Retirement Myth Busting

When I retired, a few well-meaning individuals informed me that the ideal retirement lifestyle for “someone like me” was 30/30/30.   Meaning: 30% of my time focused on work, 30% of my time focused on volunteering, and 30% of my time focused on leisure. Simple as that – go do it.   Besides the fact it didn’t feel right, it’s taken me a while to realize that there are 2 strong myths associated with not only that 30/30/30 “ideal”, but retirement in general.

So here are two myth busters:

Myth #1: All retirees these days need to work.

This “need to work” is a double-edged myth.  Unfortunately, the need to work is a financial reality for many retirees who need the supplemental income (or health benefits) that working in their retirement years generates.  Interestingly, that is not the “someone like me” who saved intensively and meets the FIRE profile (Financially Independent, Retired Early – even though I wasn’t aware of this term while doing it!)

The other side of this myth is that working can be a lifestyle choice – work can satisfy a whole bunch of other needs. Someone entering the retirement life stage does need to understand what needs are truly important to them – this happens with some intense self-reflection.  Working in retirement might be a part of their total life portfolio to fill these needs that go beyond financial:

  • Status and Identity.   In your previous life stage, work probably provided you with a significant portion of your status and identity.   How will you create identity in this next life stage? I’ve spoken to some retirees that had to simultaneously deal with losing work identity and “parent” identity as their adult children truly left them as empty nesters.   Working in retirement might be your best solution for filling this “Who Am I?” need, but it’s not the only option.
  • Achievement & Utility.   Again, work life was often the primary source of feelings of achievement and being “needed”. If this is a value-based need moving forward, what in your total life portfolio will help fill it? Is working for compensation really the best option?
  • Social Affiliation.   I have pointed out to many people that when I stopped full-time work, I lost 90% of my “regular” connections. My husband just could not fill all my daily people interaction needs. Understanding what your relationship profile looks like entering retirement and what you want it to look like could mean work is a critical going-forward solution.   By relationship profile I mean: professional relationships, social friends, spouse/significant other, and family.
  • Time Management. Working provided structure; it dictated when to wake up, when to eat, when to run errands, where to be at what time of the day.   And while many a retiree will say “I never want to have a schedule again”, people do need to have a sense of a daily schedule and will, whether written or unwritten, have one. Some people need more time management than others. (I need quite a bit.)   Working in retirement can help someone craft a self-controlled schedule that makes a total life portfolio flow.

The work or not to work question really requires an individual to understand his/her own needs. And then to consider whether working is the best option to meet those needs.

And the reality (breaking the myth – got to it finally) is all retirees do not work!   Recent surveys are consistent, so I’ll just quote a couple.   Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies report in 2015 indicates that while 54% of those 50+ have stated they plan to work at least part time in retirement (perhaps believing the myth), the numbers don’t play out – only 5% of actual retirees are working (even part time).  And a CareerBuilder survey has that number at 25%.  Not even a majority.

So, no, all retirees do not need to work, nor do all retirees work (even part time). The best part of retirement is figuring out what is best for you!


Myth #2: All retirees these days volunteer.

While there is a significant amount of research that points of the positive benefits of volunteering (as well as the positive benefits of exercise, meditation, social interaction, and even sleeping enough!), in fact most retires do not volunteer. The same Transamerica study had (only) 24% of retirees doing regular volunteer work.

Adding volunteering to a retirement life stage portfolio of activities can be great if it’s matched up with an individual’s needs, values and interests. Volunteer work could in fact satisfy some of the same needs that working for compensation can – identity & status, accomplishment & utility, social affiliation and/or time management!


So having broken these myths, are working and volunteering in my life portfolio of activities right now? Yes and no.

Instead of the 30/30/30 plan that was idealized for me, I have a “quarter plan” – 25% of my time on relationship development, 25% of my time on being active and fit, 25% of my time on learning and having fun, and 25% of my time on compensation-based work.

Will this balance change as retirement life progresses?  Probably!   But that is the freedom of retirement – being able to choose among all the possibilities what is right for you and not have to live the myths.

What myths are you busting in your own reality of retirement?



Picture Credit: Pixabay

13 thoughts on “Retirement Myth Busting

  1. I submitted my 2 week notice this week and will be taking the jump next week.. Your posts have answered a lot of questions I have been dwelling on…. Thanks …see ya on the other side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG… how exciting! Let me know how I can help in any way (virtually). Take it slow and easy … the transition won’t happen overnight.

      And thanks for your kind words about my posts. It’s nice to hear that they helped someone!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The myth around work is super interesting. I wonder if the big gap between those who say they will work and the number who actually do also has to do with ageism, health problems and other issues that would stand in the way of working, even if you want or need to? While that’s a different reasoning than everyone suddenly realizing they don’t actually want or need to work, it’s still a super huge consideration to keep in mind. I read too many people writing things like, “If we run out of money, we’ll just go back to work,” but that completely ignores the reality that you can’t always just snap your fingers and be gainfully employed. Just ask all the seniors who are greeters at Walmart: Are they really happy that’s the best job they could get? Are they thrilled to be earning minimum wage? I’m sure some are, but most aren’t.

    And on social interaction, I think a ton about this! We’re definitely going to have to find many ways to fill that gap, since we’re going to lose 95% of our social time when we quit!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A few months ago I chatted with the cashier at the grocery. (You can do that mid-day, mid-week when the stores are empty!). She told me she went back to work because she missed being with people and talking. It wasn’t about the money at all…it was to fill the connections void! I didn’t ask her about previous career, but the social aspect was why she was working in her retirement. And being retired now 19 months, I can understand it. I am trying other things right now as I don’t want that level of structure back in my life, but I can totally understand why someone would take minimum wage to get the social connection.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s funny that the media always leads with the best thing to do in retirement is WORK. Glad to see so few people are listening!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe it’s the sources of media we look at? Coming from another MegaCorp, I think our media sources are skewed a bit! I’m trying to broaden out to retirement sites that have a broader life focus.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the great myth busters, Pat. Why would anyone leave the confines of work only to confine themselves further to a numerically driven schedule? Makes no sense to me at all!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh my. I just agreed to do a consulting project, and did not realize the client expectation was I do the work “in the office, daily”…. What?!? Having a conversation about this on Monday … Already told consulting group that was not my vision (and how would I break contract if it remains the expectation) Hopefully the client will bend…I cannot even imagine being on a driven schedule like that again. I like consulting work to be on my own schedule (since it’s doing data analysis on my own). I agree that I don’t want the confines anymore…it’s why I was doing consulting projects – mind stimulating work (for me…I know data analysis sounds like torture to many) on my own schedule….just an endpoint target date. Yeah, this has me in a tizzy today!


  5. Extra money would be nice however after a lifetime of physical work that has taken a toll on the body Mr. P is happy to watch the grass grow and mow only when necessary. Not sure why others think they need to make a schedule for others… retired or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we want others to reflect what we are doing because it then validates us. I’ve learned I do need a daily “schedule” or plan…even if that plan has on it read blogs and respond at 9AM! Finding what I specifically needed and not letting others tell me what I should do was a learning experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember seeing that statistic about people thinking they’ll work in retirement versus those that actually do. Of course some of the disparity is due to those who cannot find a job, but I imagine that a lot of the time, the retiree just decides that, after enjoying their freedom, decides “to heck with that!” My husband thought he’d do some consulting after he retired, but now has no interest in it at all. There’s just too much else to do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am doing some consulting myself right now…and wondering a bit how much longer to even look for projects. I like the mental stimulation of the actual work, but the politics of the workplace are still around you even as a consultant…maybe even more so! I wonder where I’ll be in another year!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s