Stop! It’s Time to Challenge These 5 BIG Assumptions and Save More for Retirement

Are you still living in your oversized family home despite the fact that your kids have long ago flown the nest? Do you still own a car even though you no longer commute? Are you proudly proclaiming to the world that you are retiring soon and that you will never work again? Then, you could be putting your financial future in jeopardy!

Today, I want to tackle 5 of the biggest assumptions that we make in our 50s and 60s that have the potential to destroy our retirement dreams. But, it’s not too late! Let your neighbors run with the herd while you leave for greener pastures. You dream retirement is only a shift in perspective away!

Here are 5 massive assumptions that we should challenge after 50 in order to get the most from our retirement years.

Do I Really Need a Big House Now that the Kids Have Left?

Unless your adult children have decided to return to the nest recently, chances are your home has a few empty rooms. Of course, if you have paid off your mortgage, you may be tempted to believe that it doesn’t really make a difference whether you move to a smaller house or not. After all, you’re free and clear anyway.

But, is this really true? Not if you consider the costs of owning a larger home, including property taxes, upkeep and utilities. And, that’s not to mention the opportunity cost that comes from staying in your family home.

For example, let’s say you are 50 years old and live in a $500,000, 4-bedroom house with your partner. Your kids are already out of college, but, you keep their rooms empty for Thanks Giving and Christmas when the family gets together.

If you moved to a smaller apartment – let’s say for $350,000 – and invested the $150,000 difference, with a return of 10% per year, you would have close to $750,000 when you reached age 67. That’s a life-changing amount of money!

The point here is not whether you can get 10% a year (although, over the long-term, with the right plan, you probably can). The point is that staying in your big comfy family home when you don’t need all that space isn’t free. It’s actually super expensive!

Is My Car Keeping Me Fat, Unhappy and Poor?

When I was working in my corporate job, I used to commute for 2 hours a day. Even now, almost a decade since I left the corporate world to start my own business, I still shudder when I think about the road rage, heat, exhaust fumes, near misses and honking horns that I dealt with every day!

For several years after I left my job to enter semi-retirement, I still kept my car. Out of habit, I still jumped into the driver’s seat whenever I needed some milk or bread, even though the shop was only a 10-minute walk away.

Gradually, as the days and months passed, I started to realize that my car was costing me more than money. It was also keeping me fat and unhappy. How? By preventing me from doing what I knew that I needed to do… move more and eat less.

If you live in the U.S. chances are you have come to see your car as a “freedom machine.” This is how we are first introduced to cars as teenagers in America and the idea just kind of sticks with us. So, giving up your car might seem a bit crazy.

But, think about it. If you are no longer commuting to work (and maybe even if you still are!) do you really need your car? Or, are their other options that would save you time, money and excess pounds?

Once again, it’s not only the maintenance, gas and insurance costs that you could save by giving up your car before or in retirement. There is also a massive opportunity cost to owning a car. At 10% a year, if you sold your car for $10,000 at age 50 and invested the money, by age 67 you would have approximately $50,000!

Do I Really Want to Stop Working Completely?

Towards the end of my corporate career, I was tired. In fact, like many people my age, I swore that I would never work again… even if this meant giving up some of the finer things in life.

So, like many retirees, I shouted my plans from the rooftops, proudly proclaiming my freedom and assuming that I would never work again. Boy, was I wrong! In fact, I now realize that announcing your retirement is one of the worst financial decisions that you can make!

About a year after I left my corporate job, once my financial situation finally sunk in, I decided to start Sixty and Me and to look for some consulting work. It was extremely difficult (on both a practical and emotional level) to reach out to my ex-colleagues and business acquaintances again. I just wish that I had kept my retirement plans to myself!

So, my question to you is this… is your assumption that you never want to work again in sync with reality? Do you think that it is possible that you might miss having a structured social environment to rely on? Are you sure that you won’t need the money?

As someone who has been through this process myself (and who has talked with hundreds of retirees) trust me when I say that it is not working that we hate… it is working for someone else, 5-days a week in a job that doesn’t inspire us.

Reaching retirement puts options on the table that you may not have even considered. So, challenge the assumption that you never want to work again because this single decision can change your financial future forever.

Has My Family Budget Kept Up with the Times?

One of the most shocking financial reviews that I ever performed was one of simplest; 10 years ago, I sat down with my detailed monthly statement and asked myself one simple question as I looked at each line-item: “Do I still need this now that I am approaching retirement?”

Here are a few examples of the kinds of things that I found as I took a deep dive into my finances:

  • A yearly membership to an activity center that my teenage sons used to frequent
  • Two magazine subscriptions to business publications I no longer needed
  • A website subscription related to my previous corporate job
  • A gym membership that I never used
  • A subscription to World of Warcraft that I let my son put on my credit card

All-in-all, I found over $200 a month in expenses that made sense when I was a mom, but, that were completely unnecessary in my new life. This money went straight to paying down my debts and increasing my savings. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but, over a decade it has made a big difference!

Is My Definition of a “Safe” Investment Too Narrow?

None of what follows is financial advice and I am by no means a financial expert. That said, in my opinion, many people of my generation have an overly narrow definition of a “safe investment.”

For many, a “safe” investment is one that *by itself* has an extremely high chance of returning your initial deposit – think CDs, U.S. Treasury Bonds and money-market accounts. The problem, of course, with these investments – especially over the last 10 years – is that they pay extremely low-interest rates. In fact, in some countries, interest rates on government bonds are actually negative!

A few generations ago, when our grandparents might have expected to live 5 years in retirement, it made sense to think short-term. But, now, most Boomers reaching retirement will live for 20-30 years.

As a result, it makes sense to work with a financial advisor (preferably a fiduciary) to develop a diversified portfolio (probably including some amount of equities) that is optimized for your situation. He or she can help you to find investment options that *in combination* have a high chance of returning your month, while still giving you a decent return.

Don’t just assume that “I’m retired… it’s time to put all of my money in something safe.” Get professional advice and play the long game.

When was the last time that you sat down with your partner (or a trusted friend if you are single) to challenge your money assumptions? What have you done recently to optimize your family budget? Let’s have a conversation!