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What Is the Biggest Retirement Planning Mistake?

April 20, 2017 • By

Last Updated: April 20, 2017

Suze OrmanThat’s easy to answer: Not having a plan!

Building a financially secure retirement doesn’t happen by itself. You need to make a commitment to smart financial decisions long before retirement — starting in your 20s would have been ideal — and then keep carrying through on your retirement plan.

Here are some other big retirement-planning mistakes I want you to avoid:

  1. Not maximizing your Social Security retirement benefit. I strongly encourage you to wait until your Full Retirement Age (FRA) to start receiving your Social Security benefit. That’s between age 66 and age 67 depending on the year you were born. The payout will be 25 to 30 percent higher than what you are eligible for if you start at age 62, which is the earliest you can claim.  And ideally, if you are in good health and there is longevity in your family, I encourage you to devise a financial plan that allows you (or your spouse — whomever is the highest earner) to delay starting until age 70. Every year past your FRA through age 70 entitles you to a payout that will grow by a guaranteed eight percent. You can’t get eight percent guaranteed investing these days!
  2. Not saving on your own. Yes, Social Security will be an important source of income in retirement. But chances are it won’t cover all of your basic needs, to say nothing of a few wants. You don’t have a workplace retirement plan? Then, I want you to save up in a Roth IRA. If you are over 50 this year you can contribute $6,500. That’s $125 a week. Please take a hard look at all your spending and see if you can free up more money to build a strong retirement fund.
  3. Not accounting for medical costs in retirement. It’s so important to understand that Medicare doesn’t cover everything, and not many people have retirement health benefits from an old employer. On average, retirees end up needing to cover about 30 percent of their health care costs.
  4. Not Planning for a Very Long Life. There is a 50 percent chance a 65-year-old woman today will still be alive at age 88. And for a 65-year-old male there is a 50 percent chance he will still be alive at age 85. (Check out this free online life expectancy calculator.) Given the possibility of living a long time, you need to make sure your savings will last longer than you! One smart way to stretch your savings is to keep working in your 60s, even if it is part-time work. Delaying your Social Security start date, and reducing your withdrawal needs from IRAs and other accounts in your 60s will provide you more income for what I hope is a wonderful and long retirement.


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

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About the Author

Suze Orman is an award-winning personal finance expert.


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  4. Joseph M.

    Can you recover your SSA account password if you had to change your email because it was hacked if so how? Thanks.

    • Jenna Y.

      Hi Joseph. If you had to update your email address on your my Social Security account, you will need to update your account information by visiting your local Social Security office. You will need to provide proper identification. We prefer a government issued document with your picture, as proof of identity (driver’s license, passport, etc. In addition, if you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of Social Security benefits, we encourage you to report it. We will investigate all allegations of misuse, gather facts and evidence, and make a decision on whether misuse has occurred. We hope this helps.

  5. Sandra D.

    Tired 0f the negativity and ranting! Let’s see/hear some real positive solutions. Wish now I had interest back in HS in politics; I wouldn’t feel so nieve. I could actually be a part of finding the positive solutions. God bless the USA!

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  8. Norma C.

    With my salary there isn’t any money left for saving …
    I earn under 17,000 a year… and no COLA… so I hope
    I have money for my last day on earth!
    And what does the government do – give raises to the rich and the heck with everyone else..

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  10. Ruth A.

    I am 70.5 yrs, still working and started receiving my SS at age 67. I am healthy, energetic and am considering retirement at 75 yrs. Can I request to halt my SS until I decide to stop working?

    • Linda

      There is no increased benefit after age 70, so no don’t suspend it now.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Ruth. You earn Delayed Retirement Credits when and if you delay getting your benefit up until age 70. The benefit increase no longer applies when you reach age 70, even if you continue to delay taking benefits. If you need further assistance, call our toll free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask to speak with one of our representatives, who are available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks!

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