Not that the news has been cheery on the retirement front, withheadlines blaring how unprepared most people are, but it could evenbe worse.

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According to Forbes, there are a number of factors that areundermining just how well people can gauge their preparedness. Among them isthe use of rule-of-thumb estimates on how much people may need tomeet their expenses in retirement.

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While aiming generally toward replacing 70 percent to 80 percentof your income may sound good enough — at least before you getclose to the time when those numbers will have to be validated — ifyou don’t consider how much you personally may need, you could fallway short.

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Studies have found that while most people spend about 14 percentless in retirement than they did while they were working, 35percent spend about the same (so much for that 70 percent 80percent!) and 12 percent actually spend more.

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Tracking your expenditures for several months as you get closerto retirement will help you get a better handle on what you mightneed — particularly if you consider such factors as whether youplan to travel more, or whether your car will need to be replacedonce you retire.

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Then there’s Social Security. Trusting what the Social Securitywebsite predicts you’ll receive can be a dicey proposition, itsaid, pointing to the projection that the Social Security trustfund will be depleted by 2034. By how much might that reduce yourbenefits, and how much are you counting on them?

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Pensions might not be such a sure thing, either, since manycompanies are freezing pension plans — and if you can’t stay withyour employer long enough to be vested, that will affect what youmight be able to draw on, too.

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Oh, and if you’re planning on a job during retirement, you mightwant to rethink that as a sure thing; 48 percent of retirees whowant to work aren’t; 35 percent are unemployed for health reasons,5 percent provide care to a loved one and 8 percent just couldn’tfind work. Even if you plan to work till age 65, you might not beable to, either due to ill health or because your job justdisappeared. That means you’ll have less time to save and more timeto spend.

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Then there’s the good news: You might live longer. The badnews: You might outlive your savings.

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People have a 50 percent chance of living longer than the“average” life expectancy used to calculate how much money they’llneed in retirement, which sounds great until you realize you’ll bebroke in your final years.

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Then there are those pesky issues around your investments:expected return (usually estimated high) and confusing investmentreturns with income. In the former case, projections of 7 percentto 10 percent returns are likely way too optimistic, given lowinterest rates, market volatility and other factors. An estimate ofless than 5 percent annually would be more realistic. Even if youmake that 5 percent, though, that doesn’t mean you can take thewhole 5 percent out every year. Doing so could deplete theprincipal, which could run you out of money sooner rather thanlater.

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