Common misconceptions of retirement

In one of my favorite movies, Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Life is really changing at a fast pace. As a result, all facets of our lives are changing and retirement is no exception. Everything about retirement is changing and it has lead to a number of common misconceptions.

Misconception one: The definition of retirement

What do you think of when you think about retirement? Do you envision lying on the couch relaxing in front of the TV? Is your vision similar to the Freedom 55 commercials where the retired couple is taking it easy on the beach? The reality is the definition of retirement is rapidly changing. The new generation of retirees is busy. They are younger and more energetic.

The old definition of retirement was about leaving work. It was about a long tiring path to the finish line and retirement was the finish line. Today, there is a new train of thinking where retirement is about rejuvenation. It’s about retiring ‘do’ something instead of retiring ‘from’ something. Retirement today is about having fun and accomplishing things as opposed to relaxing and doing very little.

What are your retirement dreams and goals? Do you have a clear vision of your retirement or do you just have a bunch of fuzzy wishes? Is your vision of retirement clear or fuzzy? Make sure you take steps towards a clearer future by setting goals and creating visions.

Misconception two: You have to retire by a certain age

Just because you reach a certain age it does not mean you have to stop working. If you enjoy your work and like the community and social activities associated with the job, why do you have to give it up just because of age?

In many cases, work can be gratifying in so many ways. If can create a social system, provide stimulating tasks and give you a sense of purpose. If you do want to retire, think about some of the things you enjoy about works and start planning to fill the time they used to spend at work with other stimulating, problem-solving activities. Start planning early; it can take a long time to replace that community of co-workers you’ve developed over the years.

Misconception three: Retirement means not working

More and more people are incorporating work into retirement. For some, they work out of financial necessity. For others, it is more a matter of choice than necessity. People are retiring earlier and earlier. Currently, the average retirement age is about 62. With people living healthier longer lives and retirement happening at a time when people are still energetic and youthful, it is no surprise that retirees will have to find things to do to fill in their time. For many, that will include work but with the choice to do the things, you want to do. Add in the fact that there is a shortage of workers coming up after the retiring baby boomers and you have a scenario that the trend of working in retirement is only going to get stronger.

Misconception four: You need a lot of money to retire

There’s no question that money is important but it is not everything. I know many retirees that do not have millions of dollars but still enjoy a happy and fulfilling retirement.

Financial planning for retirement shows that there are clearly benefits to starting early, saving regularly and accumulating money. However, retirement can be achieved by understanding expenses and how much you need on a month to month basis.

In addition, retirement is about so much more than money. It’s about healthy living, having friends and family, contributing to the community through volunteer work, and effective use of your time to accomplish goals that you set out.

Misconception five: Retirement is a time to do nothing

The upcoming retirees will be the healthiest group of retirees in history. While golf and tennis and naps have their places, they’re not enough for most boomers. Suggest to your clients that boredom is the reward you get for doing the same old thing. Boredom can lead to depression, and there are few things worse than being depressed with a lot of time on your hands.

Learning and doing and creating is what will get your clients out of bed in the morning after they retire. Things, like trying new activities or hobbies, going to work at a new job, or starting a new business, are the antidotes to boredom. Make clients aware that boredom is a real risk of retirement, that it’s up to them to prevent it-and that there are almost limitless alternatives if they just take the time and effort to plan ahead.

Can you think of any other misconceptions about retirement?


  1. Michael Callahan

    Great piece. The biggest misconception I see is drastically underestimating life expectancy. Maybe it’s the old case of looking backward at our parents and grandparents life expectancy, and feeling a little guilty about expecting to live longer. But as Jim pointed out, average retirement age is 62. Average joint life expectancy of a 62 year old non-smoking couple is 92. When I ask my clients to estimate they usually give an answer in the early 80s… about a decade short of average!! And average people don’t make it into my office Mr. and Mrs. client, so maybe we should plan to at least 95 to be on the safe side 😉 Cheers!!

  2. Leslie Stallard

    Agree. And would add underestimating how much health has an impact on what kind of retirement one will have. If people don’t pay attention to their health when younger, they’ll pay for it later. Often like an RRSP however, many young people view that as in the nebulous future.

  3. Connie Solidad

    I think this article does a great job of highlighting what retirement will probably be like for most people in my generation.

    For me, retirement means having time and resources to do the activities that I want to do. I like my job, and will probably continue in it until I’m physically unable to do so. Turning 62 will not mean that I am no longer of any use to anyone.

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