Most retirees find retirement doesn't live up to their expectations

After decades of saving up for their golden years, it turns out that retirement is not at all what people expect, according to a recent survey. Seniors struggle with spending problems, forced retirement, and an identity crisis.
"We assume that retirement will be a thing. Then, when you actually retire because your priorities have changed, you're not so excited about doing things that you thought you would be excited about "said Lori Lucas. President and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
According to the EBRI survey of 2,000 retirees, ages 62 to 75, conducted online in September, fewer than one in four Americans believe that their current retirement lifestyle matches what they planned for retirement.
"Sudden fear and uncertainty about preparation"
Photo: Getty Creative
For example, pre-retirement dreams of travel take a back seat as retirees focus on newcomers once people have completed their third act. The main priority is maintaining their health and wellbeing. 81% of retirees report this, followed by 68% of time being with family and friends. Travel accounts for a distant third, with less than half citing it as the top destination.
"They're more excited about the quality of your relationships and things that won't cost as much as we thought," Lucas said, noting that retirees are often struggling with the transition from a life of savings to ultimate difficulties in achieving the goal Stage at which they can freely spend.
Read more: How to get your retirement savings going again
"Retirement is something people have worked for and prepared for all their lives, but often it creates a sudden fear and uncertainty about how to prepare," said Rob Williams, vice president of financial planning at Charles Schwab , across from Yahoo Money. Retirees wonder if they have enough money and what they can live on, he said.
For example, almost 6 out of 10 respondents only wanted to spend a small part of their wealth, to spend nothing at all or to increase their wealth.
"They just want that nest egg in case something happens," as Lucas put it.
"Retirement could come a lot sooner than you expect"
Photo: Getty Creative
Forced retirement also negatively impacts plans to keep working and saving - and it happens a lot. EBRI found in a separate study that almost half of workers retire before their planned retirement. Whether it's layoffs, health issues, or any other reason, breaking the timeline is a costly mistake for people who thought their job was guaranteed.
"Retirement doesn't always happen the way we want it to," said Stein Olavsrud, certified financial planner and executive vice president at FBB Capital Partners. "Someone in their early 60s should be fully prepared for retirement anytime and much earlier than expected."
Read more: Expert: Retired investors should view uncertainty as their new normal
Early retirement - forced or not - can also trigger an "identity crisis" as you transition out of your career, said James Ciprich, certified financial planner and investment advisor at RegentAtlantic Capital. Take, for example, how people introduce themselves by mentioning what their jobs are for when they first meet others.
"When someone says, 'I'm retired,' the answer is, 'Oh, what did you do when you were working?' And it almost makes it seem like a less important existence, "said Ciprich, who suggests exploring how you're going to spend your time.
"More like a gradual retirement"
Photo: Getty Creative
"You want to have things that fill your time with meaningful activities, to give yourself the meaning that you might lose," he said.
Others may want to slowly retire instead, replacing the old guard stereotype of being presented with a gold watch at a grand retirement party. Gradual retirement options include counseling, professional guidance, or part-time work to create a happy medium for pursuing passions and hobbies outside of work while earning an income.
Read more: Study: Retirees more than doubled their debt in 2020
"The transition to part-time work is far more common than it used to be," said Williams. Modern retirement is "more of a gradual retirement where you may work full time rather than in a managerial position or something if you are lucky."
The Yahoo Money sister site Cashay has a weekly newsletter.
Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.
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