is a very popular myth; and it is not true. Happiness in retirement has far less to do with having money than with having a new lifestyle plan. The old saying is as true for retirees as for anyone else: money doesn’t buy happiness. We humans need relationship with others; we need purpose; we need meaning; we need to leave some kind of legacy. Money doesn’t create or sustain the most essential human needs in retirement.

Myth #8: Life after retirement is a time when you watch your physical and mental capabilities decline. This is only true if you make it true. By taking care of yourself and getting proper diet, exercise and rest, you can keep both your body and your mind in excellent condition. Remaining active and engaged can keep you sharp. Every retiree should talk and work with their physician to create the best diet and the right exercise program for optimal physical health. Every retiree should also keep his or her mind active with reading, learning new things, social engagement, even playing stimulating games.

Myth #9: Everyone ends up in a nursing home. Increasingly, people are choosing to “age in place” – to remain in their homes as they grow older. To be sure, the more independent of us will find it easiest to do this. But insurance companies, social security, and society are learning that it is both better for the individual and cost-effective to provide services and treatments to people over 55 in their homes. Even people with disabilities or degenerative illnesses are able to find the equipment and support they need to remain in their homes.

Myth #10: The best time to think about a retirement lifestyle is after I retire. While I do not want to imply that you can’t plan a retirement lifestyle after you retire, your transition and sense of direction at the time you retire from your job will be more focused if you plan earlier. Just as you recognize the need to start planning early for your financial needs in the second phase of life it is equally helpful to plan your lifestyle early. By planning early you can have the training, support systems, and sense of direction that will make the transition easier and your retirement lifestyle happier and more fulfilling.

If you have been holding on to any of these myths, I encourage you to shift your thinking and do a little bit of research. Moving beyond the myths allows us to step boldly into a future that is fulfilling, meaningful and happy in retirement.

Dr. Cynthia Barnett is an author, speaker, life coach and a leading authority on how to “re-fire” and reinvent by making the rest of your life the best of your life.Go to [http://www.retirementmakeoversecrets.com] to get your FREE report on the 7 Biggest Mistakes Retirees Make and How to Avoid Them For An Extraordinary Retirement.

February 26, 2011 in Senior Care

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