Your Money, Your Future
Your Money, Your Future

Six common myths that can mess up your retirement

Key Points
  • Misconceptions about retirement can hurt your savings strategies and make life tougher in your golden years.
  • For example, more than half of people say they expect to work past age 65, but less than 15 percent of today's retirees kept working that long.
  • Spending can vary by 50 percent or more per year for retired households.
Top retirement myths

Savings and planning for retirement can be filled with misconceptions that will harm your enjoyment later in life.

Katie Coleman, a certified financial planner and advisor with Ameriprise Financial, separated retirement fact from retirement fiction in a recent interview with CNBC's "On the Money."

Here are the six most common retirement myths Coleman encounters:

Myth: You have a magic number.

It's an easy assumption. All you need to do to have a comfortable retirement is save enough money that you can withdraw 4 percent each year and that nest egg with last a lifetime.

The so-called 4 percent rule doesn't work for everyone and depends on your lifestyle, health and investment portfolio.

"There is no magic number. Your retirement plan and withdrawal strategy should be as unique as you are," Coleman said.

Myth: Medicare will cover all your health care in retirement.

While Medicare will pay for doctors visits and hospital costs, it may not cover all of your prescription drug expenses and it doesn't help with long-term care.

If a 65-year-old wants a 90 percent chance of having enough savings to cover health care expenses in retirement, the average man would need to save $124,000 and the average woman would have to sock away $140,000, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). These figures do not include the cost of long-term care.

Health savings accounts are an ideal way for people to save and invest for retiree medical expenses. HSAs offer you triple tax advantages: First, contributions are tax-deductible. Second, those contributions can be invested and grow tax-free. Third, withdrawals aren't taxed as long as you use them for qualified medical expenses, such as doctor's visits, prescription drugs and dental care.

Myth: You can't count on Social Security benefits.

America's most popular retirement program does have funding troubles. However, it doesn't mean that Social Security won't be there for you in some form when you retire.

Under current law, 79 percent of scheduled retirement benefits are projected to be payable to people in 2034, once the trust fund reserves are depleted, if Congress fails to act.

Generally, you can maximize your Social Security benefits by working until age 70. Use these free online calculators to determine what claiming strategy may work best for you.

Myth: You will be able to work as long as you want.

People plan on working longer to save more for retirement. About 30 percent of U.S. workers over age 60 said they don't plan to retire until at least 70, and 20 percent said they don't believe they will ever be able to retire, according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.

The problem with this strategy is that life gets in the way. While more than half of people say they expect to work past age 65, less than 15 percent of today's retirees kept working that long, according to the latest EBRI retirement confidence survey .

The best way to prepare is to save as much as you can during your prime working years. Once you turn 50, you can take advantage of higher catch-up contribution limits for your 401(k) and IRAs.

Myth: You'll spend less and pay less in retirement.

Spending can vary by 50 percent or more per year for retired households, according to research by Matt Fellowes, founder and CEO of United Income, a startup that aims to apply big-data analysis to financial planning.

"Retirees have volatile spending throughout their retirement, due to everything from negative shocks like car maintenance to dental work to positive shocks like helping grandchildren go to summer camp," Fellowes said.

Taxes are another thorny issue. "You may qualify for fewer tax breaks, such as mortgage and college savings deductions, in retirement," Coleman said. And who knows what tax rates will be in the future.

Myth: You'll live in the same place through retirement.

Most retirees would prefer to stay put. Nearly 90 percent of older Americans want to age in place, and 80 percent said they believed their current residence is where they will always live, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP Public Policy Institute.

However, the costs of aging in place can be substantial. Housing is the greatest expense for households of people age 55 and older, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Moving is often a major part of retirement," Coleman said.

"On the Money" airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.