15 Huge Threats to Your Retirement (And How to Fight Back)

There are potential issues in retirement that you can fix now whether you are already retired or plan to retire in a few years.
Last updated Aug. 25, 2022 | By Jenny Cohen | Edited By Ellen Cannon
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You may be planning carefully for a comfortable retirement, but unexpected changes may upend it. For example, if you think it would be a good idea to prepare for a coming recession, then you may want to think through your retirement plans before handing in your resignation letter.

And even if nothing big happens in the market, do you actually have enough saved for day-to-day expenses? Can you handle an emergency or unpredictable cost? And what about your investments?

Whether you’re retired now or plan to be in a few years, here are a few things to consider that could be major threats to your retirement.

Overspending

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Retirement could mean fun changes like having more time to travel, dine out on a regular basis, or buy that car or boat you’ve always wanted. But there is a difference between spending and overspending.

If you pick up too many big-ticket items on a fixed retirement budget, you may be surprised when your funds start to run low after only a few years, which could force you to find ways to make extra cash.

No emergency fund

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You never know what kind of obstacles may be tossed into your path during your retirement. Perhaps you have a medical emergency or unexpected car repair. You could have issues with your home that need immediate attention.

Just as an emergency fund should be part of your working life, it needs to be part of your retirement plan too. You don’t want to have to rely on credit cards when there’s an emergency.

Inflation

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During times of high inflation, your retirement funds may not buy as much as they once did. Groceries and gas could cost more. Senior housing costs may go up. Travel and entertainment prices may rise.

While your living costs may likely be lower when you actually retire, you still need to build a bit of a buffer in your retirement budget so you can prepare to deal with inflation.

Pro tip: You may want to find an online retirement calculator to help you calculate the effect of inflation on your retirement, depending on how far in the future you plan to stop working.

Medical costs

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While you may be healthy now, you may develop problems as you get older. A recent Fidelity report suggested that retirees should budget 15% of their annual expenses for medical costs. This includes Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

Factor these potential costs into your retirement plans. You also may want to invest in long-term care insurance to offset some of the costs.

Investing too conservatively

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When you’re still working and building your retirement savings, you may want to invest in stocks and funds that may provide high returns for your 401(k) plan. But as you move into retirement, you may be wary of too much risk and begin to invest in safer assets.

However, investing too conservatively and parking too much of your retirement savings in cash might backfire. While you think you’re protected from a stock market loss, you may miss out on any gains and opportunitiies to boost your bank account.

Risky investments

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On the other hand, as you get older, you also don’t want to be in risky investments that could wipe out some of your retirement savings right before you turn in your resignation letter.

Instead, evaluate your retirement portfolio on a regular basis and rebalance it by moving from risky investments into more conservative ones as you get older.

Your current budget

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Are you sticking to a budget each month? If not, you could be facing a serious threat when it’s time to retire.

Consider how much you spend each month and how much you can potentially save in vehicles like a 401(k) account. Remember to set aside some cash in a savings account earmarked for emergency use.

Your future budget

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When you sit down to create a budget for your current needs, it also may be a good idea to make a budget for your retirement needs.

Take into account things like housing costs, including utilities, as well as elective expenditures like travel, events, and hobbies, or dining out. And don’t forget to include medical expenses as part of your monthly budget.

Pro tip: If the idea of budgeting causes you stress, the best budgeting apps can make it easy and even fun.

Dependents

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You may have a parent whom you’re currently caring for or kids who may be off to college soon. While you may want to help them pay for medical issues or college tuition, try to pay yourself first.

If you do take on any extra costs because of your dependents, remember to factor that into your retirement budget.

Your job

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Yes, your job could be a threat to your retirement. If you're tired of living paycheck to paycheck or don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement account, that could affect how much you can save to retire.

And remember that it’s OK to like your job as well. If you enjoy working and don’t plan to retire soon, factor that into your calculations, particularly regarding when you want to start taking your Social Security benefits.

Retirement contributions

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How much are you putting into your retirement account each month? Take advantage of any employer-matching funds by maxing out your personal contributions from your regular paychecks if you can.

If you’re saving additional money for retirement, talk to a financial advisor or do some research on how to best make that money work for you now to get you ready for retirement.

Debt

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Debt can be a heavy weight to carry into retirement. When calculating your debt, remember to include credit cards as well as loans for your home or car.

You also may want to look for ways to crush your debt now so you don’t have to worry about debt following you into retirement.

Cost of living

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It may sound lovely to retire on the beach in Miami or in a bustling city like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. But those glamorous areas may be hiding a shocking surprise: the cost of living.

Living somewhere with a high cost of living could quickly eat into your retirement savings, so consider finding a place to live that may be more affordable in the long run. You could always visit high-cost-of-living areas before returning to your reasonably priced home.

Issues with Social Security

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You have been paying into Social Security during your career, but there may not be as much there for you when it’s time to retire. Just in case, you might want to consider ways to supplement your Social Security income so you’re prepared when you retire.

And remember that the amount of your monthly Social Security benefit depends on what age you decide to start taking them.

Bear market

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It’s not easy to prepare for a recession or predict when one might start. Bear markets can happen, and they can take a good chunk out of your retirement savings depending on when the market declines during your retirement years.

You may want to try to find recession-proof investments that can withstand big drops in the stock market.

Bottom line

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Now is a good time to grow wealth in anticipation of retiring. Consider ways that you can protect your retirement tomorrow. That way you’ll be sure to avoid throwing away money in retirement.

Changes in your spending and investing habits while you’re still working could help you manage issues in retirement. Making good financial decisions today will help you enjoy your retirement in your later years.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.