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Are You Making This Dangerous Retirement Planning Mistake?

April 27, 2017 • By

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Last Updated: April 27, 2017

NOTE:  A version of this article was previously published on Suze Orman’s website on April 7, 2016.
Suze OrmanI am concerned that many of you are banking on a retirement strategy that may not work out. According to a national survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, more than four in 10 Americans say they plan to keep working past the age of 65.

For many of today’s workers, the motivation to delay retirement is financial. A concern they lack the savings to cover all their retirement costs, including health care expenses.

It’s a logical plan to address a major concern, but I need you to listen to me: thinking you can just keep working may be unrealistic. In the same survey, just 15 percent of retirees said they kept working past age 65. That’s a serious gap between expectations (40 percent plan to keep working past 65) and real life (Only 15 percent kept working after age 65.)

Many of those who retired earlier than they expected were sidelined by illness or disability. Taking care of a family member can also derail plans, as can being laid off or pushed out of a job by downsizing.

If your retirement plan is centered around the assumption you will just keep working longer, please consider these important steps:

  • Keep saving. If you aren’t saving for retirement, or pushing yourself to save even more, you’re putting your future security at risk. The best way to navigate the unknown is to hope for the best and plan for the worst. In this case, not being able to keep working longer is a “worst” case scenario. Plan for that by committing to save as much as possible today in your retirement accounts.
  • Keep Sharp. I know you’ve heard plenty about keeping your work skills up-to-date, but many of you still haven’t done much. If there’s no on-the-job training available, check for online courses; there are plenty of terrific web-based classes you can take. Or look into whether your local community college has useful courses in your field.
  • Keep Fit. The healthier you are, the less susceptible you may be to certain illnesses. There’s also the mind-body connection; I’m a believer that when you feel physically strong, it spills over into a frame of mind that can make you more valuable at work. Besides, I want you to be in the best shape possible for when you do retire, so you can enjoy yourself!


SSA does not endorse any particular financial advisory product or service.

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About the Author

Suze Orman, Personal Finance Expert

Suze Orman is an award-winning personal finance expert.


  1. lynn

    My full retirement age is 66 + 2mos. We’ve been married a long time. My husband retired at his full retirement age and receives his SS money. I thought I read somewhere that I could apply & receive a portion of his SS money, in addition to him already receiving his full amount. I would still be working but not full time. I would not apply until my FRA, but would not apply for my money but use his money for several years and then apply for my SS retirement later in the future, probably 70yo.
    This seems crazy but thought I would ask?
    Thank you

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Lynn, thanks for reading our blog. You may be able to get spouse’s benefits but, under existing law, if you are eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a spouse, you must apply for both benefits and you’ll receive the higher of the two benefits. This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have also applied for the other. See our Retirement Planner: Recent Social Security Claiming Changes for more information.

      You can work and receive Social Security retirement benefits; however, if younger than full retirement age, there are earnings limits. For 2020, the yearly limit is $18,240. If retiring in the middle of the year and you have already earned more than the yearly limit, there is a special rule that applies to earnings for one year. Under this rule, you can get a Social Security benefit for any whole month that you are “retired” and earning $1,520 or less. Use our earnings test calculator to see how earnings may affect your benefit payments and check out our Getting Benefits While Working web page.

  2. Lyn357

    The IRS taxed my social security for 2017 . IMy social security was below the taxable amount and charge me a penalty
    I’m very upset I if I owe I have to pay . . Please help someone

  3. Lyn

    The IRS taxed my social security for 2017 . IMy social security was below the taxable amount and charge me a penalty
    I’m very upset I if I owe I have to pay . . Please help someone

  4. Lawanda S.

    5/23/2019 does it again! Quite a perceptive site and a well-written post. Keep up the good work!

  5. Lynn M.

    “However, if your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them (at age 62 or older), you can receive benefits on his record if you have been divorced for at least two years.”

    The above is an answer Ray Fernandez gave on this forum. However, when I applied for my benefits at age 63, my first statement from SSA said that I would be getting xxx number of dollars as a wife/ex-wife and xxx number of dollars on my own record. At that time I had NOT been divorced for two years. I made it very clear to the agent in the SSA office that I had only been divorced for one year but she still figured my amount based on my ex-spouse’s record.

    To this day, six years later I’m not sure how this affected what I receive, but I just wanted to point out that I got so many conflicting answers when I pursued this that I gave up.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Lynn. If your ex-spouse had not applied for retirement benefits, but only qualified for them, and you filed to receive benefits on his record, then you would have to have been divorced for at least two years. But if your ex
      was receiving benefits when you filed, the two year divorce duration is not an issue.

      • Lynn M.

        At the time I filed for my benefits my ex-spouse had NOT applied for his benefits. However, at that time I had no way of knowing if he had or had not filed because it is confidential information that cannot be revealed. After the fact, during a court procedure, a judge asked him if he was receiving Social Security and he said he was not. So of course now I know that he had not applied for benefits at the time I filed, therefore the Social Security people were incorrect in figuring my benefit using his record too. Am I correct in this?
        P.S. I didn’t file against his record. It was the Social Security office that decided to file using his record.

        • Lynn M.

          Still waiting for your reply on this. Did Social Security err in figuring my amount using his record?


    I have worked past age 65 now 67- SS has continued to take full amount from me although I reach total by Sept of each year. I started taking my benefits at age 62, what do they do with the extra money that I have been paying all those years? It doesn’t seem to be showed any where.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Michael, thank you for reaching out. When you reach full retirement age, we recalculate your benefit amount to leave out the months when we reduced or withheld benefits due to your excess earnings. In addition, each year we review your work record. If your earnings for the prior year are higher than one of the years we used to compute your retirement benefit, we will recalculate your benefit amount. We pay the increase retroactive to January the year after you earned the month.

      To inquire about your benefits, contact your local Social Security office or call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available to help you Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

  7. Ruth T.

    My Mom must be in the 1% she’s 81.5 years old and is finally retiring. She said she had to keep working because she can’t afford to retire.

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