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5 Retirement Myths You Should Ignore

Being human, we tend to look for simple solutions to complex problems. We accept "common wisdom" rather than do the hard work necessary to find answers for ourselves. 

What follows are five myths about retirement: beliefs that are comforting and sound logical, except, they are not true. Ask yourself how many you have fallen for, how many affected your retirement planning and lifestyle.

1) It will all work itself out

This has to be the most dangerous of the untruths we tell ourselves. With the typical 50-something American having less than $100,000 set aside for retirement, the next 30 years of your life will not magically work itself out.  No matter how generous a pension might be, or how much Social Security is likely to pay you each month, you are not going to have a satisfying retirement on a savings account that produces less than $300 a month of additional income. 

Think of your retirement as a complex machine with lots of moving parts, and one of them is financial. It is absolutely true that you can't know exactly how much money you will need during your retirement. But, any reasonable projection will start with the assumption that you need to have quite a bit more than that to a shot at a comfortable retirement. 

2) My retirement plans are based on solid, proven advice. I'm good to go. 

We are lucky. There are tremendously helpful resources available to us. The Internet can provide advice, planning scenarios, financial calculators, and income projections. Thousands of retirement blogs have all sorts of opinions. Investment counselors are a phone call away.

Sounds great, but it isn't enough. Your plans have one serious flaw: they will turn out to be wrong some of the time. Nothing can prepare your financial ship for another massive recession. There are no firm guidelines for handling a major stock market retrenchment. You may be just one major healthcare crisis away from kicking your plans into the gutter. You are not set. Retirement is a crash course in on-the-job-training. Base your planning on flexibility as well as solid advice. Plans are important, but they aren't infallible.

3) My spouse will welcome all my ideas and help

Maybe, maybe not. If you have a primary relationship that involves sharing space with another, be prepared for a time of adjustments and negotiations. The temptation is to analyze and then fix all the things that aren't being done properly. Having all that free time means you can bring your organizational skills to bear on the parts of home life that aren't operating at peak efficiency.

If that last sentence sounds like something from your work environment, that is the problem: where you live is not where you once worked. The person who shares space with you has not read, or even accepted the same playbook. There must be a time of compromise. Walk gently and talk softly as each of you figures out the best mix of talents and desires.

4) Boredom is bad - Avoid at all costs

I will quickly qualify:  Boredom is really bad if that defines most of your retirement lifestyle. But, in small does boredom helps push you to whatever is next. Boredom is actually good as an occasional motivator.

Let's say you have just finished something that has been a real passion for you: maybe completing a 10k run, knitting a sweater for a Christmas gift, redecorating the kitchen, cleaning out the garage so you can add a woodworking shop...something that has occupied your mind and energies for awhile.

Then, just like that, you are without an important driver in your life, a project to work on, finish, improve something, or even something as simple as to read a book that has always been on your must-read list. You are bored. Binge-watching Netflix or Game of Thrones becomes the centerpiece of your day. Nothing is really wrong except that spark just dimmed. Boredom sets in.

That feeling you are experiencing can be a powerful motivator to start something new. The feeling of drifting is not pleasant to you so you find something to shatter the boredom and push yourself forward. If you never experience even a moment of boredom you may be moving too fast to know what you are missing.

5) I come from a family with good genes. My uncle smoked until he was 95.

Good news for your Uncle, not all that relevant to you. Of course, your family genes, the pieces of your DNA that help determine your overall health and longevity play an important role in what type of retirement health journey you will experience. But, you are making a serious mistake if you build your retirement around the idea that you are destined for a long life.

The reason a professional athlete spends hours every day practicing his or her particular skill set is to be operating at peak performance. Both muscle memory and physical endurance slip after just a short time away from that repetition. A concert pianist spends 6 or more hours a day at that instrument for the same reason.

Retirement doesn't require that level of commitment to physical and mental conditioning. But, the old adage of "use it or lose it" is quite true for us. Because our cells die or regenerate much more slowly as we age, the need for exercising our bodies and brains remains. To believe otherwise is intensifying a risk with your future that you should not take.

There are more myths than just these five about retirement. Which ones have caused you the most problems?


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