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5 Surprising Myths About Retirement

Retirement is one of the most significant life transitions people make. Going from working to leisure can be exhilarating, yet scary at the same time.

Keith Lawrence and Alan Spector, authors of Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement, say as many as half of all retirees do not enjoy their first year of retirement. I think part of the problem is many people have bought into some of the myths about retirement.

Here are five myths about retirement I commonly see in the media and my thoughts on the “real” story.

  1. Myth: Every retiree has a savings “number” that once met, will ensure you have enough money to retire.

It sounds great in theory. Do a little analysis, figure out the “number,” save like crazy, and once you hit that number, you can retire and not worry anymore. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

There’s this thing called “life” that can get in the way of the best laid plans. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that when it comes to retirement planning, you have to be nimble and flexible to adjust as needed because unexpected things do happen.

Often times, you may hear that your “number” should based on being able to withdraw 4% per year from your savings. And while that may be a starting point, each family is unique and based on your goals, health situation, family needs, comfort level with uncertainty, philanthropic desires and other factors, your number may be higher or lower than 4%.

  1. Myth: Your yearly spending will drop about 30% when you retire.

Most people want to maintain their current lifestyle in retirement. And once you stop working, some expenses will go away. However, we’ve found that spending patterns may vary significantly over time in retirement so a blanket “you will spend 70% of your pre-retirement income in retirement” statement is not always helpful.

With more time on your hands and good health, new retirees often spend more time traveling, engaging in leisure activities, and pursuing hobbies. And the costs of those can add up.

In the second decade of retirement, you may spend more time at home and see your spending decline. But then costs may rise again if you experience health issues and need advanced care.

Like the first myth, careful planning and deep understanding of your particular situation is needed to estimate the appropriate amount of money you may spend in retirement.

  1. Myth: Having enough money to retire is the key to retirement happiness.

Everybody talks about making sure you have enough money to retire. And once you have enough, everything’s great, right? Not so fast.

Money is not the key to happiness in retirement. It’s important, no doubt, but there are several other factors that play an important role.

I talked about several of these keys in my podcast called, “Happiness in Retirement? You Bet and Here’s How.” You can click here to listen to it and read the show notes.

So what’s more important than financial security in retirement? Well, a recent survey said the number one ingredient to a happy retirement is good health. And health is certainly a topic we bring up during our retirement discussions with our clients.

  1. Myth: Retirement means I will never work another day in my life.

Going from working full-time for 35 to 40 years to all of a sudden stopping and not having a place to go at 8:00 in the morning can be jarring for many people.

Work gives many of us a sense of purpose and offers social interaction that we crave as humans. And just eliminating that cold-turkey can be difficult.

I come across many people who retire from their career job but eventually add some type of “work” that may involve volunteer activities or a “passion” job that is part-time.

I’ve found it’s healthy for people to stay intellectually active in retirement and for some that means finding work they “want to do” as opposed to work they “have to do.”

  1. Myth: Your relationship with your spouse will automatically improve now that you have more time to spend with each other.

Do you remember your wedding vows? “For richer, for poorer, for better for worse, in sickness and in health.” Notice it did not say, “For breakfast, lunch, and dinner!”

The key words in this myth are “automatically improve.” I’ve found that couples who do not have a heartfelt conversation about their expectations for spending time together in retirement often run into trouble. So the improvement is not automatic. Couples should be open with each other and discuss each other’s expectations for what life will be like when you have the freedom to spend (or not spend) more time together.


Having a realistic understanding of what retirement is like goes a long way toward ensuring your retirement years are everything you dreamed of. I hope discussing these five myths about retirement will help you be better prepared for this important life transition.

If you have any questions about this, please give our office a call.  

About Bill

Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.

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