Rethinking Retirement: XX Facts and Fictions Related to Your Future

If you aren’t retired yet, you can’t possibly know what your future will really look and feel like. As with previous life transitions (getting married, having kids, switching jobs), there are more unknowns than knowns. Here are X retirement facts and fictions to help you be more prepared for what lies ahead.

1. Fact: An Early Retirement (or “On Time” Retirement) is Not Realistic for Many

According to new research from , a full 71% of people who struggled financially during the pandemic intend to delay their retirement.

The good news? Not everyone struggled during the pandemic. And, if you did, maybe you can be comforted by the fact that working is proven to keep you young and vital.

The Better News for Some: If you did okay through the last few years and have been saving and planning, then an early retirement may be perfectly reasonable. Don’t let the financial doom and gloom hold you back.

Make a plan. Make a plan for a worst case economic scenario. And, get yourself retired.

Fiction: Retirement Is the Day You Quit All Work Forever

The idea of retirement being a one-day transition is long gone for most.

XX’s research found that 69% of all respondents define retirement as a gradual easing out of work, not an abrupt stop.

So, how much work can you do and be considered retired? For many retired is more of a mindset than a number of hours on the job. You probably know someone who works 50 hour weeks and thinks of themselves as retired.

However, the average survey respondent said that you can work up to 11 hours and still be considered retired.

Fiction: Relocation is the Norm for Retirees

Research on the subject of relocating for retirement is very mixed. The recent XX survey found that 67% want to move for retirement (with a full 10% saying they intend to hit the road full time in an RV or with a trailer.)

However, earlier research from AARP suggets that 77% of people want to stay put in retirement.

So what is fact and what is fiction? Well, like most things in life, it depends on you and your reality.

  • Remaining in your current home is part choice: Is it where you want to be?
  • It is also partly a function of your financial means. Can you afford to stay put? Can you afford where you want to be? Can cashing out home equity make other retirement priorities more realistic?

You see, where you live is both your biggest expense and, if you own your home, a big part of your wealth. Thinking through your home as a financial asset is a critical part of retirement planning.

Fiction: It Is Too Late to Start Saving in Your 50s

Nearly half of all survey respondents (47%) said they think you can be “too old” to start saving for retirement.

Oh my, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is never too late to start saving and you can make really big gains.

Let’s say that you have just turned 55 and you have no retirement savings. However, your birthday is a wake-up call for you, so you decide then and there to max out your retirement contributions to your 401(k) and IRA.

In 2022, with catch up savings, you can save a total of $34,000 into retirement accounts (401ks and IRAs). And, that number grows to $37,500 in 2023. (And, if you are married, you can double those amounts.)

  • If you were able to save just $30,000 every year until you turned 65 and earned an average 6% return per year on that money, you’d end up with about $617,000 after 15 years.

The good news is that with stocks down right now, the more money you put in, the more growth potential you might have.

Fact: Education is Key to Financial Success

Nearly three-fourths (73%) of employees wish they had better 401(k) guidance at work; only 5% disagree.

Fact: You Should Max Out Your 401k

Nearly three-fourths (73%) of employee

Here are 9 facts about your probable happy retirement future:

A Merrill Lynch study found that you are very likely to have a happy retirement. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that it is probably going to be the best time of your life!

If you are retired, you are likely feeling pretty good much better than those worried millennials.  According to the study, of all times in our life, we are happiest and most content between the ages of 65 and 74.

Consider these comparisons showing how happiness, contentment, and relaxation soar, while anxiety seems to plummet in retirement:

  • Only 51% of 25 to 34-year-olds say that they often feel happy compared to 76% of people ages 65-74
  • Only 47% of youngsters say that they often feel content, while 71% of those retired report contentment.
  • Feeling often relaxed is experienced by 71% of 65 to 74-year-olds, but only 41% of those 25-34.
  • And what about anxiety?  Only 12% of 65 to 74-year-olds say that they often feel anxiety.  Whereas it is a common feeling for 37% of 25 to 34-year-olds.

This research is backed by numerous studies on the U curve of happiness. Learn when happiness peaks.

2. Retirement is a New Beginning

Nine out of 10 boomers see retirement as an opportunity for a new beginning not an end of something.  And it seems that this new beginning feels full of promise and opportunity, not stress.

In fact, the study says that one of the only areas where people find retirement less fun than work is around financial concerns.

A full 65% say that financial concerns are greater in retirement than before.

If you are worried about finances for your new beginning, there are easy steps you can take for more security.  The NewRetirement retirement calculator helps you figure out where you stand now and it enables you to discover ways you can improve your financial situation.

This tool was recently named one of the best retirement calculators by the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII).

3. Leisure After Retirement is Different Than Leisure Before

The study finds that people’s goals for leisure in retirement are different from what they wanted while working.

Before retirement, your leisure time is about rest and relaxation getting away from work.  In retirement, leisure is often about “engagement, connection, and activity.”  And without the constraints of work, your leisure activities may be more structured.  You might take a class or join a gym as opposed to taking a nap or watching TV.

4. Two Kinds of Leisure in a Happy Retirement

Ninety-two percent of retirees say that retirement gives them “greater freedom and flexibility to do whatever they want regardless of how much money they have.”  The sweet spot of freedom is between the ages of 61 and 75.  This is the time when the study says that most people enjoy the “greatest balance of health, free time, fun and emotional well being.”

There are two kinds of leisure that makes for a happy retirement: everyday leisure and special occasion leisure.

  • Everyday leisure activities include doing things that make you feel healthy and relaxed.
  • Special occasion leisure activities are well special.  These are things that take you out of the ordinary travel, adventure, and celebrations.  A full 81% of retirees want  experiences that are “unique, rare and that give them lasting memories.”

Are you wondering what to do in retirement? Try this list of 120 big ideas for what to do in retirement.

5. Being Rich in Time Makes for a Happy Retirement

Seventy-nine percent of retirees say that they now have the amount of free time they desire.

How much time is that – on average?

According to the study, retirees have 7.5 hours of free time each day.  Among all baby boomers, that will add up to 2.5 trillion hours over the next two decades.  That is a lot of fun to be had!

And it does not seem to matter how much money you have you are, after all, rich in time.  The study found that across all levels of assets, retirees report that that in retirement, they are happier.

6. Your Self Identity Changes for a Happy Retirement

When you are younger, your work is a big source of your identity.  In fact, the study found that 42% of people ages 25-34 say that they are defined by work.  In retirement, only 9% are defined by what their career once was and a full 91% say that what they do for leisure is most important to identity.

One study participant said, “Before retirement, I defined myself by my work.  Now I define myself by what I do with my leisure.”

In retirement, you can be whoever you want to be.  How you spend your time will be a bigger part of your identity than how you earn money.

7. Who Not What

Relationships are very important to retirees.  The study found that 61% say that who you do something with is more important than what you do.  Only 39% prioritized the activity itself.

8. Retirement Relationships Thrive

There is an idea that when people retire, the togetherness for couples is too much.  However, this study found that only 10% of retired couples report more conflict with their spouse or partner.

And of your most enjoyable leisure experiences, 82% say that they have those with their partner while 45% say grandchildren, 44% say children, 29% say themselves, 27% say friends and 17% say pets.

However, a full 79% of retirees agree that it is important to stay connected with friends.

9. We Might Need a Better Plan

Oddly enough, we aren’t really planning for all the great things we can do in retirement.

The Merrill Lynch study found that only 23% of retirees have done some planning for the leisure activities they want to do in the next 5 years let alone later on.  And 2/3 of couples have not discussed what to do or how much money to spend on leisure.

Planning does not need to be painful.  A retirement calculator can do all the work for you.  The NewRetirement retirement calculator is an easy to use but very detailed and sophisticated tool.  You input your information and the system performs hundreds of different calculations and provides charts to help you understand your financial situation.  Don’t like your results?  The calculator lets you add more information, change your assumptions, and keep playing with your data until you find a plan that lets you have the happy retirement you want to have!

More articles about having a happy retirement.

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