One of the biggest mistakes people make with their retirement is not realizing what they don’t know, says the Chicago Sun-Times in the article “The 6 biggest retirement mistakes—and how you can avoid them.” By misunderstanding how Social Security works, underestimating life expectancies, or failing to plan for big expenses, like long-term care or taxes, people put themselves and their families in financial binds.
These are not the people who try to educate themselves. They are sure they know what’s what—until they realize they don’t. Most people don’t seek out objective advice before they retire. They wing it, hoping things will work out. Often, they don’t.
Retirement is complicated. Here are the top six most common mistakes:
- Expecting to die young. If you die young, you have fewer worries about retirement funds. Live a long life and you could easily outlive your retirement savings. One smart move is to wait to collect Social Security as long as possible. Each year you put it off from age 62 to 70, increases your benefit by 7-8 percent.
- Ignoring your spouse’s needs. One of you will die first. When that happens, one of your Social Security checks goes away. The survivor will need to get by on only one check. This is why it is vital to maximize the survivor benefit by having the higher earner delay filing for Social Security as long as possible. Married people who receive a pension should consider a “joint and survivor” option that lets payments continue for both lives.
- Bringing debt into retirement. If you’re rich, debt may not be a big deal. You have plenty of income to make payments. Your investments may be earning more than you are paying in interest payments. However, if you are not rich, are you pulling too much from your savings to pay down the debt? This would increase the chances you’ll run out of money. If you take big withdrawals from retirement accounts, it could push you into a higher tax bracket and increase your Medicare premium. Try to get rid of your debt before retiring. However, be careful about tapping retirement accounts to pay off big debts, like a home mortgage.
- Neglecting to plan for long-term care. Someone turning 65 today has a 70 percent chance of needing help with daily living tasks, like bathing, eating, or dressing. Family and friends may be willing to help, but about half will need long-term care at a cost of $250,000 a year or more. Long-term care insurance is the most obvious solution. However, if you didn’t purchase it when you were healthy, you may need to earmark certain investments or consider tapping your home equity to pay for this cost.
- Thinking you’ll just keep working. About half of retirees report leaving the workforce earlier than they had planned. Most retire because they lose their jobs and cannot find a replacement job or can’t find one at the same income level as their previous job. Others retire because of ill health or the need to stop working to care for a loved one. Working longer can help you make up for not saving enough, but don’t count on it.
- Putting off retirement too long. Consider time, health, and energy as finite resources. Spend the time and money to speak with professionals, including an estate planning attorney and a financial advisor, to determine when you can retire. Additionally, work with an estate planning attorney to prepare an estate plan and enjoy retirement.
Reference: Chicago Sun-Times (September 23, 2019) “The 6 biggest retirement mistakes—and how you can avoid them.”