I don't know about you, but I spend hours a day planning for retirement.
I devote a good portion of each day to deciding which part of Peninsula de Nicoya I should build my beach bungalow on. How many hours a day I'll spend out in the surf trying to ride the waves versus how many hours I'll spend sitting at the bar, pretending I can.
How often I'll come back to the States. If I'll come back to the States. Whether I should buy an old beat-up Jeep, or just walk the lonely, dusty streets of Mal Pais, Costa Rica. You know, the important stuff.
You probably think I'm crazy
Well that's just fine by me. But fellow Fool Selena Maranjian recently cited a statistic that suggests 31% of you would rather "scrub a bathroom" than plan for your retirement.
So frankly, I think you're crazy -- or at least three-tenths of you are.
But to be fair, it's not your fault. There's a lot of misinformation out there -- especially about retirement. Here are three particularly egregious investment myths that could end up derailing your dream retirement.
1. It's too early to plan for retirement
According to the study cited in Selena's article, 49% of people age 25-34 have less than $25,000 saved for retirement. While that's not particularly surprising, this certainly is: A mere 23% of people over 55 have more than $250,000 saved up -- and they're within a decade of retirement!
Too early to plan for retirement? Hogwash! Can you imagine if Tiger Woods' parents had told him he was too young to swing a golf club, or if Roger Federer's coach had told him he didn't need to practice his forehand yet? A large part of the reason those two men so dominate their respective sports is because they got a jump start -- and they never let up.
The same holds true with investing for retirement. You need to practice, work hard, and focus -- so that when game-time finally arrives, everything is effortless and just falls into place. Is it a coincidence that Warren Buffett began investing at 11, has practiced every day since, and is now the richest man in the world? I think not.
So, what gives? I think it has a lot to do with the second investment myth you need to ignore at all costs.
2. The "I Can't Beat Federer" Syndrome
If you've watched professional tennis anytime in the past decade or so, you know that virtually no one can beat Roger Federer -- except for Rafael Nadal. Likewise, virtually no one can beat Tiger Woods on Sunday or otherwise. You probably can't, and I certainly can't.
Furthermore, it's not very likely any of us will ever be a better investor than Buffett. Nor is it likely we will one day be able to brag about our 25,000% gains in Microsoft
So what? Just because I can't beat Roger Federer doesn't mean that years of practice and dedication won't turn me into an exceptional tennis player, or that hitting a bucket of balls at the range every day won't improve my drive immensely.
And just because you may not ever match Warren Buffett's wealth doesn't mean you shouldn't follow his investing style -- regular purchases of excellent companies selling for less than they're worth. Yet many investors mistakenly believe that the only hope for securing life-changing wealth is to get in early on "the next big thing."
But as my colleague Seth Jayson points out, there are plenty of well-known stocks that can still deliver superior long-term returns. Believe it or not, over the past 50-plus years, well-known names like Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, and Pepsico would have delivered you more than 15% annual returns.
And since the crash of '87, household names like Proctor & Gamble
That might seem like small potatoes compared to the 1,200%-plus gains investors have enjoyed by snapping up shares of obscure companies like Daktronics
3. Planning for retirement is hard
The final thing that seems to keep many people from achieving their dream retirement is the very thing that could achieve it for them in the first place: hard work.
There's no sage advice I can quote here, and I'd be lying if I said investing well or planning for retirement was simple. But you must make it a commitment and priority today -- for the sake of your future. Plus, with a little help, it can be far easier than you ever imagined.
If you don't believe me, I invite you to take a free 30-day trial of Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement. You'll get full access to all of our retirement experts' tips and advice, as well as detailed information on the best place to invest your money -- whether you're 20 years out from retirement, 10 years away from retirement, or already there.
Remember, it's never too early -- or late -- to start working toward your dream retirement, so simply click here to get some help on ruling your retirement.
This article was first published June 24, 2008. It has been updated.