5 Common Retirement Misconceptions

Retired life is very different from how most people are envisioning it.

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Retirement is the brass ring that you have dreamed about since you entered the workforce. Gone are the days of the alarm clock and gridlocked traffic, giving way to lazy days on the golf course or in the motor home. At least that’s what we envision when we think about retirement. But what we think retirement might be like may be quite different from the truth.

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In a poll conducted by NPR, it appears that people who have already retired may be a little less than impressed with how their golden years have turned out. In fact, many retirees are ready to go back to the workforce in order to improve their quality of life. Here are some common misconceptions regarding retirement:

Retired living is less stressful. There’s no doubt that a life without alarm clocks, traffic, unrealistic bosses, and pressing to-do lists is going to be less stressful. But does that mean that retired life is stress-free? The answer is: apparently not. It appears that life is just as stressful after retirement as it was before. The stressors simply change. Instead of worrying about being late to work or figuring out how to fit a grocery store visit in between work and dinner, you will be stressed about whether or not your money or health will last.

You will have lazy days of travel. While there may be more time to enjoy the travels you’ve always dreamed of, there are other factors that might keep you from hitting the road. In some cases, your health may prevent you from being the free spirit you’ve always wanted to be. Other people have financial worries. Some retirees find their days being filled with other duties like babysitting sick grandchildren, caring for elderly family members, or providing other support to family members and friends. Regardless of the reason, most retirees find that they travel less often after retirement than before.

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You will be in as good or better health because you have more time to care for yourself. If you are finding it tough to find time to maintain your health, you’re going to find it just as difficult in retirement. Exercising is a great way to keep your mind and body in great shape, plus it’s a great way to socialize with other retirees. But many of us won’t find the time or be in good enough health to exercise regularly in retirement. Plus, aging brings new health issues that can’t be corrected simply by adopting a healthy lifestyle after retirement. Many retirees find that their health is significantly worse after retirement than before, which takes a toll both physically and financially.

You will maintain your current standard of living in retirement. Most retirement savers are aiming to save enough money so that they can continue living in the way they have become accustomed to. The reality of the situation is that things will cost more in the future than they do today. Plus, the rising cost of health care and the need for additional health care services will make a significant dent in your savings. So, unless you have saved diligently and have taken inflation into account, you are probably going to have to make some compromises in your golden years in order to make sure that your money outlives you.

[See Tips for Baby Boomers Reaching Retirement Age in 2012.]

You don’t have to retire until you are ready. We would like to think that retirement is a personal choice, and that we can retire whenever we feel we are ready to take it on. But many of us will be asked to retire earlier than we planned, thanks to buyouts, layoffs, or even personal health issues. So, consider planning for retirement as if you might end up retiring at 59 instead of 65.

Philip Taylor is the author of 104 Ways to Save Extra Money. Read his popular blog, PT Money: Personal Finance for more insightful money tips, like his recent suggestions for the best online checking accounts.