Are You Making This Dangerous Retirement Planning Mistake?

NOTE:  A version of this article was previously published on Suze Orman’s website on April 7, 2016.
Suze OrmanI am concerned that many of you are banking on a retirement strategy that may not work out. According to a national survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, more than four in 10 Americans say they plan to keep working past the age of 65.

For many of today’s workers, the motivation to delay retirement is financial. A concern they lack the savings to cover all their retirement costs, including health care expenses.

It’s a logical plan to address a major concern, but I need you to listen to me: thinking you can just keep working may be unrealistic. In the same survey, just 15 percent of retirees said they kept working past age 65. That’s a serious gap between expectations (40 percent plan to keep working past 65) and real life (Only 15 percent kept working after age 65.)

Many of those who retired earlier than they expected were sidelined by illness or disability. Taking care of a family member can also derail plans, as can being laid off or pushed out of a job by downsizing.

If your retirement plan is centered around the assumption you will just keep working longer, please consider these important steps:

  • Keep saving. If you aren’t saving for retirement, or pushing yourself to save even more, you’re putting your future security at risk. The best way to navigate the unknown is to hope for the best and plan for the worst. In this case, not being able to keep working longer is a “worst” case scenario. Plan for that by committing to save as much as possible today in your retirement accounts.
  • Keep Sharp. I know you’ve heard plenty about keeping your work skills up-to-date, but many of you still haven’t done much. If there’s no on-the-job training available, check for online courses; there are plenty of terrific web-based classes you can take. Or look into whether your local community college has useful courses in your field.
  • Keep Fit. The healthier you are, the less susceptible you may be to certain illnesses. There’s also the mind-body connection; I’m a believer that when you feel physically strong, it spills over into a frame of mind that can make you more valuable at work. Besides, I want you to be in the best shape possible for when you do retire, so you can enjoy yourself!


SSA does not endorse any particular financial advisory product or service.


18 thoughts on “Are You Making This Dangerous Retirement Planning Mistake?

  1. I delayed retirement by my years. During those final 3 years I drew full social security. I then used a financial consultant to put a plan together whereby either my wife or myself could enjoy a decent standard of living after the other passed. I see too many cases where the surviving spouse (most of the time it’s the wife who survives the husband) ends up really having to lower her standard of living.

  2. Very good point Suze! I laugh at the commercial that has the 40 year old saying she is planning on working till 70…I am 63 and the changes in mind and body since I was 40 are noticeable. I am glad I did not plan on working till 70!

  3. Retired at 59 tears old because the employer need some more younger man and I was supposed to train them but I work with them as a contract person doing same job that when I was working for two more years but invest all the money made in a good retirement found that will protect my wife and I if I died before or after her death, the medical were pay until was 65 years old. So I made the right decision them and enjoy retirement so far.

  4. The single biggest mistake people make when planning on their retirement is relying on Social Security. Social Security was always intended to supplement one’s plans not to be the sole source of income

    • Yeah? And we’re screwed because nearly everything we had saved was evaporated in 2008. With less than a decade to work we had to start over. We’ve done without, we have 11 yr old cars, sold our house at boom peak to put the equity in to help make up. It’s worth 1/4 less now so good decision there. We have a smal fed retirement and a small guaranteed invested retirement but Social Security marks the bulk, as intended to keep seniors out of total, abject poverty.

  5. I worked until 70! I had a busy veterinary practice. What I found out is, by about 2PM in the afternoon, my body had run out of gas. I wanted to practice forever, but one doesn’t realize the physical and mental constraints imposed by your body as you age. So, it’s not always about Social Security and retirement money, but about how much you hate to leave your job. Sometimes, mother nature makes that decision. I took full benefits at 65, but had to pay back some on my taxes. But then, your benefits continue to rise as you work later in life! It’s kind of taking it out of one pocket and putting it back in the other. The biggest thing, I believe, is to keep your body as healthy as you can if you plan to work after 65.

  6. II always planned to work to 62. As a Government Employee under FERS, it seemed to make the most sense for me. I’d had a disability for 30+ years, but never really considered myself to be disabled. When the Gov’t planned to close the Air Force Base that I worked at, I was faced with moving far away at age 58 to keep a Gov’t job. When I investigated Disability Retirement, it was a no-brainer to file. I actually received a Disability Retirement 4 months before I turned 58, and was actually able to collect unemployment from my state!. Now that I am 62, my Disability Pension was recalculated as if I had worked to age 62, my SS is about what it would have been if I’d worked to age 66, and because I had the forethought to have a private Disability Insurance Policy (and a really good Insurance Agent), I didn’t lose out by not being able to keep contributing to the TSP. I guess what I’m trying to say is look at All of your options before making the big decision to retire.

  7. I am 86 this June. I work 40 hours a week as a cashier for a large retailer. So far I am fine physically with the job. But the screaming children are driving me to insanity. I would like to quit, but I only have $39,000 in my 401k. and just a little in a savings account. My SS is $1,200 / month, not enough to live on and maintain my house if I quit the 40 hour / week job. I am a Korean vet, honorably discharged, but I have NOT, EVER applied/joined the VA (I know, I should). I have never been unemployed or drawn unemployment. … I am a complete dumb bell. Any advice other than diving off a short pier?

  8. By starting to receive SS Benefit at 62 and suspending it after one year. How will it impact the benefit if one continue to work until full retirement age of 66.

  9. I am 79 and still working a few days a week as a bookkeeper/receptionist in a small company and I have enjoyed it very much. I feel that I am in fairly good shape and it has been great for my health/mind to continue working.However I agree that at some point your body tells you that it’s time to possibly stop

    • Hi Mark. If a person begins to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to their full retirement age, their benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits the person may qualify for. Please visit our Retirement Planner for more information.

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