Retirees Should Stop Telling Themselves These Big Lies

If you want a comfortable retirement, stop believing these common myths about your post-work life.
Last updated April 3, 2023 | By Michelle Smith Edited By Chris Kissell
worried senior couple

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The gap between expectations and reality can be vast, especially when it comes to retirement.

You might picture a relaxing post-work life on the beach, a cross-country tour in a recreational vehicle, or a cozy cabin in the woods. But without the right resources, you can’t bring these dreams to life.

Unfortunately, some common myths about retirement can stop you from taking your financial future seriously. The key to the retirement of your dreams is to plan now and start to save more money today so you can realize your dreams tomorrow.

If you want the retirement you’ve always imagined, start replacing these easy lies with reality.

Do you dream of retiring early? Take this quiz to see if it's possible.

My Social Security benefits will be enough to live on

JohnKwan/Adobe social security and retirement income

Social Security benefits were never intended to replace your entire pre-retirement income. You should expect benefits to cover about 40% of the money you earned while working, according to the Social Security Administration.

Perhaps your monthly check will be enough to live on, but probably only if you downsize every financial aspect of your life.

If that doesn’t sound appealing, you’ll need more than a monthly Social Security payment to stay afloat.

I don't need a financial advisor

WavebreakmediaMicro/Adobe Senior couple planning their investments with financial advisor

Some soon-to-be retirees meet with a financial advisor before they stop working. If you aren’t in that category — either because you don’t want to pay for financial advice or because you think you can handle finances on your own — perhaps it’s wise to reassess.

Financial advisors do much more than help you create a budget for your retirement years. They can:

  • Suggest safe investments as you get closer to retiring
  • Guide you toward reasonable financial goals
  • Offer advice about how to plan for major life events, such as the death of a partner or the diagnosis of a long-term illness

I don't need a will or trust until after I’ve retired

fizkes/Adobe old mature couple spouses put signature on document

No one should wait until after retirement to create a will. If you have any belongings, property, or dependents, it’s imperative you establish a will right away. That is true whether your retirement is four years away or 40.

Without a will, your state’s laws will determine who inherits your property and who takes care of your dependents. Your personal wishes about who inherits what and when can’t be honored unless you create a legally binding will.

Similarly, a living trust establishes a trustee who can oversee your assets after your death, which helps you avoid probate.

Most folks should create a will, but not everyone needs a living trust. If you do want a living trust, though, follow the same rule of thumb: Set it up as soon as possible, and definitely don’t wait until after you retire.

I'll finally have time to travel once I’ve retired

iwavephoto/Adobe tourist man with a gray beard with a backpack on his shoulders

While many retirees hope to fill their newly clear schedules with travel time, the reality of post-retirement life is more complicated. For starters, life in 2022 is more expensive than it was in 2018. Travel goals you set years ago might not be achievable today.

Travel also becomes trickier as you age due to the increased risk of health problems. The earlier on in your retirement you can travel, the better. Putting it off might mean you never reach your dream destinations.

Pro tip: If you are healthy enough to travel, make sure to use one of the best travel credit cards, so you can get the rewards you deserve.

Medicare will cover all my health costs

pikselstock/Adobe senior woman in wheelchair with nurse in hospital

Most U.S. adults age 65 and older qualify for Medicare. But while you can count on having health care access after you leave your employer’s medical benefits behind, your health costs won’t suddenly drop to zero. Far from it, actually.

For example, Medicare recipients are still responsible for premiums, copayments, and deductibles out of pocket. For many seniors, this adds up quickly.

I won’t need much income in retirement

Zadvornov/Adobe old man counting money

Some of your expenses should go down once you’ve retired, especially work-related costs. But many other expenses will stay the same.

Some financial experts suggest that if you want to retire comfortably and maintain a quality of life similar to the one you enjoy now, you will need 80% of your pre-retirement income.

If I need more money after I retire, I can simply get a job

pikselstock/Adobe senior woman working in florist shop

As of 2019, at least 20% of adults over the age of 65 were working. It’s definitely possible to get a job after you retire, but it might not be easy.

For instance, illnesses and the effects of aging can put physically demanding roles out of reach for senior citizens. Age-based discrimination is illegal, but surveys have found that a large percentage of seniors still say they’ve experienced ageism when attempting to return to the workforce.

Also, getting another job after you retire can impact your Social Security benefits. So, the costs of a new job might not be worth it.

My Social Security benefits won’t be taxed

yossarian6/Adobe tax return form and social security number card

If your post-retirement “combined income” totals more than $25,000 (for an individual) or $32,000 (for a couple filing joint taxes), your Social Security benefits will likely be taxed.

Combined income includes:

  • Your adjusted gross income
  • Tax-exempt interest income
  • Half of your Social Security benefits

If you fall into this category, up to 85% of your benefits are taxable. Make sure you’re including taxes when creating your post-retirement budget, or you’ll end up with less money than you counted on.

I don’t need to plan for the future — things will sort themselves out

Shutter B/Adobe senior grey-haired businessman standing and looking to right hand

It’s fine to take small risks that push you outside your comfort zone, but it’s likely wise to use caution when planning your retirement.

Maybe the housing market will soar and you can retire entirely on the proceeds from your home sale. On the other hand, maybe the market will unexpectedly cool, leaving you without that extra cash.

It doesn’t matter whether good or bad luck lies ahead: You’ll be better able to weather life’s storms if you already have a solid retirement plan under your belt.

It’s too early (or too late) to start saving for retirement

ijeab/Adobe retirement saving planning

No matter how recently you entered the workforce or how close you are to leaving it, right now is the perfect time to start saving.

Retiring with any money at all is better than retiring with no money. So, don’t tell yourself there’s no point in saving based on how many years out you are from retirement. Start now.

Bottom line retirement senior couple lifestyle living concept

Regardless of how much time you spend fantasizing about them, your bucket list items aren’t going to cross themselves off. Continuing to believe these common lies about retiring won’t get you any closer to achieving the retirement of your dreams.

Start planning your retirement around reality, not fantasy, so your golden years can be everything you hoped they would be and more. With the right plan, you might even find yourself retiring sooner than you thought was possible.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.