Retirement: Fiction versus fact


Quick. What comes to mind when you dream about retirement?

Endless free time, holidays that don’t lead to overflowing email boxes and years and years of time to do whatever you’d like—and yes, maybe some concerns about staying healthy and having enough money to live on?

But when it comes to actually living in retirement, some of what we believe to be true can turn out to be more fiction than reality.

Read five retirement tales that are nothing more than myth.

1Myth 1: I can’t wait to be done with this job…

Many people believe the day they head out of the door of their workplace for the final time will be the happiest day of their lives — even if they plan to work a bit in retirement. After all, after 40 to 45 years of working, the idea of not going to an office the next day is exhilarating.

But, in reality, the majority of people end up wishing they had worked for longer. A report from bank HSBC found that 64% of people who have semi-retired wish they had stayed in full-time work for longer.

“They miss the world of employment more than they thought they would before they retired,” the report said. HSBC surveyed 16,000 people in 15 countries — including Australia, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, India and Canada — for its global Future of Retirement report.

The lesson: Don’t be in too much of a hurry to stop working, the report cautioned.

2Myth 2: Living in retirement won’t be that expensive….

Ahhh, retirement… imagine the money you’ll save from not working. You won’t be shelling-out for uncomfortable work wear. No more commuting to work — that ought to save a bundle of cash. And no more paying someone else to handle the garden and the housework.

Fast forward to reality. Living in retirement turns out to be far more expensive than many retirees ever thought it would be, the HSBC report concluded. Some 21% of retirees in the study saw a drop in income of more than 50% but at the same time, more than half — 52% — said they continued to spend as much or more than they did before they retired.

Overall, 38% of the retirees in the survey said their retirement income is lower than they had anticipated.

The lesson: When planning for retirement, consider your current expenses as being closer to what you’ll have in retirement than you might think.

3Myth 3: I’ll never have enough saved to retire…

Study after study laments the woefully unprepared pre-retiree, especially in the United States and UK where savings rates have appeared to be low and defined pension programs have been out of favour for a while.

But, Reuters reports that when it comes to retirement readiness in the US, it might not be as bad as it has seemed. “Near-retirees (those between 60 and 64) have nearly $360,000 in their defined contribution accounts and Individual Retirement Accounts, on average, the report said,” Reuters reported.

“When we look at data and near-retirement households, they have accumulated significant resources. We see that they are able to retain their standard of living,” Sarah Holden, senior director of retirement and investor research at ICI, told Reuters in an interview.

The lesson: Keep saving, but worry a little less about where everyone else is with their savings and focus on your own retirement needs and resources.

4Myth 4: Life as a pensioner is going to be amazing, forever…

No trains to catch, clocks to punch or meetings to show up on time for — and plenty of free time to read, take a leisurely stroll along the beach or do all those things you’ve imagined doing once you don’t have to go to work every day.

Retirement, well, it’ll be the life!

The Skipton Building Society in the UK, studied 787 people in retirement in the UK, and found that the average retiree is bored in under a year — within 10 months of retiring.

“Around half of those who took part in the study said the retirement glow wears off because they missed the camaraderie they had at work, while four in ten said they felt their mind was no longer being pushed,” wrote The Telegraph.

The lesson: Take steps to plan your new free time around meaningful and brain-exercising activities and hobbies — don’t just head into retirement with vague ideas of how you’ll while away the hours.

5Myth 5: I’ll get fat and out of shape in retirement…

Some pre-retirees worry that without a list of clients to impress and a routine to follow each day, they’ll become unfit and a little pudgy around the waistline.

Not so, according to another study from Skipton, which polled 623 older adults in the UK.

The study found that “more than half of those who were polled are now exercising more than they ever did in their twenties — regularly hiking, swimming and cycling. One in ten has opted to go back to school in a bid to keep their minds active via language lessons, evening classes and even higher education.”

About 76% of those polled said they “try their best to remain active and busy so that they are healthy for as long as possible.”

The lesson: Maybe you’ll need to have that favourite outfit taken in — not let out at the waist.

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