Five retirement myths disproved by research


Nearly half of American workers don’t link their retirement plans to how much they have saved. The majority of retirees are satisfied with their lives and find it is easier than they expected to live comfortably in retirement. These are two of the surprising findings from a large-scale survey of recent retirees and soon-to-be retirees.

The survey by Fidelity Investments of over 12,000 retirees and workers age 55 or over was one of the largest of its kind and sheds light on how employees and retirees really think of and plan for retirement. Below are five common myths about retirement, and the survey findings. We should point out that while survey respondents came from all walks of life, Fidelity said they were people who “felt they had some control over their decision to retire.” In other words they were better off than people struggling from paycheck to paycheck.

Myth 1: Most people decide when to retire based on how much they have saved. Actually, nearly half of respondents indicated they planned to retire on a specific date. They wanted to have enough time to enjoy their retirement and planned to adapt their retirement lifestyle based on their savings. The other 51 percent indicated their finances determined when they retired.

Myth 2: Most retirees are struggling financially. Although many surveys suggest workers have not saved enough for retirement, the survey found 82 percent of recent retirees felt they retired at the right time and 85 percent feel retirement is the best time of their lives. Also, 79 percent said it was easier to have a comfortable retired life than they thought. But 36 percent say they wish they had more savings, and 33 percent said they wish they had started saving earlier. Single retirees were more likely to express regret. Forty percent of single, widowed, or divorced retirees wished they’d saved more, compared with 35 percent of retirees who were married or living with a partner. Thirty-nine percent of unmarried retirees wished they’d started saving earlier, compared with 31 percent of married retirees. 

Myth 3: People work in retirement for the money. Actually 61 percent of respondents said they worked in retirement because they “like what they do,” and 48 percent said that “feeling valued” was important to their decision to work in retirement.

Myth 4: People retire to spend more time with their spouses. This was true for men more than women. While almost 60 percent of men planned to spend more time with their wives, nearly 70 percent of women wanted to retire to spend more time with their grandchildren. A working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicated that the arrival of a grandchild increased the likelihood that a woman approaching retirement would actually retire by over 8 percent. Women were also more likely than men to say they wanted to spend more time with parents or caregiving (27 percent vs. 18 percent).

Spending time with a spouse seems more important to pre-retirees. A significant percentage of workers under age 60 indicated they wanted to retire to spend more time with their spouse or partner. The more savings a pre-retiree had, the more likely they were to say that. But the older people get, the less often they give that as a reason.

Myth 5: People want to retire to volunteer and pursue hobbies. While some retirees indicated this was true for them, 72 percent said their main incentive to retire was to have more leisure time to do what they wanted, even just relax at home.


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