The Retirement Money Myth

Are you relying on a 401K or financial intelligence?

We’ve spilled a lot of ink in books and on this website talking about how awful 401(k)s (and plans like them around the world) are for retirement. Besides the fact that you have no control over 401(k)s, your match isn’t a gain, and the high fees eat away at your meager earnings (if you have them), there is one assumption when it comes to 401(k) investing that is fundamentally flawed. That assumption is that you’ll have a lower cost of living when you’re retired than when you were working.

Living poorer

The general logic is that because you have things like your mortgage paid off, travel less, buy less, and live a less active lifestyle, you’ll spend less when you’re retired.

To me, that sounds like a recipe for living poorer. While this might have been true when life expectancy was lower and people weren’t living as healthy lifestyles as they are now, it’s no longer true that once you retire you’re on the slow downhill slide.

I’m in my sixties and I still travel around the world, work out regularly, and love to live life to the fullest. I couldn’t imagine retiring into oblivion, sitting in an easy chair and watching television until I fall asleep during the six o’clock news. To me, that’s living a poor life. And doctors agree. Those who are active later in life live longer than those who aren’t.

Higher costs

Even if I were to concede that living poorer in retirement is a good thing, which I never would, the numbers don’t add up. In reality, you’ll spend as much or more money after age 50 than you did leading up to 50.

According to a recent article on Smart Money, “Living to 100? That Will Be $3.5M,” the average money spent by age 50 is $1.5 million and the average spent between 50 to 81 — the average life expectancy —is $1.4 million. Plan on living to 100? That will cost an additional $630,000, for a total of $2.3 million in the last half of your life. That’s nearly a million more than the first 50 years. Life isn’t less expensive in retirement, even if you’re trying to live frugally. It’s more expensive.

Most Americans can’t retire.

This is bad news for the majority of Americans who don’t have enough money to retire even with a lower quality of life in the golden years.

“The percentage of American workers who said they have less than $10,000 in savings grew to 43 percent in 2010, according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute quoted on CNN Money. Nearly a quarter of the workforce said they have postponed their planned retirement in the past year and a CareerBuilder.com survey reports that 61 percent of workers say they are now living paycheck to paycheck, as compared to 43 percent in 2007,” says Laura Bassett writing for the Huffingtonpost.com.

Retire rich with financial education.

As more and more boomers reach retirement, there will increasingly be two kinds of people, the poor and the rich. Those with a poor financial education will be poor and those who are financially intelligent will be rich.

Very simply, those who understand the importance of investing for cash flow in assets that hedge against inflation will prosper while those who take the easy route of throwing money in a 401(k) will face poverty as the costs of retirement far outpace their meager earnings and savings.

Today is the day to start and improve your financial education.

Are you ready for retirement? If not, what have you been doing wrong? How will you begin to fix your path to retirement so that you can live active, live fully, and be rich in the last half of your life?

To increase your financial IQ, check our free, financial education resources here.

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