Many people dream of retirement as a time to relax and enjoy the fruits of their years of labor.
But retirement doesn’t always turn out that way.
Retirement planning takes more than just financial planning. And it takes more than simply dreams and good intentions around the non-financial stuff.
It all takes careful planning and execution.
We’re here to help guide your retirement success. Avoiding these nine common mistakes can go a long way toward making your retirement dreams a reality.
But first, let’s start with why you even need to have a plan.
Why You Need to Plan for Retirement
You need to have a retirement plan for the same reason you have a roadmap when you go on a long trip.
Without a plan, it’s easy to get lost or end up someplace you don’t want to be.
A retirement plan gives you a roadmap to follow, helps you stay on track so you can reach your retirement goals, and it provides a measure of security.
According to the 2022 Retirement Confidence Survey, just under three-quarters of American workers feel confident about having enough money to live comfortably in retirement.
But when asked how much money they would need to have saved to feel confident, the median response was $500,000.
For a lot of people, that’s a far cry from what they currently have saved.
And without a retirement plan, it can be difficult to know how much you need to save and how to get there.
What’s more, retirement planning isn’t just about numbers.
What often gets lost in the shuffle is that retirement planning is about so much more than just money. In fact, failing to plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement can be just as detrimental as failing to plan for the financial aspects.
Just as you wouldn’t go on a vacation without first planning where to stay and what to do when you get there, you don’t want to enter retirement without a plan for how you’re going to spend your time and make the most of this new life phase.
When you go from a totally busy to totally unstructured lifestyle, it can be emotionally devastating and a shock to your system.
Just look to the over 2 million older adults that suffer from depression.
Which makes sense when you look at it in terms of the 5 emotional stages of retirement, stage #2 being the honeymoon period and stage #3 being disenchantment.
All in all, retirement is a major life transition, and without a structure in place, it can be very easy to lose your sense of purpose and direction.
Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced you need to have a retirement plan that goes beyond financial prep, let’s take a look at some of the most common retirement planning mistakes.
9 Retirement Planning Mistakes to Avoid
#1 Not Having a Plan
The biggest mistake (that we kind of already covered) is not having a retirement plan at all.
And 21% of pre-retirees say they would never plan for retirement, according to a Franklin Tempelton survey.
fcosRetirement can be a scary prospect (even if you do have a plan). You’ll be giving up the structure and purpose that work provides. And you may find it hard to adjust to a life without work because it feels like your entire identity is rolled up into your working years.
Without a structure for your retirement days, retirement can quickly leave you feeling aimless and unfulfilled.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to fill every hour of every day with activities.
But it’s important to have some sort of plan or routine in place so that you don’t waste away your retirement years watching daytime TV, eating junk food, or getting sucked into the depths of any addictive screen.
Don’t make the mistake of wingin’ it, thinking that your ideal retirement will just happen. Have a legitimate plan for it so that you can make the most of this new phase of your life.
#2 Not Saving Early Enough
It’s never too early to start planning for retirement. In terms of finances, of course, the sooner you start, the more time you have to save and the more likely you are to reach your retirement goals.
But far too many people wait until they’re in their 40s or 50s to start planning for retirement.
According to the 2019 Retirement Confidence Survey, just under half say they have come up with a retirement savings goal.
Starting early gives you a huge advantage when it comes to retirement planning. It allows you to take advantage of the power of compounding and gives you more time to make up for any shortfalls in your savings.
But what if you’re already close to retirement or even retired already?
It’s still worth starting to plan. You can always make changes to your financial plan that can have a big impact on your retirement lifestyle.
For example, you may need to adjust your retirement budget or even consider working part-time during retirement.
It may be more difficult to make up for lost time, but it’s still possible to reach your retirement goals if you start now.
The key is to avoid procrastination and get started on your retirement plan as soon as possible.
#3 Not Taking Inflation Rates Into Account
Inflation can take a big chunk out of your retirement savings if you’re not careful.
Over time, inflation will erode the value of your savings if it’s not accounted for in your plan.
For example, let’s say you have $100,000 saved for retirement, and inflation is running at a rate of 8.3%.
In just five years, your $100,000 will be worth the equivalent of approximately $83,000 in today’s dollars, leaving you with less purchasing power than you expected.
To account for inflation, you’ll need to invest in assets that have the potential to grow at a rate that outpaces inflation.
You may also want to consider retirement income sources that are indexed to inflation, such as Social Security or certain types of annuities.
By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your retirement savings will last as long as you need them.
Of course, you can always look to your financial advisor (preferably a fiduciary financial planner) to help crunch your numbers.
#4 Failing to Plan for Healthcare Costs
Thinking about declining health is never fun, but it’s important to have a plan for how you’ll cover the costs of healthcare in retirement.
Especially since they can eat up a large chunk of your retirement income.
In fact, a recent study from Fidelity found that the average retired couple will need $315,000 to cover healthcare expenses in retirement.
And that’s just an average.
Your own healthcare costs could be higher or lower depending on your health, the type of coverage you have, and where you live.
Here’s how to plan for healthcare costs:
- Research and purchase long-term care or life insurance
- Plan to self-insure by saving enough money to cover potential costs
- Consider retirement communities that offer continuing care
- Choose a Medicare plan that covers your needs
- Look into Medicaid to see if you qualify
#5 Forgetting About Mental & Cognitive Health
Mental health is just as important as physical health, yet it’s often ignored in retirement planning (and in general).
Far too many people assume that they will be able to coast through retirement without any mental or cognitive health problems —or they’re in denial about it.
But the invisible stuff counts, too. The reality is that retirement can be a time of great stress and anxiety. The absence of a regular routine, coupled with the loss of your work identity, can cause you to feel isolated and lost.
In fact, as many as 13.8% of older adults experience mental health issues, with depression leading the way.
And cognitive decline is also a concern for many retirees. One in nine Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease, and one in three die with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, and those numbers are expected to increase as the population ages.
Which is exactly why we encourage you to be proactive and plan for your mental and cognitive health. Here are some of our top ways to keep your mind sharp in retirement:
- learning new things
- playing brain games
- simply staying active and social.
Taking care of your mental and brain health will not only help you ward off cognitive decline, but it’ll also help you enjoy retirement more.
#6 Retiring Before You’re Ready
One of the biggest retirement planning mistakes you can make is retiring before you’re ready, both financially and emotionally. When you retire, you’re making a (mostly) permanent lifestyle and mindset change, so it’s important to be ready before you take the plunge.
Financially, retirement can be a big shock even if you’ve saved enough money. The mere idea of not having a steady income stream coming in makes a lot of people feel guilty or fearful about spending.
This is yet another mindset and habit to get used to in this new life phase. And if you don’t have enough saved, you may have to make significant lifestyle changes or pick up a retirement job.
Emotionally, it can be tough to give up your career and the structure and purpose it provides. You may find yourself feeling bored or isolated without work to occupy your time.
Our recommended fix? Take some time to dig deep, find clarity, and go inward to assess if you’re ready to retire — you can start with these 7 questions.
And if you’re not ready, consider waiting a little longer or finding ways to ease into retirement gradually.
#7 Underestimating the Importance of Social Connection
We often think of retirement as a time when we can finally slow down, take it easy, and enjoy our golden years.
And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to kick back and relax a bit after working hard for decades, the fact is that retirement can be a very lonely time for many people.
In fact, one study found that more than 40% of older adults regularly experience loneliness.
Which is why it’s so important to make sure that social connection is a key part of your retirement planning.
Whether it’s staying in touch with old friends, making new ones, or volunteering your time to help others, social connection can go a long way toward making retirement a happier and more fulfilling time.
Here are just a few reasons why social connection is so important for retirees.
And in case you, or someone you know, experiences bouts of loneliness while entering this new life phase, here are some helpful ways to overcome loneliness.
#8 Not Setting Life Goals
At what age do we stop wanting to learn new things, see new places, and accomplish great feats?
You’re never too old to set goals, and in fact, setting goals is one of the most important things you can do in retirement planning.
Why? Because without goals, how will you know if you’re on track? How will you know if you’re making the most of your retirement years? And how will you know if you’re doing what you want to do with your life?
The answer is, you won’t.
So many people make the mistake of not setting goals in retirement, and as a result, they often find themselves somewhat aimless and unfulfilled.
Goal setting gives your retirement planning a focus and a purpose. It helps ensure that you’re making the most of your time, money, and energy. And it can even help bring more meaning and satisfaction to your life.
In fact, in a study out of the I-Shou University of Taiwan, researchers found that the effective management of free time has a much greater impact on your quality of life than the amount of time you have for leisurely activities during retirement.
So it’s worth being proactive about goal setting and how you’ll spend your time in retirement.
Of course, the key is to set the right goals. Not all goals are created equal, and some are more likely to lead to a happy and fulfilling retirement than others.
Check out our guide on Life Goals in Retirement for ideas on setting the right goals for you.
Just don’t be afraid to dream big; we’re rooting for you!
#9 Doing Everything Yourself
Last but not least, don’t make the retirement planning mistake of trying to do everything yourself.
There’s no need to go it alone. There are so many retirement resources available to help you plan for a comfortable and enjoyable retirement. From books and websites to financial advisors and retirement coaches, there are plenty of people who can offer valuable insights and guidance.
And of course, we’d be remiss not to recommend our signature program, Rewire My Retirement – it’s worked wonders for some pretty amazing (and inspiring) students.
Think of it this way: would you try to build your own house? Or service your own car? Of course not!
You know that there are experts out there who are specifically equipped to handle those tasks than you are. The same is true of retirement planning. There are so many moving parts to consider, so it’s worth getting help from those who know the nuances of this big life transition from the inside out.
The bottom line is this: retirement planning is too important to try to do on your own. Seek out the help and guidance of retirement professionals so you can retire with confidence.
Instead of going it alone, let us help you set the foundation for the retirement of your dreams.
Make Retirement Planning a Breeze
There’s a lot to think about when planning for retirement. And a lot of it goes well beyond just financial planning.
But it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, if you avoid these nine retirement planning mistakes, you will find your way:
- #1 Not having a plan — without a plan in place, it’s easy to make poor decisions that will set you back
- #2 Not starting early enough — the sooner you start planning, the better off you’ll be
- #3 Not taking inflation rates into account — over time, the cost of living will go up and you won’t get as much bang for your buck
- #4 Failing to plan for healthcare costs — medical expenses can take a big chunk out of your retirement savings, so be sure to factor them in
- #5 Forgetting about mental & cognitive health — retirement can be a time of great stress and adjustment, so it’s important to plan for your mental health as well
- #6 Retiring before you’re ready — make sure you’re emotionally and financially prepared before making the jump
- #7 Underestimating the importance of social connection — retirement can be isolating, so plan for ways to stay connected
- #8 Not setting life goals — without goals, retirement can feel aimless and unfulfilling
- #9 Doing everything yourself — invest in a retirement life coach who can help you develop a plan and navigate the complexities of retirement planning
With a little bit of preparation, you can enjoy a retirement that’s both financially secure and fulfilling. So don’t wait — start planning today!
And if you’re looking for retirement planning resources, check out our retirement planning checklist.
And for more personalized retirement advice, invaluable guidance, and support throughout the process, join our signature Rewire My Retirement program.