Wooden Blocks with the text: MythsIf there is one life goal that all Americans have in common, it is to eventually retire. That means different things to everyone, but the most common definitions would include no longer working full time and living a more enjoyable lifestyle. With so many people wanting to accomplish the same thing in their lifetimes, you might that think the path to a happy retirement is pretty well mapped out, right? WRONG!

From your friends to your family to retirement experts, there are a lot of different opinions about retirement living. While no one can hand you the custom retirement plan you need (you’ll have to figure that out for yourself), there are some popular retirement myths that there is a consensus against.

Some people have retirement ideas that simply aren’t true, maybe they heard the same idea repeated so many times they bought into it, or perhaps the concept made retirement seem so much simpler that they just wanted to believe it. Regardless of why they exist, here are nine retirement myths you can’t afford to believe, they could prevent you from having a happy retirement.

1. Your taxes will be lower

Not necessarily… While many people assume that once they quit their full-time job and stop getting a paycheck their tax rates will decrease, this often doesn’t happen for a couple reasons. The main factor that determines your taxes in retirement is how much income you have and where it is coming from. Plenty of people have and need just as much income in retirement as they did when working; if you plan to do a lot of traveling or move to a luxurious retirement community your cost of living might not be any lower.

While many financial tools for saving for retirement are tax-free when making deposits, once you start making withdrawals to fund your retirement you have to pay taxes on that money. The majority of private pension funds are taxable, as are traditional IRAs and 401(k)s. If your yearly income is above a certain amount even your social security benefits will be partially subject to taxes.

Additionally, many seniors are no longer eligible for tax deductions they got when they were younger; for example, deductions for having dependents, mortgage deductions, and college savings deductions. As for the future of tax rates, it is more likely that tax rates will rise than decrease. You’ll be fortunate if they remain the same.

2. Social security will cover all living expenses

Perhaps the most widely believed of all retirement myths is that your social security benefits will cover all of your living expenses once you reach the age where you are eligible for benefits. However, as the Social Security Administration (SSA) explains“If you have average earnings, your Social Security retirement benefits will replace only about 40 percent. The percentage is lower for people in the upper income brackets and higher for people with low incomes. You’ll need to supplement your benefits with a pension, savings or investments.”

As of January 2016, the average monthly benefit of a retiree was $1,341 a month and the average monthly benefit for a retired couple was $2,212 a month according to the SSA. That’s a pretty modest amount to live on, especially if you have ambitious retirement ideas you want to make a reality.

The sad truth is that many people are not saving enough of their own money for retirement and they are living with the consequences. The SSA reports that “22% of married couples and about 47% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.” When you retire you want to have the freedom to live a lifestyle of your choosing, not simply the best lifestyle you can afford on your social security benefit. Estimate what your Social Security benefit will be and start building your nest egg to cover the majority of your expenses.

3. Medicare will cover all health care expenses

Much like the case with Social Security, Medicare was not designed to cover all of an eligible retiree’s health care expenses. Recent figures show there are 48 million Americans on Medicare, of which 5 out of 6 recipients are seniors age 65 or older. While Medicare may cover the majority of health care cost for many seniors, the type of care required varies greatly from person to person.

Medicare has good coverage for hospitalization and doctor visits, but there is minimal coverage for most long-term care like home health care, assisted living, and nursing home care. According to a study by Hewitt Associates, health care costs can amount to 20% of a retiree’s yearly income. For those who are on Medicare or expect to become eligible upon retirement, Medicare Advantage plans or Medigap are common solutions to minimize your risk of out of pocket expenses.

Determine early on if you will be eligible for Medicare and then be sure to budget for any copayments or premiums required by the plan you think you will enroll in. Consider buying supplemental medical insurance and/or long-term care insurance to minimize your risk of out of pocket medical expenses. The fact is Medicare will not cover all of your health care needs, so budget and plan accordingly. All of this is not even taking into account the potential instability of Medicare in the future.

4. You’ll receive an inheritance large enough to cover your retirement

As much as everyone would love for this to happen, you can’t count on it! Even if your parents or another beloved family member have the savings to cover their own retirement they probably won’t have enough left over to pay for all of your retirement. There are so many variables that it’s foolish to bank on your future inheritance providing for all your needs after you stop working.

What if your family member(s) live longer than they expect and spend all their money? What if the economy takes a major hit and so do their investments? What if they change their mind and decide to leave most of their money to charity? You just don’t know what the future may hold, no matter what you’ve been promised or how good your relationship is with your parents or extended family. The quality of your retirement living is not something you want to take a chance on!

5. You’ll retire when you want to and be able to work as long as you want

Part of retirement planning is deciding at what age you want to retire, however, your plan needs to be flexible because life is unpredictable. Many retirees do not get to retire at the age they planned to because of life circumstances. The 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey found that half of American workers retire before they thought they would. This can happen for a variety of reasons; being laid off of work, a debilitating injury or illness that prevents you from working, or needing to stop working to care for a spouse or other family member.

Because American retirees are enjoying greater average life spans than any previous generation, it might be tempting to assume that means more years of good health and the ability to work later into your life. If you’re doing work that you enjoy or plan to start your own business, working past age 65 is a fine goal. There are plenty of benefits of continuing to work after retirement age, at least on a part-time basis.

However, you shouldn’t count on this income to meet your minimum financial needs in retirement, it’s best to think of it as extra income you would like to have. You would hate to rely on your ability to work until a specific age and then find yourself unable to and face financial hardship in retirement.

6. There is a magic number your retirement savings need to meet

If you’ve researched the cost of retirement living you’ve likely heard some popular financial guidelines such as, “you need to save at least 70% of your pre-retirement income” or “you should only withdraw 4% of your retirement savings per year”. This advice cannot be seen as a universal solution, while that’s not to say there is no truth or logic behind such tips. Following such guidelines cannot guarantee you have all the money you need for retirement.

Everyone’s retirement goals, living expenses, and medical needs are different and you need to create a retirement budget and savings plan specific to you. Additionally, you need to consider how that budget would be affected by unexpected expenses such as long-term care or a major home repair. Even then, this financial planning is only an estimate of your income and expenses in retirement. You need to hope and strive for a best case scenario in retirement but plan for potential risks.

7. My spouse will take care of my retirement

Among some married couples it is common for one spouse to handle the majority of the finances. However, allowing your spouse to handle all of your retirement planning and execution without understanding it is a huge mistake that could haunt you. Before getting into financial risks, consider your definition of a happy retirement and your goals. Are they the same as your spouses? Have you discussed them together to get on the same page? If you and your spouse aren’t in agreement about the retirement lifestyle you want you’re setting yourself up for conflict and disappointment.

Having a clearly defined retirement lifestyle is the starting point for success. Then you have to create a retirement budget that will allow you to achieve it, even if your spouse were to divorce you or pass away. While no one wants to think about spending their golden years alone, you have to plan for the possibility so you can protect yourself from risk.

Get your paperwork in order and ensure that your spouse has named you as the primary beneficiary of your retirement savings account(s), be it an IRA, 401(k), or annuity. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to know how your Social Security benefit would be affected if you were filing for benefits by yourself. While you may be confident in the retirement plan you and your spouse have, you also need to know that you would have financial security if you were alone.

8. Retirement means not working

Retirement continues to be redefined by each generation and individual to embrace it. While some still see it as leaving all work for compensation behind you, for many retirees that is not realistic or desirable. The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics reports that the average life expectancy for Americans is about 79 years old. People retiring today are likely to spend more years retired than any previous generation. For many people, 20-30 years of full-time relaxation isn’t what they want or can afford.

It doesn’t have to be as black and white as when you retire from your career you stop working entirely. Some people choose to continue in their career but reduce their hours to part-time, or they start working for themselves as a consultant in their industry. Others chose to start a second career in something they are passionate about; more and more seniors are deciding to start their own business in retirement. In addition to full-time or part-time employment, there are opportunities for temporary or seasonal work, which is popular with retirees who don’t want to make a long-term commitment.

Some retirees encounter unexpected expenses that put a dent in their savings early on or they find themselves living a more costly lifestyle than they anticipated. There are numerous reasons why someone might want or need to work in retirement. You can’t get hung up on your preconceived retirement ideas because you have to define retirement for yourself. You have to find a lifestyle that is fulfilling for you and provides for your financial needs.

9. Retirement planning can wait

It’s easy to rationalize to yourself that you aren’t making enough money to save for retirement and that it, along with coming up with a plan, can wait. But it can’t. And if you procrastinate too long you will pay for it! The reality is that the longer you wait to start saving for retirement the harder it will be to reach your savings goal.

That’s because compound interest is one of the best tools you have available to build a nest egg. The longer you have money invested the more it earns you in the form of interest. “If you grow your retirement savings at 10% compounded and wait just seven years to begin, you’ll end up with half as much money compared to starting today,” explains financial expert Todd Tresidder. Let your money do as much of the earning as possible to reach your financial retirement goal!

Besides the mathematical downside of waiting to save for retirement, there is the risk of being forced to retire before you are financially ready. As discussed in retirement myth #5, research shows that half of American workers retire before they thought they would. It might seem reasonable in your 30s or 40s to delay saving for retirement because you plan to work until age 70. However, how realistic it will be to continue working at that age is impossible to predict. It’s much better to error on the side of starting early and saving more than you need than starting too late and saving too little. Minimize your risk and maximize your chance of enjoying retirement living by starting to plan and save today!


You have to take all retirement advice and guidelines with a grain of salt; there is no one-size-fits-all solution that guarantees you a happy retirement. Everyone’s financial and health situation is as different as their goals for what they want out of retirement. It’s critical to take the time to create a personal retirement plan that meets the needs of you and your spouse or partner. These retirement myths have led many naive retirees to experience stress, financial hardships, and worse. Don’t be one of them!

If you found this article helpful then SHARE it with your friends and family on social media! Help them avoid falling victim to bad information.

Get more retirement news and tips from AmeriLife

Wooden Blocks with the text: MythsIf there is one life goal that all Americans have in common, it is to eventually retire. That means different things to everyone, but the most common definitions would include no longer working full time and living a more enjoyable lifestyle. With so many people wanting to accomplish the same thing in their lifetimes, you might that think the path to a happy retirement is pretty well mapped out, right? WRONG!

From your friends to your family to retirement experts, there are a lot of different opinions about retirement living. While no one can hand you the custom retirement plan you need (you’ll have to figure that out for yourself), there are some popular retirement myths that there is a consensus against.

Some people have retirement ideas that simply aren’t true, maybe they heard the same idea repeated so many times they bought into it, or perhaps the concept made retirement seem so much simpler that they just wanted to believe it. Regardless of why they exist, here are nine retirement myths you can’t afford to believe, they could prevent you from having a happy retirement.

1. Your taxes will be lower

Not necessarily… While many people assume that once they quit their full-time job and stop getting a paycheck their tax rates will decrease, this often doesn’t happen for a couple reasons. The main factor that determines your taxes in retirement is how much income you have and where it is coming from. Plenty of people have and need just as much income in retirement as they did when working; if you plan to do a lot of traveling or move to a luxurious retirement community your cost of living might not be any lower.

While many financial tools for saving for retirement are tax-free when making deposits, once you start making withdrawals to fund your retirement you have to pay taxes on that money. The majority of private pension funds are taxable, as are traditional IRAs and 401(k)s. If your yearly income is above a certain amount even your social security benefits will be partially subject to taxes.

Additionally, many seniors are no longer eligible for tax deductions they got when they were younger; for example, deductions for having dependents, mortgage deductions, and college savings deductions. As for the future of tax rates, it is more likely that tax rates will rise than decrease. You’ll be fortunate if they remain the same.

2. Social security will cover all living expenses

Perhaps the most widely believed of all retirement myths is that your social security benefits will cover all of your living expenses once you reach the age where you are eligible for benefits. However, as the Social Security Administration (SSA) explains“If you have average earnings, your Social Security retirement benefits will replace only about 40 percent. The percentage is lower for people in the upper income brackets and higher for people with low incomes. You’ll need to supplement your benefits with a pension, savings or investments.”

As of January 2016, the average monthly benefit of a retiree was $1,341 a month and the average monthly benefit for a retired couple was $2,212 a month according to the SSA. That’s a pretty modest amount to live on, especially if you have ambitious retirement ideas you want to make a reality.

The sad truth is that many people are not saving enough of their own money for retirement and they are living with the consequences. The SSA reports that “22% of married couples and about 47% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.” When you retire you want to have the freedom to live a lifestyle of your choosing, not simply the best lifestyle you can afford on your social security benefit. Estimate what your Social Security benefit will be and start building your nest egg to cover the majority of your expenses.

3. Medicare will cover all health care expenses

Much like the case with Social Security, Medicare was not designed to cover all of an eligible retiree’s health care expenses. Recent figures show there are 48 million Americans on Medicare, of which 5 out of 6 recipients are seniors age 65 or older. While Medicare may cover the majority of health care cost for many seniors, the type of care required varies greatly from person to person.

Medicare has good coverage for hospitalization and doctor visits, but there is minimal coverage for most long-term care like home health care, assisted living, and nursing home care. According to a study by Hewitt Associates, health care costs can amount to 20% of a retiree’s yearly income. For those who are on Medicare or expect to become eligible upon retirement, Medicare Advantage plans or Medigap are common solutions to minimize your risk of out of pocket expenses.

Determine early on if you will be eligible for Medicare and then be sure to budget for any copayments or premiums required by the plan you think you will enroll in. Consider buying supplemental medical insurance and/or long-term care insurance to minimize your risk of out of pocket medical expenses. The fact is Medicare will not cover all of your health care needs, so budget and plan accordingly. All of this is not even taking into account the potential instability of Medicare in the future.

4. You’ll receive an inheritance large enough to cover your retirement

As much as everyone would love for this to happen, you can’t count on it! Even if your parents or another beloved family member have the savings to cover their own retirement they probably won’t have enough left over to pay for all of your retirement. There are so many variables that it’s foolish to bank on your future inheritance providing for all your needs after you stop working.

What if your family member(s) live longer than they expect and spend all their money? What if the economy takes a major hit and so do their investments? What if they change their mind and decide to leave most of their money to charity? You just don’t know what the future may hold, no matter what you’ve been promised or how good your relationship is with your parents or extended family. The quality of your retirement living is not something you want to take a chance on!

5. You’ll retire when you want to and be able to work as long as you want

Part of retirement planning is deciding at what age you want to retire, however, your plan needs to be flexible because life is unpredictable. Many retirees do not get to retire at the age they planned to because of life circumstances. The 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey found that half of American workers retire before they thought they would. This can happen for a variety of reasons; being laid off of work, a debilitating injury or illness that prevents you from working, or needing to stop working to care for a spouse or other family member.

Because American retirees are enjoying greater average life spans than any previous generation, it might be tempting to assume that means more years of good health and the ability to work later into your life. If you’re doing work that you enjoy or plan to start your own business, working past age 65 is a fine goal. There are plenty of benefits of continuing to work after retirement age, at least on a part-time basis.

However, you shouldn’t count on this income to meet your minimum financial needs in retirement, it’s best to think of it as extra income you would like to have. You would hate to rely on your ability to work until a specific age and then find yourself unable to and face financial hardship in retirement.

6. There is a magic number your retirement savings need to meet

If you’ve researched the cost of retirement living you’ve likely heard some popular financial guidelines such as, “you need to save at least 70% of your pre-retirement income” or “you should only withdraw 4% of your retirement savings per year”. This advice cannot be seen as a universal solution, while that’s not to say there is no truth or logic behind such tips. Following such guidelines cannot guarantee you have all the money you need for retirement.

Everyone’s retirement goals, living expenses, and medical needs are different and you need to create a retirement budget and savings plan specific to you. Additionally, you need to consider how that budget would be affected by unexpected expenses such as long-term care or a major home repair. Even then, this financial planning is only an estimate of your income and expenses in retirement. You need to hope and strive for a best case scenario in retirement but plan for potential risks.

7. My spouse will take care of my retirement

Among some married couples it is common for one spouse to handle the majority of the finances. However, allowing your spouse to handle all of your retirement planning and execution without understanding it is a huge mistake that could haunt you. Before getting into financial risks, consider your definition of a happy retirement and your goals. Are they the same as your spouses? Have you discussed them together to get on the same page? If you and your spouse aren’t in agreement about the retirement lifestyle you want you’re setting yourself up for conflict and disappointment.

Having a clearly defined retirement lifestyle is the starting point for success. Then you have to create a retirement budget that will allow you to achieve it, even if your spouse were to divorce you or pass away. While no one wants to think about spending their golden years alone, you have to plan for the possibility so you can protect yourself from risk.

Get your paperwork in order and ensure that your spouse has named you as the primary beneficiary of your retirement savings account(s), be it an IRA, 401(k), or annuity. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to know how your Social Security benefit would be affected if you were filing for benefits by yourself. While you may be confident in the retirement plan you and your spouse have, you also need to know that you would have financial security if you were alone.

8. Retirement means not working

Retirement continues to be redefined by each generation and individual to embrace it. While some still see it as leaving all work for compensation behind you, for many retirees that is not realistic or desirable. The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics reports that the average life expectancy for Americans is about 79 years old. People retiring today are likely to spend more years retired than any previous generation. For many people, 20-30 years of full-time relaxation isn’t what they want or can afford.

It doesn’t have to be as black and white as when you retire from your career you stop working entirely. Some people choose to continue in their career but reduce their hours to part-time, or they start working for themselves as a consultant in their industry. Others chose to start a second career in something they are passionate about; more and more seniors are deciding to start their own business in retirement. In addition to full-time or part-time employment, there are opportunities for temporary or seasonal work, which is popular with retirees who don’t want to make a long-term commitment.

Some retirees encounter unexpected expenses that put a dent in their savings early on or they find themselves living a more costly lifestyle than they anticipated. There are numerous reasons why someone might want or need to work in retirement. You can’t get hung up on your preconceived retirement ideas because you have to define retirement for yourself. You have to find a lifestyle that is fulfilling for you and provides for your financial needs.

9. Retirement planning can wait

It’s easy to rationalize to yourself that you aren’t making enough money to save for retirement and that it, along with coming up with a plan, can wait. But it can’t. And if you procrastinate too long you will pay for it! The reality is that the longer you wait to start saving for retirement the harder it will be to reach your savings goal.

That’s because compound interest is one of the best tools you have available to build a nest egg. The longer you have money invested the more it earns you in the form of interest. “If you grow your retirement savings at 10% compounded and wait just seven years to begin, you’ll end up with half as much money compared to starting today,” explains financial expert Todd Tresidder. Let your money do as much of the earning as possible to reach your financial retirement goal!

Besides the mathematical downside of waiting to save for retirement, there is the risk of being forced to retire before you are financially ready. As discussed in retirement myth #5, research shows that half of American workers retire before they thought they would. It might seem reasonable in your 30s or 40s to delay saving for retirement because you plan to work until age 70. However, how realistic it will be to continue working at that age is impossible to predict. It’s much better to error on the side of starting early and saving more than you need than starting too late and saving too little. Minimize your risk and maximize your chance of enjoying retirement living by starting to plan and save today!


You have to take all retirement advice and guidelines with a grain of salt; there is no one-size-fits-all solution that guarantees you a happy retirement. Everyone’s financial and health situation is as different as their goals for what they want out of retirement. It’s critical to take the time to create a personal retirement plan that meets the needs of you and your spouse or partner. These retirement myths have led many naive retirees to experience stress, financial hardships, and worse. Don’t be one of them!

If you found this article helpful then SHARE it with your friends and family on social media! Help them avoid falling victim to bad information.

Get more retirement news and tips from AmeriLife

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