Facing Up to Some Hard Retirement Truths


Quick tips to put you on the right track toward saving sufficiently for your retirement.

Like many things that seem to be off in the distant future, saving for retirement is all too easy to ignore. Today’s bills, debts, and needs too often get in the way of establishing and sticking to a long-term plan. But study after study about the state of retirement tells us that these built-in excuses for not saving enough can come back to haunt retirees. The negative impacts can be felt in the form of having to work longer than expected, having to forego activities or purchases you planned on, or even taking on part-time work while in retirement.

Related: Nearing Retirement: Signs You Might Be Spending Too Much

Let’s take a look at some collected statistics about retirement. Alongside each, we’ll include a tip for making a different truth for yourself as a retirement saver.

Truth: Fewer than half of all working-age people have tried to calculate how much they will need to save to live comfortably in retirement (source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2015). Among those still on the job, only 48% have tried to figure out the exact numbers.

Tip: Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. Get a grasp of your future needs by using a retirement calculator or working with your advisor to establish specific retirement goals.

Truth: Americans save more now than they did 3 years ago, but it’s still a fraction of what they saved a generation ago. In late 2015, the personal savings rate in the US hit a three-year high of 5.65%. But in 1980, the savings rate was nearly twice that.

Tip: To achieve a specific savings goal, you have to set a specific savings goal. Figure out what you can afford to put away by building a great budget, and then stick to those goals!

Truth: Women continue to earn less than men. In turn, they save less than men, too. For every $100 a man saves, the average female puts aside $54. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s almost half.

Tip: Dentists who are women don’t face the same pay gap as they do in other professions, but interruptions in their career arc, such as having and raising children, may mean a delay in peak earning years typically experienced during the mid- to late-40s. Where there is income disparity, it can be made up for by staring retirement savings earlier. In fact, there is no better way to secure a comfortable retirement than putting money away as early in your career as possible.

Related: 7 Warning Signs about your Financial Advisor

Truth: Healthcare costs are a major danger to your retirement income. Of people 65 years and older, 70% will require long-term care services at some point in their lives. The average US yearly cost for a room in a private nursing home is about $90,000. That’s a big cost to bear when your full dental income is no longer available.

Tip: Medicare will cover some basic medical expenses, but as you know from dealing with your own older patients, there are gaps in coverage, including dental care, vision care, and long-term care costs. Also, you need to consider your own current and future health, and that of your spouse/partner or other family members who may rely on you for help. As an added step, make sure your life insurance coverage is sound. Consider long-term care insurance, supplemental health insurance, and prescription drug coverage through Medicare Part D. You may never need the extra coverage, but if you’re in a position to put that money away now, you’ll enjoy your long-term good health even more knowing you’re prepared for a worse outcome.

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