July 8, 2009

Top Retirement Myths

1. The Myth: Retirement isn’t hard: I’ll just stop working and then chill out and enjoy myself. Retirement is essentially one big vacation.

The Fact: For many people retirement is of of life’s most difficult transitions. You transition from the daily structure and routine of the world of work to… what?

Unless you have thought about what you are going to do in retirement and put in place a plan to make it happen, you may wind up as one of the substantial number of retirees who is bored or even depressed. Once you have taken the trip(s) you’ve always wanted, played a lot of golf or tennis, cleaned out the basement, garage and attic and fixed everything that needs fixing, what are you going to do?

Retirement is certainly not one big vacation. A vacation is a time of respite or time away from the normal routines of school or work. Once you leave work you will in all likelihood have more free time, but what you do with that time becomes your new routine.

Retirement can be a fulfilling and very satisfying time of life but you need a plan to stay engaged intellectually, physically and socially and then you need to act on that plan.

2. The Myth: I can spend lots more time with my spouse/life partner.

The Fact: If you and your spouse/life partner have spent the last 40 or so years of normal work week days apart, you may find the transition to retirement less straightforward than you might imagine. You have both had a life outside of your relationship even if you have been able to spend evenings, weekends, vacations and holidays together. In all likelihood your spouse/life partner may have activities and relationships which he or she values and which might not be a good fit for you. You may be in a similar situation.

If you are in a relationship, retirement planning is not something you can do on your own, you need to collaborate with your partner. And the outcome of that planning may be that what is best for your mutual retirement happiness and your relationship is a combination of activities together and apart, just as was the case during your working years. Bear in mind the divorce rate is climbing fastest among the 55+ demographic, so plan well.

3. The Myth: I only need to plan for 10-20 years in retirement.

The Fact: Life expectancy has increased dramatically in the last century and continues to climb. Men who reach age 65 have a 75% likelihood of living to at least 85 and women are even more long lived.

To find out how long you might live there are several interactive online tools (here) that can help you make the calculation. With that information in hand, ask yourself: What am I going to do with all that time?

These calculators can also be helpful by giving you information about how the lifestyle choices you make can affect your expected longevity.

4. The Myth: It is too late to do much about my mind and body, and in any case, physical decline is inevitable.

The Fact: Certainly if we haven’t taken care of ourselves in pre-retirement, the challenge is greater. But you can actually improve your mind and body if you are willing to put in the effort.

And people already in reasonably good shape will want to do whatever they can to avoid deterioration. Sure, the process of aging does bring physical changes, but exercise (physical and mental), reasonable diet, and regular medical and dental care can delay and diminish many of the physical aspects of aging. And what we can’t change, we can accept with understanding and grace.

We are in charge of our own well being. We are what we do. We are what we eat. If we simply “veg out” and eat chocolate chip cookies while watching The Weather Channel, then a vegetable is what we will turn into.
Successful retirees strive to live each day to the fullest, exercise their minds and bodies and challenge themselves to continue to learn and grow personally. There are hundreds of ways to help us keep our minds and bodies sound and supportive of a fulfilling lifestyle.

5. The Myth: If I have enough money I will be happy.

The Fact: Having money is good and having more than “just enough” is even better for most of us.
However, many people think that if they accumulate enough physical and financial assets during their careers, they will assure themselves a successful retirement. Assets may indeed assure a degree of physical comfort, a certain lifestyle and a sense of security.

But physical and financial assets cannot buy

• A healthy mind and body
• Great friends and a supportive social network
• A happy and positive attitude
• The joy that comes from living life to its fullest every day

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2009 R.K. Price