Editors' pick: Originally published August 17.
Start preparing to retire now. Not when you are nearing the golden mark. But now. It doesn't matter how old you are. Start clearing your head of fables that almost guarantee unhappy retirements.
Like what? A first retirement myth just may be that it'll all work out, so why worry? Experts agree that you are about as likely to smoothly glide through a happy retirement without a plan as you are to find your way from Boston to New York on foot without a map. Neither is going to happen. "Retirement has evolved a lot in the last 30 years, but for many, the planning process has not kept up," said Joe Templin, author of Financial Mistakes of Young Americans.
We are living longer, and that has added complexity to retirement planning. A few decades ago, retirement was simple, if only because most of us died not long after we retired. With many of us now living to 80 and beyond, matters just require a lot more thought to achieve success.
Probably, too, you already know that Social Security won't cover all your expenses in retirement and Medicare won't cover all your health costs - but many, many retirees go in believing those myths, too.
And then there are still more myths. Here are five more you need to shake.
Myth 2: I can always keep working. That's the belief that many who have inadequate savings cherish, but maybe it isn't so, said Craig McDaniel, owner of The McDaniel Corporation, a retirement planning company in South Carolina. He added: "Working Americans plan to stay on the job until age 66, but the actual average retirement age is 62 (according to a Gallup poll). In fact, about half of retirees say they left the workforce earlier than they had planned. The most common reasons are to cope with a health problem or disability, or to care for a spouse or other family member. Other retirees were forced out of their jobs because of changes at the company, like downsizing or a closure. Of course, some people continue working into their 70s or 80s, but that is not something you can plan on when setting up your retirement strategy."
Myth 3: Retirement means you can sit back, relax and enjoy life. But will your health permit to, asked 72-year-old Jerry Koncel. He explained: "Retirement means having time to travel, dine out, and go to concerts and plays. Reality: Health issues crop up unexpectedly, and those travel plans, dining out and playgoing plans are worthless. The most pressing issue for retirees is health."
Koncel right there explodes a lot of myths, but the biggest one he skewers is that your health will hold in retirement. Maybe it will, maybe it won't - but if it doesn't you may be in desperate need of a Plan B.
Myth 4: You will move in retirement. Many assume retirement means a move to Arizona or Florida and possibly so - but probably not, said Jamie Hopkins, co-director of the New York Life Center for Retirement Income and a professor at The American College of Financial Services. He pointed to 2016 polling data from the American College that found 83% of us said we don't want to relocate in retirement.
The study also found that virtually no homeowners want to rent in retirement. Scratch the related myth that many of us will downsize to a smaller rental and will reap the financial rewards of doing so.
Myth 5: My pension will be plenty to provide me with a comfortable retirement. On paper, maybe. But then ugly reality intrudes, said Michael Chadwick, a certified financial planner in Unionville, Conn. "Pensions change -- ask any retired airline pilot and the next wave will drastically impact government workers as their pensions and benefits are unaffordable on every level."
Chadwick added: "I cannot tell you how many retirees have received letters 5, 10, 15 years into retirement saying, 'The benefits are gone, maybe we'll give you a certain number of dollars and that's it but the benefits are gone.'"
Myth 6: Your kids will visit you. Many retirees believe that their children, and grandchildren, will instantly become always available sources of companionship and entertainment,b but don't count on it, said Alixandra Foisy, a retirement transition specialist based in Virginia. She elaborated: "I hear people talk about how if you don't have children you will be lonely as an older person. Even though adult children care, many of them live far away, have limited funds and vacation time and can't visit often. They get busy with their own kids and friends and don't always call."
Bottomline: many, many Americans have ideal retirements. Many don't. And a big difference is approaching retirement with realistic expectations and that starts now.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.