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4 rules for reframing your retirement mindset

Shelly  Gigante

Posted on January 31, 2023

Shelly Gigante specializes in personal finance issues. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications and news websites.
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Explain how saving responsibly can help improve your health.

Explore why so many working adults plan to keep working well after the traditional age of retirement. 

Estimate how much you may need to retire comfortably. Hint: It may be less than you think

Saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. But for many, it can feel like an insurmountable goal — especially in recent years with income levels in flux and living expenses on the rise. Some fret that they started too late, believe that they’ll never be able to retire on time, or question the point of putting money away when they’re already so far behind. Others simply resent that the money they set aside for tomorrow deprives them of things they want or need today.

What they really need is a new perspective. By reframing your relationship with saving and, in some cases, redefining what it means to retire, you can potentially spare yourself a significant source of stress. You might also better your chances of reaching your financial goals.

So, for this reframing exercise, repeat after us:

Saving money reduces stress

Saving a portion of every paycheck for future needs is a tough sell — at first. After all, retirement is decades away when you start your career and most of us have competing financial priorities.

But if you put your savings on autopilot, making regular contributions to your 401(k), it doesn’t take long before your account balance shows a sizable sum. Now that’s motivation.

Financial projections that include compounded growth can further stoke your passion for saving, making it easier to stay the course when the desire for instant gratification strikes. A 28-year-old making $75,000 per year who saves 10 percent of her salary annually would amass more than $1.64 million by age 67. That figure assumes a 7 percent pre-retirement investment return. (Calculator: How much should I save for retirement?)

Need more incentive? How’s this: Spending and saving smart is good for your health. Some 73 percent of Americans report that finances are one of the biggest sources of stress in their daily lives, according to a recent survey by Capital One.Stress, of any kind, can affect both your emotional and physical well-being.

By setting money aside for emergencies and for your future retirement needs, you’ll feel more in control. You may also reduce the risk of outliving your savings.

It’s not how much you have — it’s how well you plan

When it comes to retiring comfortably, it’s not necessarily about dollars. More often than not, it's how well you plan.

“It is confidence in the ongoing, predictable, inflation-adjusted income that matters — not how big the pile of money is,” said Peter Glassman, a founder of Wealth Insight Partners in Bethesda, Maryland. “And the strategies to help manage risks when generating income from assets often take years to develop — not something that can necessarily be done on one’s 65th birthday just because they hit their number.”

Along with planning are some short-range considerations when retirement age does roll around.

For example, some retirees choose to delay Social Security beyond their full retirement age to boost the size of their future benefit. Social Security retirement benefits could rise by as much as 8 percent for each year a retiree holds off on collecting, up to age 70. So, a delay in taking benefits may be a simple way to give yourself a guaranteed raise in retirement.

Retirees who do so, however, may need to generate additional income until Social Security kicks in. While the primary purpose is to provide a death benefit, the cash value from a whole life insurance policy could be accessed to provide supplemental retirement income. Keep in mind that accessing the cash value of an insurance policy through loans and withdrawals will reduce its policy value and death benefit as well as increase the chance the policy could lapse and any outstanding loan in excess of the cost basis would be taxable. (Related: How life insurance can help retirement)

Those who under-saved could also consider an annuity to generate a source of guaranteed income in retirement.An annuity is a contract issued by an insurance company that can provide guaranteed monthly income payments for the life of the annuitant in exchange for an upfront lump-sum payment or series of payments. (Related: 5 reasons why you may need an annuity)

Retirees who worry they may outlive their savings can also simply work a year or two longer or downsize to reduce their living expenses, but they need a financial road map so that they can adjust their plan as needed.

“In the absence of knowing — or having a plan — they may not need to be working, but think they have to,” said Glassman. “Or, conversely, they may stop working too soon because they think they are in good shape.”

A financial professional can help you determine how much you may need to retire comfortably.

Retirement is not (necessarily) a hard stop

Many pre-retirees aim to exit the workforce the day they become eligible for Medicare health insurance at age 65 or reach their full retirement age for Social Security (67 for most). But for a growing number of Americans, retirement looks more like a soft landing than a hard stop.

Some transition into retirement over the course of several years, reducing their hours to part time, or leaving their full-time jobs to pursue passion projects for extra income. (Related: Retirement activities and hobbies that can pay off)

More than half (57 percent) of older adults are already working, or plan to continue working, after they reach traditional retirement age, primarily due to financial reasons, according to a survey by AARP.3

Younger workers, in particular, are more likely to say they plan to keep working for as long as they are able, said Chad Tourin, president of Coastal Wealth in Plantation, Florida.

“It's hard to predict what ‘traditional retirement age’ will be for Gen Zers and millennials because it is still years away with far too many unknowns,” he said. “However, I have seen a significant increase in younger clients saying, ‘I don't know if I'll ever retire,’ and I think that can be attributed to the increased importance placed on work-life balance.” (Related: Never want to retire? Here’s how to plan)

Many, he said, are choosing consulting jobs, which lack retirement and health insurance benefits, making it harder to achieve financial security.

Others on the cusp of retirement say they choose to keep working because it gives them a sense of purpose. Whatever their motivation, a gentle glide into retirement can be a financial game-changer. Not only does it enable you to save a bigger cushion, but you also continue to pay into Social Security, possibly increasing your future benefit, both of which may help reduce your risk of outliving your savings.

You may need less than you think

As a rule of thumb, financial professionals have long suggested that people should aim to replace about 80 percent of their pretax pre-retirement income for each year they expect to spend in retirement. Why? They would presumably have their house paid off by the time they retire, they would no longer need to contribute to their retirement savings or Social Security, and they could be finished paying for their children’s college tuition.

But don’t let that figure scare you. A Fidelity study of consumer spending patterns found that most people needed to replace from 55 percent to 80 percent of their pre-retirement income to maintain their living standard in retirement.4 But it need not all come from personal savings. Social Security and other sources of guaranteed income could help cover the balance.

Remember, though, that’s merely a rule of thumb. If you plan to travel, dine out, and upgrade your lifestyle after you retire (which is common in the early years), you might instead need to replace 100 percent of your income or more.

A financial professional can help you determine your ideal retirement income replacement ratio, taking into account your personal savings, the age at which you plan to retire, your guaranteed income streams, and the lifestyle you envision. (Related: The ideal retirement withdrawal rate)

"Reimagining retirement must begin with a discussion around what retirement looks like for that person, because no two people have the same goals and objectives,” said Tourin.

When he meets with clients who are trying to project retirement costs, Tourin asks them to consider their two most expensive days of the week. Invariably, they reply Saturday and Sunday.

“In retirement, every day is a Saturday and Sunday,” he noted. “So, unless you plan on sitting in your house all day doing nothing, it may be difficult to live off less money.”


When it comes to retirement planning, money mindset matters.

By making saving a priority and creating a plan to retire on your own terms, you can set yourself up to succeed — and send financial stress packing for good.

Discover more from MassMutual…

The unexpected problems with early retirement

Tips to help maximize your retirement income

Need a financial professional? Find one here


1 Capital One, “Financial Stress: What Causes It & How to Cope,” Dec. 2, 2022.

2 Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

AARP, “Survey: Older Adults Planning to Work in Retirement for Financial Reasons,” July 21, 2022.

4 Fidelity Viewpoints, “What will my savings cover in retirement?” Aug. 27, 2021.

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The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual and its subsidiaries, employees, and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel.Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of MassMutual.