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Surprise! Experts Say “Retirement” May Not Be What You Expect

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When you look into your future, what do you think “retirement” will be like? As we’ve discovered in our interaction with thousands of retirees, the answers vary widely. But the reality can be filled with surprises, both happy ones and not so happy ones, which is why we decided to revisit a story we originally reported in the spring of 2016. It was based on a research report done by the financial firm Merrill Edge, a study which revealed that retirement can definitely hold some unanticipated twists and turns.

We discovered this interesting article , called “7 things that surprise retirees about retirement,” on the financial website Market Watch ( According to the author, the Merrill Edge study revealed that “what retirement is really like may surprise you – and not always in a good way.” The study essentially asked retirees the question, “What have you done in retirement that surprised you?” For nearly one retiree in three, the top answer was clear: they spent more money in retirement than they had planned or expected.

A few years earlier a similar study by the financial firm Mass Mutual showed the same thing, although not quite so dramatically. This survey revealed that one retiree in six was surprised by their financial problems in retirement. That’s a significant number, and it tells us that, in spite of a wide range of resources and planning tools available to retirees, some people still enter this important phase of life without a guide or a roadmap. Here at AgingOptions we have the solution to that predicament – an AgingOptions LifePlan – which we’ll say more about in a moment.

In the Merrill Edge study, 30 percent of respondents said they were surprised by their spending level, and not necessarily in a good way. For these folks, the costs of retirement living were higher than what they had anticipated, which is unsettling for most retirees who must adjust to living on a fixed income. But cash flow wasn’t the only big surprise in the Merrill study.  Almost 20 percent of respondents ended up making an unexpected move to a new location, even though they had planned to stay put. For some these unexpected moves could be due to financial pressures while others likely needed to move for health-related reasons. Here at AgingOptions we spend quite a bit of time counseling our clients on how to plan for their housing needs as they age, but a big part of that planning process involves thinking very realistically about one’s health and one’s finances, the two biggest drivers of an unanticipated relocation.

Returning to the question of finances, we wondered why so many retirees find themselves surprised by their spending levels. According to the Market Watch piece, the chief answer is simple: the higher than expected cost of health care. “A couple, both 65, that retired in 2015 will end up shelling out roughly $245,000 — that’s up nearly 30 percent over the past decade – on health care throughout retirement,” says Market Watch, even though they have Medicare health coverage. But even with that level of  “sticker shock,” it’s sad to realize, as Market Watch reports, that less than one person in four has factored health care costs into their retirement planning! In today’s environment of skyrocketing out-of-pocket medical costs, that number may indicate that traditional financial planners simply aren’t doing an adequate job of preparing their clients for the true cost of growing older. Bottom line: your retirement plan needs to be comprehensive in scope, covering all aspects of your future life.

There is good news in the “retirement surprises” category. Merrill Edge says that almost one fifth of retirees say they are able to relax in retirement more than they had expected. But the number of respondents who report other positive surprises – unexpected travel, the chance to return to school or start a business – is relatively tiny.

Earlier we mentioned an AgingOptions LifePlan. When you have such a plan in place, you’ll be prepared for just about any surprise that retirement can toss your way! Your LifePlan helps you plan for your medical coverage and it incorporates a sound financial plan. LifePlanning also ensures that your legal affairs are in order and that the right housing choices will guide you to the style of living that best suits your needs and desires. And finally, one element many plans overlook is your family: you need to make certain they’re aware of your desires. No one wants to burden their family unnecessarily as they grow older! A LifePlan includes this entire range of considerations, allowing to you approach retirement with confidence.

Here’s how to learn more as you begin the planning process: join us for a free LifePlanning Seminar. These take place frequently at locations throughout the area, and there’s no obligation whatsoever. We assure you that you’ll come away with valuable knowledge and insight that will help you get started on the road toward a happy and fulfilling retirement.  Following a carefully conceived LifePlan is one excellent way to ensure that all your “retirement surprises” will be happy ones.

Click here for details and online registration, or give us a call during the week. We’ll look forward to meeting you at a LifePlanning Seminar soon.


(originally reported at

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