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Four Common Unpleasant Retirement Surprises and How to Avoid Them

By the year 2020, most Baby Boomers will have reached age 60 or older and will be thinking about retirement (if they haven't retired already). Some have been "planning" for their retirement for years or even decades. Others perhaps got a later start, but the expected ideal outcome is usually the same: retirement is a time when you finally get to relax and reap the rewards you've earned from all those years hard at work.

retirement expenses

Be honest about your expenses after you retire. If you plan to take up an expensive hobby or do a lot of traveling, you'll need more money than if you plan to spend your time visiting family and friends.

Retirement should indeed be a time to indulge yourself, explore your hobbies and the live the life you've always wanted. In reality, though, many people are hit with some rather unpleasant surprises that threaten to rain on their retirement parade.

So if you are planning to retire soon (or ever, for that matter), please take the following information to heart. There's still time to avoid these all-too-common retirement surprises that you're much better off without.

1. Underestimating Your Expenses

Most experts recommend estimating your expenses in retirement to be about 70 percent of your expenses while you're working (and you can expect them to decrease 1 percent each year).

However, nowadays many people are putting off travel and other luxury purchases until their golden years, and some retirees may also be faced with the unexpected cost of caring for their own aging parents. The bottom line? You could very well need to up your level of expenses.

"Lots of people put off major trips and other major expenses until they're retired," says Ted Rechtshaffen, the president and CEO of TriDelta Financial Partners. "And some people, depending on health and age, spend more in the first few years of retirement than they did while they were working."

The solution? When planning your retirement strategy, be honest about how you expect your lifestyle to be. If you want to travel or splurge on your grandkids, you'll need to have a lot more stashed away than if you plan to spend your days working outside in your garden.

2. Not Anticipating Higher Medical Costs

Medical care costs are one of the biggest shocks to people going into retirement, according to Olivia Mitchell, head of the Pension Research Council at the Wharton School of Business, in a Money Magazine article.

Along with the rising costs of medical care, many new retirees would rather not think of potential health problems down the road, and may not adequately cover themselves insurance wise.

The solution? Make sure you have adequate savings to cover any medical situations, and consider special insurance coverage, such as long-term care insurance or critical illness insurance, to cover short- and long-term medical costs.

3. Losing Contact with Friends and Social Circles

When planning for retirement, many people focus solely on the financial aspects. However, you also need to plan for your mental and emotional health, which means ensuring you'll have activities to be involved in and people to surround yourself with. This is incredibly important because, all too often, retirees find themselves socially isolated, alone and at risk of depression.

"Depression is actually a big issue," says Jodi L. Salamino, a licensed professional counselor in Michigan. "A lot of times, with the loss of identity and structure, the change actually turned into a negative one."


Upon retirement, you and your spouse will be spending a lot more time together. Be sure to respect each other's needs (for togetherness, alone time or time out with friends) while remembering to show one another how much you still care.

The Solution? "Unretire" yourself by getting a fun part-time job (if you've always wanted to sell ice cream at the zoo, now's the time!) or volunteering. You can also take a class (Yoga? Art? Woodworking?) or join a club in your area; whatever appeals to you that will get you to stay out there in social circles and be active.

4. Becoming Inactive/Decline in Fitness Level

As you no longer have some place you have to be everyday, it may be tempting to sleep in, lounge on the couch or spend the day in your pajamas. Now, there's certainly a time and a place for all of these things, but some retirees run the risk of becoming overly sedentary and inactive.

This, of course, sets yourself up for health problems and a decline in your fitness level due to inactivity and emotional problems due to the potential isolation. Even just the inevitable change of not going to work everyday can have a noticeable impact on your fitness level.

The Solution? Stay active by keeping to your exercise program. Even better, expand on it by joining a group aerobics class or finding a like-minded neighbor to take a daily walk with.

5. Not Accounting for Changes in Your Marriage

When one or both partners in a marriage retire, they can expect to be spending a lot more time together. For some couples this is ideal, but for others it can become a breeding ground for conflict.

"Wives at home don't always deal with their husband's retirement well and neither of them take into consideration they'll be together more," Salamino says. "It's important to maintain some independence apart from each other to keep the spontaneity alive."

The Solution? Be sure to keep communication lines with your spouse open. Talk about how your needs have changed, encourage each other's interests and desires, and respect your partner's (and your own) need for alone time. Meanwhile, take the time to show your spouse that you still care.

Recommended Reading

The 6 Common Mistakes Doctors Make When Treating Older Patients -- and How to Prevent Them

401(k)s: 8 Key Tactics You Need to Know to Get Full Benefit from Your 401(k)


National Review of Medicine February 28, 2007

Traverse City Record Eagle February 25, 2007

Money Magazine, March 2007, "Scholar of the Boomers' Future"

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