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4 Common Retirement Concerns (and How to Fix Them)

Jun 29, 2021 4 min read Deb Hipp

Key takeaways

  • Contribute regularly—and early—to a retirement savings plan.
  • Stay physically active for better health as you age.
  • If you need to work in retirement, find a job you love.

 

When you think about retirement, maybe you can’t wait to kick back and enjoy your hard-earned time off. You might envision more time to travel, socialize, or hang with your grandkids. At the same time, you may have a few concerns. For example, will you have to work past the age you hoped to retire? Will your savings last once you make your move? Will your enthusiasm for retirement last once you’re there?

Once you identify your worries, you can take steps to keep them from putting a damper on your dreams.

 

 

Here are four common retirement concerns, along with a simple fix for each to better prepare for your future.

Concern 1: Outliving your savings

It’s not unusual for retirements to last 25 years or more. This may seem like a long time to be living without a job. And if you worry about living so long that you drain your retirement savings, you’re not alone. By 2030, life expectancy for Americans will be about 80 years for men and 84 years for women, according to the U.S Census Bureau  PDF opens in new window. By 2060, all Americans are expected to live to about 86 on average. And the longer you live, the greater your chance of eventually needing some form of long-term care—an expense Medicare Opens in new window doesn’t typically cover.

 

Fix: Focus on a savings strategy

Contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA) is a smart strategy for building your post-career savings. Open an account as early in your working days as possible to take advantage of compounding—the earnings on your earnings over time. And compare the benefits of pre-tax (or tax-deductible) “traditional” accounts, which provide tax breaks upfront, with after-tax Roth accounts, which can pay off more down the road.

If your organization matches part of your workplace plan contributions, be sure to contribute at least enough to earn the entire match. That’s free money going toward your future.

Ideally, your fund will become large enough to replenish itself as you make withdrawals later in life.

Work too on building an emergency fund that can pay the bills for several months in case you lose your job or have a health crisis. Experts recommend three to six months’ worth of living expenses, but if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us nothing else, it's that longer is better. This can help you avoid taking on debt that could postpone retirement or drain your hard-won savings.

 

Concern 2: Getting sidelined by health problems

Even if you’re in good health now, medical issues as you age—such as cardiovascular disease or mobility problems that keep you from enjoying activities in retirement—may be on your mind. And the last thing you want is a serious health issue grounding your retirement travel dreams.

 

Fix: Stay active and healthy

Regular exercise can lessen your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, according to the National Institute on Aging Opens in new window (NIA). The NIA recommends getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, biking, or swimming. You can easily hit that target with a 30-minute walk each day. Sign up for the gym, yoga classes, or a biking group.

Before diving into any of these hobbies, check with your doctor. You might even consider seeing a trainer and nutritionist to find personalized plans that work for you. Make these workouts and dietary practices part of your routine.

 

Concern 3: Becoming bored

If you’ve enjoyed a long career, the prospect of not going to work every day may seem boring. But boredom doesn’t have to be part of your retirement plan.

 

Fix: Work part time or volunteer

Do you have expertise in a particular profession or topic? Consider consulting in your field a few days a week or teaching a class through a community center, church, or other venue. When the job isn’t about the money as much as the satisfaction it brings, you’ll be able to pick and choose the work you take on and shed many of the stresses of your working days.

Volunteering is another great way to fill your time. You could help others in retirement by delivering Meals on Wheels Opens in new window for the homebound, helping out at a food pantry or signing up to work with AmeriCorps Opens in new window or another volunteer program. You might also find fulfillment by volunteering at a local animal rescue or, say, fostering a homeless cat while it awaits adoption. Or, if you enjoy the outdoors, you could volunteer at a local arboretum, garden, or park.

 

Concern 4: Having to work in retirement

You may be close to retirement and see that your plan simply won’t cut it. If you worry that your Social Security benefits Opens in new window or retirement savings won’t be enough to support you, you’re in good company: Nearly a third (28%) of people continue to work in some capacity after their “full” retirement age Opens in new window, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute  PDF Opens in new window (EBRI). Many simply want to keep working in retirement, while others do so to make ends meet.

 

Fix: Be open to new housing arrangements

Housing is typically the largest expense for retirees, according to a 2019 report   PDF opens in new window from the EBRI. So, if you want to avoid working full time in your later years, this may may be a good place to make changes. The more you can save on housing, the more you can contribute to a retirement fund or lower your expenses when you retire. If you own or have a lot of equity in your home, consider selling and downsizing to a smaller place. If you rent, perhaps you could cut housing costs in half by sharing with a roommate.

 

There’s a lot to think about when prepping for retirement. But even if things don’t go exactly as planned, there’s no reason your golden years can’t be comfortable and fulfilling. You simply need to live within your means, save where you can, and keep an open mind about the possibilities.

 

What you can do next

Ready to tackle at least one retirement concern? If you’re already contributing to a retirement plan, increase your contributions incrementally to build savings. If you’re not already participating, enroll in your organization’s 401(k) or similar plan, or open an IRA. Thanks to the power of compounding, the sooner you start, the less you may have to save to reach your goal of a comfortable life after work.

Please consult your tax and legal advisors regarding your particular circumstances.

Footnotes

Deb Hipp has been writing about personal finance topics for 25 years. Her work has appeared on sites and publications such as Debt.com, MSN.com, The Hartford's Extra Mile and Next Avenue.

 

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