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Do You Believe These Three Common Retirement Myths?

By Christy Bieber – Oct 5, 2021 at 9:05AM

Key Points

  • Many Americans underestimate how much they'll need to invest for the future.
  • Choosing a safe withdrawal rate is also a point of confusion.
  • Future retirees may overestimate what Medicare will do for them.

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They could jeopardize your retirement security.

When making retirement plans, it's crucial to have a realistic picture of how to meet your future income needs. Unfortunately, many people end up believing common myths that lead to underestimating the amount they'll need saved and overestimating the help they'll get in covering expenses.

You don't want to be one of them, so make sure you know the truth about these three common retirement myths. 

Two adults reviewing paperwork and using a calculator.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Saving 10% of your income for retirement is enough

Saving 10% of your income is common advice you've probably heard before, but unfortunately it can leave you woefully unprepared for retirement -- especially if you don't start saving very early. 

Say, for example, you have an income around the median of $51,480 and you get 2% annual raises until retirement. If you start saving at 35, plan to retire at 65, and earn 7% annual returns, you'd have around $549,643 saved by the time you're ready to leave the workforce if you saved 10% of your income.

If you followed a common rule called the 4% rule, that would give you an annual income of around $21,985 from your investments. You'll need to replace around 80% to 90% of your pre-retirement income -- which would be around $91,420 by retirement age. So even when combined with Social Security, you're likely to fall short. 

Rather than buying into this myth about saving 10% of your income, it's best to set a personalized savings goal, taking into account your age when you start saving, your planned retirement date, and your projected Social Security benefits

2. Following the 4% rule will let you withdraw a safe amount of money

Speaking of the 4% rule, this rule theorizes that you won't run out of money if you withdraw 4% from your retirement investment accounts the first year of retirement and adjust the amount upward by inflation each year.

Unfortunately, this rule is outdated and based on older assumptions about life expectancy and projected returns that no longer stand up in today's world. Recent studies have shown there's as much as a 56% chance of running out of money if future retirees follow the 4% rule, and you can't afford to take that risk. 

Instead, a more conservative 3% rule may be preferable -- or you can adopt an entirely different approach to deciding how much to withdraw, such as the bucket rule. 

3. Counting on Medicare to take care of your healthcare needs in retirement  

Finally, far too many future retirees believe Medicare alone will be sufficient to pay for virtually all their healthcare needs with few or no out-of-pocket costs.

This is a damaging myth that could leave you draining your retirement savings. Medicare is full of exclusions; it has 20% coinsurance costs and it doesn't kick in until 65, even though many retirees leave the workforce before then.

The typical senior couple today will need close to $300,000 to cover out-of-pocket healthcare spending, and these costs are only going to get higher. Retirees who don't plan for that could find themselves draining their nest egg quickly to meet their medical needs. 

It's crucial you plan for care costs, save a reasonable portion of your income, and choose a safe withdrawal rate as a retiree if you don't want to end up in dire straits. The good news is, now you know the truth about three common retirement myths that could lead you astray so you can be better prepared for your future. 

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