20 Retirement Plan Mistakes to Avoid


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20 Retirement Plan Mistakes to Avoid

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20 Retirement Plan Mistakes to Avoid

Navigating retirement planning can be fraught with potential missteps, so we’ve gathered valuable insights from Founders and CEOs to steer you clear of common pitfalls. From the importance of balancing current living with future savings to the necessity of updating your retirement plans regularly, explore the diverse perspectives of 20 experts to avoid these retirement plan mistakes.

  • Balance Living Now with Retirement Saving
  • Avoid Excessive Investment Risk
  • Start Saving Early for Compound Growth
  • Protect Retirement Savings from Fraud
  • Plan for Inflation Impact on Savings
  • Seek Financial Advice for Retirement
  • Plan for a Longer Retirement Duration
  • Regularly Review and Adjust Retirement Plan
  • Avoid Over-Reliance on Children for Support
  • Minimize Tax Liabilities for Inherited Assets
  • Start Saving Early and Consistently
  • Optimize Spousal Retirement Benefits
  • Choose Appropriate Life Insurance
  • Diversify Your Retirement Portfolio
  • Retire Debt-Free for Financial Ease
  • Plan for Healthcare Costs in Retirement
  • Delay Social Security for Maximum Benefit
  • Prioritize Homeownership in Retirement
  • Update Retirement Plans Regularly
  • Invest in Social Infrastructure for Retirement

Balance Living Now with Retirement Saving

Don’t put all your focus on saving and planning for retirement and forget about living for today. This is a common mistake, particularly among those engaged in the pursuit of Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE), and something I’m somewhat guilty of myself. Your best years are now, and while it is important/vital to plan and save for a comfortable retirement, don’t let that be to the detriment of enjoying life now. The best approach is balance, not constant deferral of gratification.

Jonathan WrightJonathan Wright
Founder, Aiming For FIRE

Avoid Excessive Investment Risk

One of the worst mistakes you can make with your retirement plan is taking on too much risk, especially if you’re not comfortable with the ups and downs, or if you don’t fully grasp how certain investments work. Let me tell you about this airline pilot I met back in the day. He put his entire 401(k)—about a million bucks—into five penny stocks, hoping to strike it rich. But instead of doubling or tripling his money, he ended up with just $200,000 left because he didn’t understand those investments and took way too much risk. So, do yourself a favor: educate yourself, diversify wisely, and steer clear of unnecessary gambles. Your future self will thank you for it.

Raman SinghRaman Singh
Your Personalized CFO, Singh Private Wealth Management

Start Saving Early for Compound Growth

One retirement plan mistake that individuals should strive to avoid is failing to start saving and investing early enough. The power of compounding returns over time is a crucial factor in building a substantial retirement nest egg, and delaying contributions can significantly hinder long-term growth potential.

Let me illustrate this with a simple example:

Imagine two individuals, Sarah and John, both aged 25. Sarah begins contributing $5,000 annually to her retirement account, while John decides to wait until age 35 to start saving but contributes $6,000 per year from that point on.

Assuming a 7% annual rate of return, by the time they both reach age 65, Sarah’s retirement savings would have grown to approximately $1,142,000, despite her smaller annual contributions. On the other hand, John’s delayed start and higher contributions would only amount to around $654,000 at age 65.

This example highlights the significant impact that early saving and investing can have on retirement preparedness. Even though John contributed more each year, Sarah’s decade-long head start allowed her savings to benefit from the compounding effect for a more extended period, resulting in a substantially larger retirement fund.

The opportunity cost of delaying retirement contributions, even for a few years, can be substantial and challenging to make up for in the later stages of one’s career. By starting to save and invest as early as possible, individuals can leverage the power of compound interest and potentially achieve their retirement goals with smaller annual contributions over a longer time horizon.

Of course, it’s never too late to start saving for retirement, but recognizing the importance of early and consistent contributions can help individuals avoid the mistake of falling behind and potentially jeopardizing their desired retirement lifestyle.

Ben WalkerBen Walker
Founder and CEO, Ditto Transcripts

Protect Retirement Savings from Fraud

At Silver Fox Secure, where I co-founded the company with my father, we encounter various financial strategies aimed at protecting individuals’ assets, including those of seniors planning for retirement. A common mistake we’ve noticed through our work is the underestimation of the impact identity theft and fraud can have on retirement savings. Given my experience in identity theft protection and credit monitoring, I can confidently advise on the importance of securing personal information as part of your retirement plan.

For example, we once assisted a retiree who was unaware that her identity had been stolen and used to open several credit accounts, draining resources she had earmarked for her retirement years. This kind of financial exploitation directly undermines the safety of retirement savings and can go unnoticed without proper monitoring. Our work emphasizes the need for continuous vigilance over one’s financial and personal data to prevent such exploitation, ensuring that retirement plans are not derailed by the actions of fraudsters.

Implementing adequate protective measures, like those offered at Silver Fox Secure, is crucial. It involves combining state-of-the-art identity protection with proactive credit monitoring solutions. This approach not only alerts you to potential fraud but also helps in managing personal banking securely, an aspect often overlooked in traditional retirement planning. Considering the rise in sophisticated scams targeting the elderly, ensuring your retirement plan includes protective measures against identity theft is not just advisable; it’s essential for guarding against the unforeseen erosion of your hard-earned assets.

Jenna TriggJenna Trigg
Co-Founder, Silver Fox Secure

Plan for Inflation Impact on Savings

Ignoring the impact of inflation on retirement savings is a critical oversight. Calculating retirement needs based on current expenses without considering the future cost of living can lead to a significant shortfall in savings.

To mitigate the risk of inflation eroding the purchasing power of retirement savings, incorporating an annual inflation rate into the planning process is essential. This adjustment ensures that retirement funds are projected to grow in a manner that preserves the desired lifestyle throughout the retirement years.

I advise regularly revising the assumed inflation rate based on economic trends and adjusting savings goals accordingly to provide a more accurate representation of future financial needs.

Bert HofhuisBert Hofhuis
Founder, Every Investor

Seek Financial Advice for Retirement

One common retirement plan mistake to avoid is not seeking financial advice. Let’s say you’re considering investing a large portion of your retirement savings in a particular stock because it’s been performing well lately. A financial advisor could offer valuable insight into diversification, risk management, and long-term planning. They might suggest spreading your investments across various assets to reduce risk or highlight potential pitfalls in your chosen stock. Ultimately, their guidance can help you prevent making risky moves and help you build a more resilient retirement strategy.

Johannes LarssonJohannes Larsson
Founder and CEO, JohannesLarsson.com

Plan for a Longer Retirement Duration

A prevalent error in retirement planning is underestimating the duration that savings must endure. With advances in health care and increasing life expectancy, it’s not uncommon for people to live well into their 80s or 90s. This means that your retirement savings may need to sustain you for 20 or even 30 years. It’s important to plan for the long term and make sure your savings can support you throughout your retirement journey. Failing to do so could result in financial struggles and a lower quality of life in your later years. So, it’s crucial to consider all factors and aim for a longer retirement timeline when creating a retirement plan. Don’t just assume that you will only need your savings for the average life expectancy—plan for a longer and more secure future. That’s the key to avoiding this common retirement planning mistake.

Ryan NelsonRyan Nelson
Founder, RentalRealEstate

Regularly Review and Adjust Retirement Plan

Setting a retirement plan without regular reviews and adjustments can lead to missed opportunities and potential shortfalls. Life’s unpredictability means that retirement goals, financial situations, and external economic factors will change over time, necessitating periodic reassessments of the plan.

By regularly reviewing and adjusting the retirement strategy, individuals can ensure it remains aligned with their evolving needs and aspirations. Financial planning experts recommend annual reviews or consultations following significant life events to keep retirement plans on track, ensuring a secure and fulfilling retirement.

Gillian DewarGillian Dewar
Chief Financial Officer, Crediful

Avoid Over-Reliance on Children for Support

One retirement planning mistake I’ve observed, especially in third-world countries’ culture, is the over-reliance on adult children for financial support during retirement. Many Filipinos grow up with the belief that their children should financially support them later in life as a form of payback for raising them. While this sentiment is understandable, it can lead to significant burdens for the children.

Adult children often find themselves in the challenging position of the ‘sandwich generation,’ where they’re caught between supporting their aging parents and taking care of their own families. This situation can not only strain their financial resources but also hinder their ability to plan for their own retirement.

Instead of counting on children for retirement support, it’s crucial to prepare independently. Maximizing employer retirement benefits, increasing contributions to government pension funds, and investing in life insurance policies with investment components like VUL, along with critical illness or disability riders, are proactive steps to ensure a self-reliant and worry-free retirement.

Danilo MirandaDanilo Miranda
Managing Director, Presenteverso

Minimize Tax Liabilities for Inherited Assets

In my work specializing in estate planning and elder law, I’ve encountered several mistakes individuals make when planning for retirement. One of the most prevalent and impactful is not considering the mechanism for transferring retirement accounts and other assets to beneficiaries in a way that minimizes tax liabilities and avoids probate. As seen through my roles as a featured expert and educator in this field, along with my extensive experience dealing with seniors, military veterans, and their legal issues, I have a deep understanding of how these mistakes can significantly affect one’s retirement planning and an estate’s future viability.

For instance, a common example that comes to mind involves the mismanagement of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Many people are not aware that non-spouse beneficiaries who inherit IRAs are required to withdraw the entire balance within 10 years under the SECURE Act, potentially leading to significant tax implications. An individual I advised had not designated a beneficiary for their IRA, and as a result, the account became part of the estate, going through probate and subjecting it to an accelerated distribution schedule, which ultimately led to a hefty tax bill for the heirs. This situation could have been mitigated with proper beneficiary designations and perhaps the use of a trust to control the distribution more effectively.

Additionally, failing to consider the impact of Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from retirement accounts is another mistake that can erode one’s retirement savings more quickly than anticipated. A client once failed to start their RMDs at the right age, leading to a 50% penalty on the amount that should have been withdrawn — a significant financial hit to their retirement savings. As an adjunct professor and an author on these topics, I often highlight the importance of understanding the intricacies of retirement accounts and the tax laws that govern them. Careful planning with a professional who is well-versed in these areas can help avoid such costly mistakes, ensuring that your retirement savings work for you and your beneficiaries as efficiently as possible.

Marty BurbankMarty Burbank
Owner, OC Elder Law

Start Saving Early and Consistently

A retirement plan mistake you should avoid is not saving enough money. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they have plenty of time to save for retirement, and they end up procrastinating until it’s too late. As a result, they don’t have enough savings to last them through their golden years.

This mistake can be easily avoided by starting to save early and consistently. Even small amounts put away regularly can grow into a substantial retirement fund over time. Additionally, taking advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans or Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) can help boost savings and provide tax benefits.

Amira IrfanAmira Irfan
Founder and CEO, A Self Guru

Optimize Spousal Retirement Benefits

Overlooking the optimization of spousal retirement benefits, including Social Security, can result in not maximizing the combined benefits for couples. A lack of strategy in claiming Social Security benefits, especially for couples with different income levels, may lead to reduced total benefits.

Collaborating on retirement planning, including exploring survivor benefits and timing claims, can significantly enhance the couple’s financial outlook in retirement. I recommend seeking advice from a retirement planning specialist who can uncover strategies specifically suited to the couple’s financial situation and goals, ensuring a comprehensive approach to maximizing retirement income.

Shawn PlummerShawn Plummer
CEO, The Annuity Expert

Choose Appropriate Life Insurance

A retirement plan mistake to avoid is omitting factoring in life insurance and not opting for the type of policy that works best with your plans.

For example, whole life insurance accrues cash value, which you can draw on as an income source in your retirement years.

But if you want to pay less for life insurance and focus on investing as much disposable income as you can into tax-advantaged retirement accounts, you could choose a simple term life insurance policy to ensure an adequate death benefit.

Whatever type of life insurance you choose, it’s in your best interest to buy it as early in your career as possible. The younger you are, the more affordable your rate—which can also allow you more income to possibly earmark as part of your retirement plan.

Michelle RobbinsMichelle Robbins
Licensed Insurance Agent, Clearsurance.com

Diversify Your Retirement Portfolio

A portfolio heavily invested in a single asset class, such as stocks, carries a high risk, especially as one approaches retirement age. To protect retirement savings from market volatility and ensure a stable financial foundation, diversification across various asset classes is strongly recommended. A balanced mix of stocks, bonds, and other securities can help mitigate risks and smooth out the impact of market fluctuations on the investment portfolio. Regularly reviewing and adjusting the investment mix in response to changing market conditions and personal risk tolerance is crucial for maintaining an optimal balance.

Jim PendergastJim Pendergast
Senior Vice President, altLINE Sobanco

Retire Debt-Free for Financial Ease

The biggest mistake is to retire with debt. When you have multiple debts in your life, you have to pay a huge amount of interest. You tend to exhaust your savings quickly. Understand that you will have a limited income after retirement, which will put additional pressure on your finances. So, it would be best to explore all the options to pay off debt before retirement.

Lyle SolomonLyle Solomon
Principal Attorney, Oak View Law Group

Plan for Healthcare Costs in Retirement

A common retirement planning mistake is underestimating the cost of healthcare during retirement. Many people assume that their healthcare providers will cover all their healthcare needs, failing to account for out-of-pocket expenses such as premiums, deductibles, and non-covered services.

To avoid the common pitfall of underestimating healthcare costs in retirement, it’s recommended to conduct comprehensive research into potential medical expenses and explore protective measures such as health savings accounts (HSAs) or supplemental insurance policies.

Planning for these expenses in advance can significantly alleviate financial stress, allowing for a more comfortable and secure retirement. It’s advisable to consult with a financial planner specializing in retirement and healthcare planning to tailor a strategy that best suits individual needs.

Jay XiaoJay Xiao
Co-Founder, SuretyNow

Delay Social Security for Maximum Benefit

One retirement plan mistake to avoid is claiming Social Security too early. While it’s true that you’re entitled to start taking retirement benefits as early as 62, it might be wise to hold off if you can afford it. The Social Security Administration (SSA) notes that taking your benefit as early as that will result in reduced benefits. The amount you get would be roughly 30% lower than if you waited until your full retirement age of 67.

By waiting until you reach 67, you can boost your monthly payout and potentially enjoy a more financially secure retirement. So, patience can be a wise strategy when it comes to maximizing your Social Security benefits.

Joe ChappiusJoe Chappius
Financial Planner, Tax Climate

Prioritize Homeownership in Retirement

Ignoring property ownership is the biggest pitfall for retirees, as without homeownership, your freedom will be largely illusory. Imagine being in your 80s, and suddenly your landlord decides to sell the property and move you out on short notice. Almost no amount of investment income will be worth living with that possibility every day, making homeownership an essential requirement. Moreover, being at the mercy of property markets is very stressful for a retiree. What if there are no suitable properties locally? What if you need to move away from friends and family simply because of a dry market? All of this can be avoided by ensuring that you own property in retirement, and ignoring this consideration is perhaps the biggest mistake a retiree can make.

Oliver SavillOliver Savill
CEO and Founder, AssessmentDay

Update Retirement Plans Regularly

For instance, if you established your retirement plan years ago and have never reviewed it, you may be losing out on prospects for development or not taking changes in your financial circumstances into consideration. Furthermore, retirement account-related tax laws and regulations are subject to change, so it’s critical to stay informed and make any necessary modifications. You may be endangering your later-life financial stability if you fail to update your retirement plan regularly.

David BoydDavid Boyd
Co-Founder, Frequent Flyer Credit Cards

Invest in Social Infrastructure for Retirement

Don’t underestimate loneliness, especially for those who are single or widowed. Too often, financial planning eclipses social and emotional preparation.

I once coached a recently retired widow who, despite having a robust nest egg, found herself adrift without her usual work community and spousal companionship. Her days felt purposeless, and her zest for life fizzled. We had to build an entire strategy around forging new connections.

The antidote is proactively investing in your social infrastructure with the same diligence as your 401(k). Take stock of meetup groups, volunteering gigs, hobbyist clubs, and community centers in your radius. Commit to regularly attending a few to spark organic relationships.

Consider senior living facilities with vibrant event calendars and common spaces. Having optional activities and chance encounters with peers right outside your door can be a game-changer. As an African proverb wisely states, “Alone, you may go faster. But together, you will go further.”

Even for couples, cultivating individual friend groups and interests protects against codependency. Partners may have different social needs or, eventually, different lifespans.

Jonathan HartleyJonathan Hartley
Dating Coach & Editor, PositivesDating

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