10 Overrated Life Decisions

This is the dream of retirement -- happy couple on the beach. But what is the reality? Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

The traditional retirement fantasy goes something like this: Fishing on the lake with your buddies, traveling the world with your spouse, touring the country, and visiting the grandkids in a mobile home. Or simply sleeping in and reading a good book in the La-Z-Boy.

The harsh financial reality of modern retirement is radically different. Because of longer life expectancies and dwindling savings and investment returns, many retirees have to pinch every penny to maintain their standard of living. In some cases, they have to take low-wage jobs to make ends meet. In February 2013, the average 401(k) balance of people 55 and older was $143,300, not nearly enough to last 30 or 40 years, even with Social Security [source: Martin].

Even if you are financially prepared for retirement, you might find the experience profoundly overrated. Gone are the mental stimulation of your job, the social interaction of your work environment, and the sense of purpose and accomplishment that was built into your everyday routine.

That's why some older workers advise against retiring until you are physically unable to do the work [source: Moeller]. Thanks to a 1986 amendment to the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, it's illegal for most jobs to have a mandatory retirement age [source: EEOC]. Depending on your line of work, you could easily postpone retirement into your 70s and even 80s. By that point, you'll have more money to live out your retirement fantasies, and the fish at the lake will still be biting.