Beware of These Retirement Pitfalls

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Getty ImagesBy Dave Bernard

Eventually, everyone would like to find themselves at a point when they can safely and securely move into retirement. Whether or not they actually make the move, having the option to retire can offer genuine peace of mind. But that peace of mind may be short lived if the new retiree begins their second act with an unrealistic sense of security. Retirement has the potential to be a fulfilling and exciting adventure, but you need to be careful to avoid those gotchas along the way:

Underestimating how long you will live. Your Social Security monthly payments depend on when you began receiving benefits. If you live until the average life expectancy you will receive about the same amount of lifetime Social Security benefits no matter what age you first sign up, according to the Social Security Administration. But if you live beyond the average life expectancy the monthly amount you receive can become increasingly important. For each year beyond your full retirement age you delay receiving benefits your check will grow 8 percent up to age 70. For people who live a long time, that additional amount can make a huge difference in the lifestyle they can afford to live. It makes sense to consider the possibility you may live well into old age and adjust your Social Security claiming strategy accordingly.

Not paying enough attention to the little things. As we age we increasingly depend on assistance from others. Our initial struggle to maintain our independence needs to evolve into acceptance of the realities of aging. Careful attention to details can make all the difference. It is important to take the right medications at the right time every day and schedule and maintain regular appointments for physicals, eye checkups and dental care. Also, pay attention to your surroundings and make adjustments to support a safer existence. Updating your home to fit your needs as you age could help keep you safe and independent for as long as possible.

Withdrawing from the world. For some seniors, challenges that come with aging can seem like too much to handle. Physical and mental changes often make it easier to just stay home and avoid exposure to an increasingly difficult world. But such a course of action can lead to loneliness and actually intensify the challenges they wish to avoid. By avoiding contact and the stimulation that comes from interacting with others, our reflexes and mental acuity can dull. The television is a sad replacement for real dialog with friends and family. And sitting all the time will be bad for your physical health as well. It may not always be easy, but making the effort to get out and about can help your health and attitude in many positive ways.

Becoming a victim. Scammers and criminals of all sorts see the growing senior population as a group ripe for the picking. Elaborate scams appeal to the caring nature of the elderly with no concern for the damaged lives left in their wake. My mom recently received a call from someone claiming to be her grandson stuck in Mexico with a friend, turning to grandma to save the day. My mom was not fooled, and when she offered to have the scammer talk with her husband they hung up. These days it helps to be suspicious. Don’t allow yourself to become an easy victim.

Believing you are too old to enjoy life. Obviously what you are capable of doing at 70 is different than what you did at 30. But just because you can’t do everything you used to doesn’t mean you are too old to realize a meaningful and exciting existence. When you feel too old, take a moment and consider those who have gone before you. Frank Lloyd Wright completed his design of the Guggenheim Museum at age 91, and Michelangelo was hard at work on St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican at 88. Sure the years add up, but when are you really too old to enjoy life? Don’t give up on the retirement life you want.

Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be.” Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

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