Today’s Seniors Reveal 6 Surprising Lessons About Retirement

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Older woman reveals secret to younger woman
fizkes /

Life is full of surprises, and retirement is no different.

Recently, the Employee Benefit Research Institute published its 34th annual Retirement Confidence Survey. The survey of more than 2,500 adults included both workers and retirees.

As it turns out, workers’ expectations about retirement differ greatly from the lived experience of those who have actually reached their golden years.

Here are some surprising things today’s retirees report about their retirement experience.

Social Security is more important than they thought

Social security card with a fee schedule and a calculator
chuckstock /

In the survey, just 35% of workers said they expected Social Security to be a major source of their income during retirement.

However, a much larger percentage of actual retirees — 62% — say they lean heavily on their Social Security benefits.

They didn’t work until 65 — even if they wanted to

Laid-off senior worker
Pormezz /

A majority of workers in the survey expect to continue working until a median age of 65.

However, retirees themselves say they stopped working at a median age of 62, with 70% quitting the workforce before the traditional retirement age of 65.

Stopping work earlier in life isn’t always a choice. Half of retirees overall retire sooner than they expect, and almost 70% say they made the choice for reasons that were beyond their control.

They stopped working all at once

Older female executive worker
AlessandroBiascioli /

More than half of today’s workers — 52% — would like to ease out of the workforce and retire gradually. But that’s not how it typically happens in real life.

Instead, nearly three-quarters of retirees — 74% — said they experienced a “full-time stop” in which they quit working all at once.

After retiring, most never work again

Senior on vacation or retirement in Bali, Indonesia at the beach with a surfboard about to go surfing – Yuri A /

Among today’s workers, 75% expect to pick up some type of paid work once they leave their main job. Of these workers, 40% expect to find a regular part-time job during retirement.

However, just 3 in 10 retirees say they have worked for pay since entering their golden years. That includes a mere 17% who have taken part-time jobs.

The cost of ‘fun’ has been higher than expected

Retired friends – Yuri A /

Many workers dream of travel, frequenting fine restaurants and enjoying concerts and plays once they retire.

However, more than one-third of today’s retirees say the cost of such pleasures is higher than they anticipated. Still, nearly 4 in 5 report they are able to spend money how they want as long as they do so within reason.

They continue to save money even without a paycheck

Senior woman holding a piggy bank
Anatoliy Cherkas /

Despite rising costs and the lack of a steady paycheck, 58% of today’s retirees say they still find a way to save for the future.

In addition, almost two-thirds believe they will save enough to leave an inheritance.

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