I am a Financial Advisor: 5 Common Retirement Planning Mistakes I See And How To Avoid Them

Financial Advisor

Retirement can become burdensome without careful planning. Inadequate funds can spoil your plans for leisure and relaxation, and unexpected financial crises might limit your financial freedom. This is why it is important to plan for retirement in advance. Retirement planning builds a strong financial base and protects you against constraints that might negatively impact your retirement life. Through smart strategies, you can reduce the risk of money shortages, and prepare for unforeseen circumstances. Proper retirement planning acts as a shield, allowing you to enjoy the rewards of your hard work and relish your well-deserved retirement.

Working with a financial advisor can help you spot common retirement planning mistakes and adjust your retirement strategy wisely. This article will discuss some of the biggest financial mistakes retirees make and how you can avoid them with careful planning and preparation.

5 common retirement mistakes to avoid

1. Not updating the names of your beneficiaries over time 

One significant financial mistake most retirees often make is neglecting to update their retirement beneficiaries. Over time, your circumstances can change. Changes may include getting married or divorced, having children, adopting a child, the passing of loved ones, and more. All of these events and more can significantly alter your family dynamics and financial obligations. Failing to update beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts in the wake of these life events can lead to financial chaos and legal hassles for your loved ones. For example, if you do not change the beneficiary name from your ex-spouse to your present spouse, your ex could end up receiving your retirement assets in your absence. In such a case, the new spouse would be left without the necessary financial support. In turn, this can lead to legal battles over inheritance rights. This can cause emotional and financial strain on your family. Outdated beneficiary information can also conflict with estate planning. This can create issues with wills and trusts.

It is important to update the names of your beneficiaries as soon as there is any change in your personal life. This includes changes in your marital status, parenthood, etc. It is also important to ensure that the information on your will matches with individual accounts. Every asset, whether a savings account or a 401(k), is required to have a beneficiary. The name of the beneficiary you update in your accounts and funds should be the same as in your will to avoid confusion later. When you update names, you must do so in all your accounts, wills, and trusts.

Here are some steps you can take to do this:

  1. Regularly review your retirement account beneficiaries at least once a year or whenever a significant life event occurs.
  2. Keep a record of beneficiary updates to establish a clear trail of intention.
  3. Ensure consistency and legal validity when updating or changing beneficiary names.
  4. Communicate with your family members openly to ensure the concerned people know their status as your beneficiary.

2. Applying for your Social Security benefits too early in retirement  

Applying for Social Security benefits too early is another of the biggest financial mistakes retirees make. While Social Security benefits are meant for retirement financial security, claiming them early can potentially jeopardize your long-term financial security. Typically, you can apply for your benefits from the age of 62 years. However, doing so can result in a reduced benefit amount. The Social Security Administration (SSA) designates a Full Retirement Age (FRA) at which you are eligible for your full benefit amount. The specific age at which you reach FRA depends on the year you were born. For example, if you were born in the year 1955, your FRA will be 66 years and two months. However, FRA gradually increases for those born in later years. For those born in 1960 or later, the FRA is 67 years. Applying before reaching the FRA can lead to a reduction in benefits, with a potential reduction of up to 30%. If you delay claiming your Social Security benefits beyond your FRA, your Social Security benefit amount will increase. For each year you delay claiming benefits after your FRA, your Social Security check will increase by 8%.

Social Security benefits also have an impact on your income if you decide to continue working. If you continue to work in retirement, whether part-time or full-time, you stand to lose some of your benefits. For every $2 you earn above a predetermined threshold of $21,240 as of 2023, you lose $1 in Social Security benefits. Therefore, it is recommended to delay claiming your Social Security benefits if you plan to continue working in retirement.

Here’s what you can do to optimize your Social Security benefits:

  1. Understand your FRA to ensure you claim your benefits at the right age and receive your full benefit amount.
  2. Before deciding when to apply for Social Security benefits, assess your sources of income. If you are working or have other retirement accounts to depend on, consider delaying receiving your benefits.
  3. Assess other potential sources of retirement income, such as pensions, retirement accounts, and investments, to ensure you are not out of funds.
  4. Consult with a professional who specializes in Social Security benefits.

3. Engaging in risky and speculative investments

While the appeal of high returns can be enticing, some investments can put your retirement nest egg in danger. Risky and speculative investments can offer good returns, but they require a high-risk appetite and a long investment horizon. Retirees have a low-risk appetite because of factors like their age, limited pool of funds, and lack of new income sources. Investing your retirement assets in investments that can potentially lead to significant losses or entail a lot of unpredictability, like cryptocurrencies, can be a gamble.

It is important to maintain a well-diversified portfolio to ensure a balance of risk and reward in retirement.

Here are some tips that can help you create a well-diversified portfolio:

  1. As you approach retirement, gradually shift your portfolio to a more conservative allocation to protect your assets.
  2. Aim to strike the right balance between risk and potential return based on your unique circumstances.
  3. Distribute your investments across various assets, such as equity, bonds, commodities, and real estate, to reduce the impact of poor performance in any one investment.
  4. Avoid making impulsive decisions based on popularity, peer pressure, short-term market trends, or speculative opportunities.
  5. Research well and understand the risks, potential rewards, and historical performance of an asset.

4. Spending like you did in your pre-retirement years, or spending too little in retirement

Another common pitfall that retirees often encounter is continuing to spend in the same manner they did before retirement. This approach can be financially hazardous, especially when combined with a more conservative investment strategy. As you transition into retirement, it is crucial to adjust your spending habits and expectations to align with your new life. Retiring with a more conservative investment approach goes hand in hand with adopting a more conservative budget. While you do not necessarily have to compromise your retirement lifestyle, you must embrace a realistic perspective on your finances. With a fixed income in retirement, maintaining your previous spending patterns can quickly deplete your retirement savings, potentially jeopardizing your financial security in the long run.

It is essential to recognize that your retirement could span 30 years or more. This is why it is important to adopt careful financial planning strategies. Having a large retirement nest egg is great. But blindly depending on the perception of a significant nest egg can lead to overestimating your spending capacity. You could end up spending a major portion of your savings in the initial years of your retirement and struggle later in life.

On the other hand, underspending during retirement can also have detrimental consequences. It is natural to hesitate when it comes to dipping into the savings you have worked hard to accumulate. However, being overly conservative with your expenses can lead to missed opportunities to enjoy your retirement to the fullest. This can lead to stress, too, which can affect your mental health.

Here are some things you can do to avoid both overspending and underspending during retirement:

  1. Determine an appropriate retirement date and develop a well-balanced withdrawal strategy that can last you a lifetime.
  2. Monitor your financial situation and adjust your spending habits as needed to maintain a balanced and sustainable lifestyle. For instance, some years may demand more spending. If you are buying a new home or shifting cities, you will likely spend more. If and when this happens, you can move to a relatively more frugal lifestyle for the next year to balance out your spending.
  3. Strike a balance between responsible financial management and indulging in well-deserved experiences to ensure you enjoy retirement without endangering your long-term financial security.

5. Failing to enjoy life fully before reaching retirement

Retirement planning is undoubtedly important, but it should not come at the cost of missing out on the present. The anticipation of retirement can span over decades. This can often lead you to defer life’s joys and experiences with the assumption that there will be ample time to relish them during retirement. However, the reality is that the future is uncertain, and unexpected events can reshape your plans anytime. It is important to strike a balance between planning for the future and enjoying the present moment. The idea that there will be opportunities to travel, spend time with your loved ones, pursue hobbies, and explore new adventures after retirement can create a tendency to postpone these experiences. Postponing physical activities like travel plans can also be detrimental as your health and mobility can decline over time. Waiting to pursue active experiences could result in missed opportunities or reduced enjoyment due to physical limitations at a later stage. Constantly deferring joy can lead to a sense of dissatisfaction and restlessness. The postponement mindset can also affect your relationships.

Here are some tips that can help ensure you’re living your life to the fullest:

  1. Strike a balance between responsible retirement planning and enjoying the present.
  2. Allocate time and resources for experiences that bring joy and fulfillment now while still maintaining a diligent approach to saving for the future.
  3. Compile a list of activities, places, and experiences you want to enjoy before retirement. Prioritize them and work towards checking items off the list regularly.
  4. Be prepared to adapt your retirement plans if your circumstances or priorities change. This will ensure you have the flexibility to enjoy life regardless of unforeseen events.

To conclude

If you are not careful, the retirement mistakes mentioned above can leave you financially vulnerable in your golden years. They can cause stress and force you to live a compromised lifestyle. You can avoid these blunders by paying attention to your changing needs, being up to date with rules and regulations surrounding your retirement assets, keeping a realistic view, and consulting your financial advisor regularly. It is also important to keep an open mind and keep room for modifications in your retirement plan.

For additional information on how to create a customized retirement plan for your specific retirement goals, visit Dash Investments or email me directly at dash@dashinvestments.com.

Jonathan Dash
Founder and President
Email: info@dashinvestments.com