Don’t Let These Costly Retirement Mistakes Drain Your Nest Egg

Jared Bryson |

Don’t Let These Costly Retirement Mistakes Drain Your Nest Egg

Retirement can feel like a finish line after decades of working — but you may not be able to cross that finish line or really enjoy the retirement you had imagined if you get tripped up along the way. 

In fact, the retirement of your dreams could disappear before your eyes with just a few missteps and oversights. 

Unfortunately, that happens more than most of us realize. Just under half of the folks who are going to stop working within the next 30 or so years are expected to run out of money in retirement.1

That paints a grim picture, but it’s not all doom and gloom. 

If you know what mistakes tend to drain retirement savings, you can take caution, make more informed decisions, and stay on track to fund your dream retirement. 

Top 10 Retirement Savings Mistakes

Any of us can get tripped up by these common retirement mistakes if we’re not careful and if we don’t really understand the impacts of our actions (or inaction). 

Here’s what you need to know to protect your nest egg and minimize the risks of running out of money when you retire. 

1. Waiting to save for retirement. 

It’s never too early to save for retirement. Putting off retirement savings until later in life can mean losing out on the ability to take full advantage of compound interest, meaning the ability to make interest on the interest you’ve earned. 

The earlier folks start saving for retirement, the better. That’s true even if you can’t contribute a lot in those early years of your career. Every little bit helps, especially if you can start building retirement savings early. 

Adopting an all-or-nothing mindset toward retirement, or delaying your savings until your 40s or 50s, can significantly hinder your financial growth. As a result, you may find yourself with fewer resources when it's time to retire.

2. Not having a detailed retirement plan. 

Details refer to specific numbers that outline your financial needs in retirement. These should account for factors such as your retirement location, planned activities after you stop working, and your anticipated lifestyle.

With this type of detailed plan, you should also get a clearer understanding of specifics, like: 

  • How much longer do you need to work before retiring
  • Whether you want or need to work part-time in retirement
  • Your retirement living expenses 

Without a plan in place, it’s much more difficult to: 

  • Consistently invest enough in retirement savings.
  • Forget about key parts of your financial life in retirement.
  • Get the math wrong and fail to save enough money to live comfortably in retirement.

3. Failing to consider future needs. 

What will your future medical care look like and cost? At what point would you need live-in care or long-term care (LTC) facilities? 

You may not know the answers or numbers off the top of your head, and that’s OK. There are several online tools available to help you estimate medical costs and LTC expenses. A professional can help too.

In general, however, it’s important to know that:

  • Most folks who are 65 will need some type of LTC as they age.2
     
  • LTC costs can be expensive, and they aren’t necessarily covered by Medicare.2
     
  • Medical and LTC bills do cause some folks to run out of money in retirement.2
     
  • Budgeting for medical bills and LTC costs in retirement is merely one side of the financial “coin” here. The other is to consider powers of attorney — who would you want to make financial (and healthcare) decisions on your behalf if you couldn’t later?

Considering these issues early on can give you more power and flexibility to plan for your later-in-life needs. That can provide priceless peace of mind both before and during retirement.

4. Miscalculating Social Security.

How much can you expect from Social Security, and when can you start drawing that? Will those funds be enough to support your life in retirement, or will you need other income streams?

If you’re eligible for Social Security benefits, run the numbers before you rely on them. Many folks can’t live on Social Security benefits alone — and others won’t be able to rely on these benefits at all.

So, take a closer look at what you could actually draw from Social Security and how that would fit into your retirement income. Making assumptions here can be a huge financial mistake that could send retirees back into the workforce.

5. Failing to consider taxes and inflation. 

What tax bracket will you be in when you retire? Many folks assume they’re going to be in a lower tax bracket at retirement, only to find out later that: 

  1. They’re wrong. 
  2. They’re in a higher tax bracket than expected in retirement. 
  3. They didn’t budget enough for taxes as retirees. 

Similarly, inflation can bring a lot of unwelcome surprises and put unexpected strains on your retirement income, leaving you with less purchasing power than you’d anticipated, if you haven’t factored it into your plans. 

So, don’t overlook taxes and inflation when you’re considering what you need to retire and how that amount could be thinned out later. 

6. Investing less and less as you get closer and closer to retirement.

If retirement is around the corner, don’t automatically reduce your contributions. Run the numbers again to make sure everything’s on trac. Don’t cut your retirement contributions based on assumptions alone.
 

7. Bringing too much debt into retirement.

Ideally, you’d retire with as little debt as possible. Taking excessive debt with you into retirement can burden you with a lot of financial obligations when you’re no longer working (and you’re on a fixed income). That could drain most or all of your retirement income, leaving little for the fun stuff. Instead, try to pay off as much debt as you can before you retire. That’ll free up more of your income for living expenses and whatever you want to do with your time.
 

8. Failing to maximize retirement contributions.

Employer matches and similar contributions are like free money. If you don’t take advantage of them, you’re effectively leaving them on the table. So, don’t do that; instead, leverage these “matching” offers you get from employers, financial institutions, or others. Invest what it takes to get the match and avoid leaving free money on the table whenever possible.
 

9. Borrowing from retirement savings.

Cashing out part of your retirement savings can come with hefty costs and steep penalties. While there may be a few very good reasons to take on these costs, like in the event of an emergency, it’s generally not a great idea to withdraw retirement funds early if you have other resources.
 

10. Failing to check in.

Life changes, and that can affect our retirement plans and objectives. If we truly want to keep our retirement goals within reach, it’s prudent to re-evaluate them from time to time. That’s usually easier to do with a financial professional. 

How to Live (More) Comfortably in Retirement 

Retirement can be deeply rewarding — and maybe even a little bit better — when we look out for the landmines and we know how to avoid them. Whether you’re just getting started with retirement planning or it’s time to revisit the numbers, the truth is that it’s complicated and we don’t have to do it alone. 

With a little knowledge, some perspective, and the right guidance, we can stay on track with our retirement savings and give ourselves better footing to truly enjoy retired life.

 

Sources: 

1. https://www.ebri.org/content/retirement-savings-shortfalls-evidence-from-ebri-s-2019-retirement-security-projection-model

2. https://www.moneytalksnews.com/slideshows/what-happens-if-i-really-do-run-out-of-money-in-retirement/


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