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Underestimating life expectancy

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The average US citizen can still expect to live for more 77 years – and many people will live well beyond this age. This means that underestimating life expectancy can be a significant mistake, especially when it comes to financial planning. Ensuring a pension or other source of income is adequate to provide a comfortable standard of living is essential.

Underestimating cost of living

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We all know that the cost of living is rising. While this is difficult for most people, it’s particularly hard for anyone on a fixed income – and this includes many seniors. As a result, underestimating the cost of living can have significant consequences for this group of people and lead to real financial hardship.

Overestimating pension income

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It can be hard to calculate post-retirement income with accuracy – and this is backed up by a recent study, which found that the average person overestimated their pension income by a hefty 30%. Professional advice can really help bring a much-needed dose of reality to the situation but it’s also a good idea to err on the conservative side when making these calculations.

Assuming they can find part time work

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Many people imagine themselves supplementing their retirement income with part time work. Others want to work for other reasons: to benefit their mental health, to meet new people, or simply to provide a focus for their days. If this works out – that’s great! However, suitable jobs aren’t always forthcoming – and physical health can pose significant barriers.

Making the wrong investments

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It’s never good to discover you’ve made the wrong investments, but doing so after retirement is particularly difficult. The absence of a regular employment income makes it difficult to plug the gap, which can lead to real financial hardship. Once again, taking financial advice from a qualified professional is the best way to ensure your money works hardest for you.

Falling victim to a scam

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Whether it’s a financial scam or a shady guy who offers to replace a roof for a bargain price only to do a very bad job indeed, there’s no shortage of potential ways to lose money by nefarious means. Unfortunately, seniors are statistically more likely to fall victim to such scams. This is at least partly because they’re more likely to be targeted – being cautious can help reduce the risk.

Getting rid of pets

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Pets are as rewarding for seniors as they are for anyone else. They provide proven physical health benefits, also improve mental wellbeing, and are loving companions. It’s often a real mistake to assume that older age means having to rehome a beloved pet or not being able to take on a new one.

Agreeing to support adult children

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Whether it’s financially or practically, it’s lovely to be able to support adult children. However, it’s prudent to ensure that those adult children don’t come to depend on the support. What seems feasible or affordable when one first retires may look very different five or 10 years down the line.

Carrying over too much debt

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Most people’s retirement income is largely fixed, with little opportunity for growth. Moreover, it’s usually also lower than their working income. For sure, their expenditure may drop once they’re no longer commuting. However, some expenditures clearly do not end with retirement – including debt. It’s sensible to pay down as much debt as possible before retiring.

Not anticipating changing housing needs

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It’s very common to resist the idea of downsizing to a smaller or more convenient property. However, doing so when one is still healthy, active and able to control the process is much better than waiting until ill-health, an accident or dwindling finances force a move. Moving can also free up cash that can be put towards general living expenses, or fun extras.

Putting all their financial eggs in one basket

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Pensions are great! So too is money in the bank and a house that’s appreciating in value. However, as history teaches us – and as recently as the 2008 financial crisis – nothing is guaranteed. Consequently, it’s sensible to spread a retirement nest egg between different pots in order to ensure security.

Moving away from support network

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Support networks take many forms. One person’s might consist of close family. Another’s might be wider, and encompass friends and neighbors. Whatever your particular support network looks like, it’s prudent to think hard before moving away from it. This is wise advice even if a move is intended to bring you closer to family but especially if it will take you somewhere you don’t know anyone. Professional services can plug the gap but won’t feel the same.

Moving in with family

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Multi-generational living is the norm in many parts of the world and in many families. If that includes yours and you’re happy to continue the trend, then that’s great. However, moving in with younger relatives can mean a loss of independence and ultimately prove a source of conflict. Think hard before taking this option and consider any available alternatives.

Moving in to sheltered accommodation too quickly

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Sheltered accommodation definitely has its advantages. However moving in to a senior living facility sooner than necessary isn’t always a good idea. The cost and the loss of independence are two obvious disadvantages. However, it’s also worth considering whether it’s easier to retain a younger mindset when living among a mixture of ages in the wider community!

Not knowing their financial entitlements

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Understanding your financial entitlements after retirement is crucial. Some people will have a workplace retirement fund but others will be largely reliant on the monthly Social Security Retirement check. However, as this may not meet all necessary expenses, it’s important to plan ahead. The ostrich-head-in-the-sand approach definitely isn’t recommended!

Expecting adult children to be their sole support system

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Most adult children want to look out for their parents as those parents get older. Some adult children are willing, able and happy to put in significant time and energy to make sure their parent is safe and happy. However, being another adult’s sole support system isn’t realistic for most people, especially if they have a job, a young family and perhaps live a long way away.

Counting on an inheritance

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It’s never wise to depend on an inheritance – and that advice holds true whether you’re 25 or 75. Equally, it’s not kind to allow younger relatives to assume that they will inherit from you, even if that is your intention. Unexpected costs later in life, particularly medical and care bills have a habit of eating into funds quite significantly.

Putting things off

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It sounds trite but the present is guaranteed and the future only a promise. Consequently, whether it’s wearing that special dress, taking that fabulous vacation, writing those memoirs, or simply spending more time with the grandkids, putting things off is a mistake.

Expecting family to be the carers

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Some families take on a caring role to their senior members. Others do not – either because they cannot do so or because they simply do not want to. A third group may take on a caring role and then find themselves unable to cope. It’s not wise to assume which group a particular family will fall into – and it can be easier to maintain harmonious relationships if this isn’t an expectation.


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Finite financial resources are never all that much fun. However, if you can’t replenish them, as is often the case after retirement, it’s easy to get into a cycle of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Although it’s lovely to treat yourself and others, it’s essential to work out a budget (ideally with some flexibility to it) and then stick to it!

Not anticipating medical care needs

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Medical insurance and worries about meeting medical care costs can assume even greater importance after retirement. Try not to let them get out of proportion but, equally, do try to be realistic about how much you might need to pay and how you’ll meet the bills. Remember, you may be eligible for help with some of the cost.

Taking early retirement

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Think very hard before opting for early retirement. If you have your finances and plans in place, early retirement can work out well. However, for many people, working longer – if this is physically possible – means more money after retirement and a shorter retirement to fund.

Assuming retirement equals happiness

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Although many people do find that retirement is the happiest period of their lives, it’s unwise to assume this will be the case. It’s also important to remember that, to a large extent, happiness is within your own control. Choosing who you spend time with and what you do are both key to a happy retirement! It doesn’t mean you have to give up on living life.

Spending too much time at home

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It’s nice not to have to rush out of the house in the morning and to enjoy a leisurely lunch with friends on the patio. However, too much time at home after retirement can feel disempowering. It can also bring spouses into uncharacteristic conflict with each other. To avoid these problems, it’s best to aim for a good balance between home and outside.

Not accepting help

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Everyone needs help sometimes. However, if you’ve planned an active retirement, which perhaps includes volunteering or “giving back” in some other way, it can be very galling to have the tables turn. It’s worth remembering that, in not accepting necessary help, you’re likely to cause considerable worry to family and friends.

Expecting to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives

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Most grandparents want to spend time with their grandchildren – and it can be very hard if this wish is not reciprocated to the same extent. Modern family life can make it hard for a grandparent to spend as much time as they want with their grandchildren. Equally, families can be disappointing. This can mean it’s important not to structure life around younger relatives.

Over-committing to babysitting

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For a retiree who wants to spend as much time as possible with grandchildren or help out adult children with childcare, it’s easy to over-commit. However, it’s important to build in sufficient time to enjoy retirement without concrete commitments – and it’s sensible to remember that, physically, childcare at 60 plus may be even harder than it was at 30.

Continuing to smoke

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Some people find it a little too easy to convince themselves that, if they’ve smoked all their lives, they might as well continue after retirement. This is nonsense! Quitting smoking – at any age – has proven health benefits within weeks, and those health benefits only accumulate as time goes on.

Not exercising

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A retiree might not have the lung capacity, muscle strength and stamina that they did 30 years early but, equally, they might have improved in all three areas. Whatever someone’s fitness levels, it’s almost always possible to improve them, and retirement is a great opportunity to do so. It also, of course, helps maintain good health.

Not getting health check ups

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The responsibility to look after one’s own health doesn’t end with retirement. It’s essential to keep up with all regular and recommended health checks to give oneself the very best chance of enjoying a fulfilling retirement for as long as possible.

Not eating healthily

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Just because someone makes it to retirement age is no excuse to row back on the healthy eating. Quite the reverse in fact! After all, where’s the sense in taking care to eat right through earlier adult life only to give in to the cream cakes upon hitting retirement? Surely no new retiree’s plans involves time spent on the coronary care ward!

Not decluttering

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Most of us accumulate far more possessions than we need as we proceed through life. Ideally, we’d all take periodic stock and declutter. However, this is perhaps even more important in the early years of retirement when, hopefully, we’re still fit and healthy enough to do the job ourselves – and well before we need to move into smaller accommodation.

Not writing a will

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As a general rule, anyone who dies without leaving a will bequeaths a bureaucratic mess to their nearest and dearest. They’ve also missed the chance to leave money or gifts to specific people or organisations. Although writing a will is easily put-off, whether for financial or superstitious reasons, it’s quick and relatively inexpensive to do – and, ultimately, makes a big difference.

Not planning a funeral

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In a way, a funeral is a person’s last big hurrah. Sure, the subject of the funeral won’t be there in person but, if they’ve planned it in advance, they can ensure that the event runs to their own specification. Perhaps it’s the music, readings or flowers that matter. Or perhaps it’s the celebration after the service that really counts.

Not saving for a funeral

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Not everyone feels that they can afford the cost of a funeral but, equally, not every bereaved family can afford to pay either. Saving up for the cost of one’s own funeral might seem macabre but it’s actually very practical and, from the perspective of those left behind, incredibly thoughtful.

Not making new friends

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One of the most significant downsides of aging is the incremental loss of friends. Obviously, this is distressing and can be very challenging to come to terms with. However, without the time constraints of work, retirement offers an opportunity to make new friends – and friends of all ages.

Not taking up new hobbies

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Retirement is the ideal time to take up the hobbies that someone previously hasn’t had time to do. And, without wanting to press a sensitive point, retirement really is the last chance to take up swing dancing, creative writing or playing the oboe – and it would be a shame to miss that chance.

Withdrawing from the local community

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Sadly, it’s quite common for seniors to withdraw from their local communities. Sometimes this is a early sign of cognitive decline or dementia but frequently it’s down to depression or lack of confidence. Both of these issues are solvable with the right support and, where necessary, medical advice.

Not having fun

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Contrary to what many younger people might believe, there’s no upper age limit on fun! If a senior wants to skydive, learn to belly dance or travel the world in a minivan, they should get on with it – health and finances permitting. And, if health or finances don’t permit, they should get creative and think of an appealing alternative.

Thinking they have nothing left to offer

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It’s all too easy for older people to feel that they’re unwanted, have nothing left to offer or are a burden on their younger family and friends. To some extent, it’s for younger people to show that this isn’t the case but seniors can try to remind themselves – and to prove – that they have plenty of stories to tell, advice to share, and life to live.