Much of the focus on retirement planning is centered on finances. While grappling with the question of whether you can afford to stop work, little thought is given to what you will actually do with your days, if you manage it. Here are the seven biggest myths, which lead to retirement dissatisfaction:
1) I'll spend more time with family and friends.
Well, you may want to spend more time with family and friends, but will they have the time to spend with you? You may have time on your hands, but your friends and family members who work are still on the hectic treadmill you just stepped off of.
It can be a real sticky wicket when it comes to family. Are you sure that your adult daughter and her family really want to come over every Sunday for dinner? And conversely, are you going to feel like an unappreciated and unpaid babysitter when she asks you to pick up the kids after school and take them to dance and soccer practices?
2) I'll get to do all the things I don't have time to do now.
Fair enough, but just what are those things? Nothing personal, but your garden plants don't need you for eight hours a day. And once you binge watch "Breaking Bad" and are all caught up, then what? One of the big things that changes when you no longer go to work each day is that your time becomes unstructured. While that sounds terrific in the abstract and may work for a few in the long run, most people find they are bored. Nobody wants to become that person for whom going to the doctor becomes that day's principal event.
So how will you fill your days? Be honest. Not everyone has the soul of a volunteer. When people associate their worth with being paid for their skills, it's often hard for them to feel the benefits of working for free -- even if it's for a good cause. Experts suggest making a list of things you genuinely like to do and think realistically about how much time a week you would want to devote to those things if you had the time. No, you won't really want to play golf or go fishing all day, every day, even if you think you do now. Make a second list of things you could do: take college courses, start a hobby business, learn some new skills.
3) It's ideal if both my mate and I can retire at the same time.
That's a "Whoa Nellie!" After decades of only seeing your spouse mainly on nights and weekends, you probably don't have much experience with the 24/7 thing. And it's a doozie, say the experts. "Two-earner couples often haven't spent that much time together at home because during the day they were both working," Maximiliane Szinovacz, a gerontology professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, said in an interview with U.S. News. "Now that they are both at home, one of the issues becomes how much time to spend together."
She suggests working it out before you actually retire -- and write into the plan some time apart where you each pursue your separate interests.
4) It's fine if I retire and my mate keeps working.
Not necessarily. If both you and your mate have been working outside the house, you probably have an unspoken division of labor when it comes to household chores and errands. She-cooks-he-cleans-up kind of thing. Nothing builds resentment faster in the still-working mate than when the person who is now at home full-time doesn't pick up more of the chores. It's worth having a discussion about -- before the situation boils over.
5) I'll still be important to my work colleagues.
Work friendships are a tricky thing. When what you principally have in common is the job, the friendship is going to change dramatically when you leave the team. For one, you no longer will be in on the day-to-day news of the office. And for another, as your retirement life evolves, you likely will care less about what's going on at your former company. Gradually, many of those friendships that feel close in the office will drift away. It just happens.
The goal, of course, is that you create another situation that replaces the office. It means getting out more in the community and getting involved with something else -- and other people. But relying on the camaraderie of your former officemates is bound to lead to disappointment.
6) My retirement "visual' is walking hand-in-hand along an exotic beach somewhere.
Wait! Isn't that the ad for Viagra? While traveling to romantic places is probably on everyone's short list, don't kid yourself: Those trips will be few and far between and you should probably be spending more time visualizing what you will do on those days in between trips. How much traveling you actually do will depend on your finances. But as a rule, people on fixed incomes need to make their dollars stretch -- and the Great Recession left many midlifers shaking in their boots about their financial security. An Allianz life insurance company study found that 82 percent of respondents ages 44 to 49 with dependents, feared outliving their money more than death. That doesn't sound like a crowd spending much time at the Four Seasons in Bali, does it?
Finding less expensive ways to travel -- home swaps, staying with friends, travel off-season -- will enable people to not bury the dream altogether, but having a realistic expectation also helps avoid disappointment.
7) I won't be alone.
Statistically speaking, if you are a woman you likely will be. According to the Administration on Aging, of the almost 35 million Americans who are age 65 or older, three out of five are women. Projections say that by 2040, there will be 127 women to every 100 men age 65 and older.
So what does this mean except that cruise lines are already hiring "gentleman hosts" to keep the solo-traveling ladies happy? It means that we likely will be forming housing units together, traveling with friends instead of spouses, and relying more on one another to help us through aging's rough spots.