Category Archives: Finances for Seniors

Budgeting Tips For Seniors (or Anyone!)

 

BudgetingPulling out a debit card or simply spending money is a pretty easy task, right? Sometimes it’s too easy and if you don’t pay attention to what you’re spending and what you’re buying, you could be putting your family budget in jeopardy.

Here are some budgeting tips for seniors, or anyone for that matter!

  • Know how much money you have coming in and from what sources in order know what you have to live on in order to put together a budget.
  • List all of your expenses, from utilities to gas for your vehicle or other transportation expenses to groceries to what you spend for online shopping. In many cases, we shop online and it is so easy to simply push a button to purchase that we don’t consider that as an outlay of cash. Go through a month or two of your expenses from all sources and make note of them. It may be eye opening. Add medical expenses that include your prescription medication costs as well as insurance and doctor visits into your list of expenses.
  • Look at your income and expenses and see if you have any extra money. If you do, sock it away in a savings account. Even if you’re only saving $50 a month, it will add up. This additional savings amount is something you should guard zealously. When you have a nice nest egg you can decide what to do with it. Perhaps you’re saving for a long awaited vacation or you need new furniture or you simply want to keep saving it for a cushion in the event your expenses outpace your income.

There are myriad online budgeting programs you can use, but don’t get bogged down in technology. Grab a notebook and label it household budget and begin tracking it that way. Writing it down will truly help you know what happens with your money on a monthly basis. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Financial Tips And Steps For Caregivers

A survey was completed recently that showed that close to 50 percent of caregivers spend more than $5,000 annually on expenses related to caring for their aging loved ones. As many of those caregivers are caring for their own growing families as well as their aging loved ones this is putting a strain on their family finances.

Costs that are being borne by caregivers include:

  • Paying for medication
  • Paying for medical bills and co-pays
  • Paying for in-home care

Caregivers also spend up to 30 hours per week caring for their aging relatives beyond their financial resources. You can see that time and put a strain on both wallet and body.

Some of the mistakes that caregivers make when they fall into the role is that they don’t properly budget for time or money. In some cases when family members are put into the role of caregiver it comes at a time of crisis and this could lead to overspending or perhaps not knowing what, if, or how much a loved ones insurance policy may pay for in-home care or other medications and physicians’ visits. If a caregiver doesn’t have access to, or is not in charge of, the loved ones’ assets, he may pay for it all out of pocket and hope for reimbursement later – this is not ideal.

The best way to make sure a family is prepared for a health or care crisis is to begin the conversation today about powers of attorney, finances, life and health insurance and even final wishes. Having a family meeting sooner, rather than later, can provide information that all parties need to be aware of in order to make the role into caregiving as seamless as possible.

Here are some financial tips families can take to minimize the financial burdens or stresses that come from caregiving:

  1. Ask for help. If you or your aging loved ones have close ties in the community reach out to them for assistance. This may be ideal if only to make certain your family members have interaction with the “outside world.” You, as a caregiver, have to remember you simply cannot do it all –especially if you’re working full time and caring for your own family. You need to look at hiring caregivers for your parents, finding someone who can take them to and from doctor’s visits or grocery shopping treks and even cleaning the house and preparing meals. Freeing up time for the caregiver is as important as the money being spent on hiring for these roles. Also, if you worry about your loved ones being home alone and having no contact it may make sense to invest in a home medical alert system. These devices offer a way for your family members to have immediate access to medical attention should the need arise.
  2. Join a caregivers support group. Many of the feelings you experience – anger, frustration, exhaustion and more are shared by others in your role. It’s best to make connections with others who are in the same situation because they may be a great source for inspiration and tricks to make caregiving easier.
  3. Understand the type of insurance your parents have, what is covered and what is excluded before you make any investments in in-home assistance or spend money on prescription drugs. Also, check to see if they’re eligible for any Veterans or Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare benefits.
  4. Prior to the need arising, it’s best to investigate long term health care and living options. Making a decision on where to place mom or dad in the middle of a crisis is not healthy for anyone. When you’re researching locations for them to reside, you will also want to contact an elder law attorney so you can understand the options for payment of a stay.
  5. Gather all necessary paperwork – bank accounts, wills, power of attorney, insurance information, debts owed, information on utility payments, medications taken, physician information, etc. this way if your parents can no longer speak for themselves, the family knows where all of the “important papers” are kept.

The further ahead a family can plan the easier the transition to a caregiver/caregiving role will be. It is also a role that needs to be shared by all family members so that one sibling isn’t shouldering the entire load.

Boomers Need To Get Their Financial House In Order

Retirement

Planning for retirement makes life less stressful.

Boomers, who often assume the role of caregiver, need to get their financial house in order. If you are that Boomer, it is up to you to take steps today to make certain your finances aren’t a burden for your loved ones.

No one has a crystal ball to tell us how long we will live, and because of that it’s crucial to plan for the future and for a time when you can comfortably retire. Doing this means you need to consider your income, expenses and what you want to do in your Golden Years: Do you want to travel? Buy a new home? Simply kick back and enjoy your family home and putter around the garden? Regardless of what your retirement dream is, financial planning is something that needs to be discussed. In fact, planning for retirement should begin when you first become employed, but not many of us in our 20s think of retirement. Regardless of your age, there is no time like the present to plan for retirement if you haven’t already.

If you’re in a caregiving role and are tasked with paying the bills of your aging loved ones or are wondering where the money is going to come from in the event they suffer a health emergency that lands them in a hospital or assisted living facility, you understand the stress that finances can cause. How can you, make certain that if your children are put into the role of caregiver for you that your money will last and that they won’t have that burden?

Here are some ways to do just that and to make your money last:

  • Consider downsizing your home. If you raised your children in a large home and now it’s just the “two of you” why not downsize? If you have a smaller home, or move into an apartment you can realize a windfall in savings on utilities, property taxes, insurance and mortgage payments. If you realize a profit from the sale of your home talk with a financial advisor on the best way to invest it to help your money grow.
  • Downsize your debts. Pay off your highest interest credit cards first then start paying down the rest of your debts. Financial planners say individuals should strive to be debt-free by age 70.
  • If you’re both retired, do you still need two vehicles? Consider trading one, or both, in on a reliable model that you can share.
  • When you’re eligible for Medicare, take advantage of the benefit. When you turn age 65 you are eligible to participate in Medicare – a program that covers up to 80 percent of the cost of doctor’s visits and medical expenses.
  • Take advantage of senior discounts. If your favorite store offers a discount for seniors, sign up! Ask whether the restaurant you’re frequenting or the hotel you’re staying in offers a senior discount; many establishments may offer one if you ask. Ask your auto insurance provider about discounts it may provide as well.
  • It may sound morbid, but plan your funeral. This is not a burden – either emotional or financial – that you want to place upon your children. You can make virtually all of your arrangements with a funeral home and then let your children know what your wishes are and where the arrangements have been made.
  • Talk with your financial advisor and see if your money is working for you. If it isn’t ask him how you can diversify in a safe manner that won’t put you at too high a risk for loss.

When you’re making your plans for finances in retirement, make sure you and your spouse or significant other sit down and have a heart-to-heart about the ways in which you will spend your retirement. It can be a stressful time when both partners, who may have been accustomed to a particular work routine, are now faced with seemingly endless hours of “nothing to do” and “too much togetherness.” Talk about, and review those plans as you move toward retirement to ensure you are meeting you needs and goals.

Preparing To Live To Be 100

The longer you live the more money you will have to spend, or conversely, the more money you should start saving now to prepare for living into your 100s. Modern medicine and the fact that many diseases and illnesses are able to be caught and even corrected early means that many of us are living longer, and in many cases, healthier lives.

If you’re hoping to live to be 100, how will you make certain you can afford it? The time is now to look at your finances and prepare for a secure financial life in your Golden Years. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you don’t outlive your money:

  • Take stock of your spending. Scrutinize your spending for the next 30 days. Track where you’re spending and where you might be able to cut back and put that money into a savings account. It may be easier, and paint a more accurate picture, if you analyze three months’ worth of spending and take an average.
  • Talk with your CPA to get a snapshot of the amount of money you may need into retirement. Many individuals believe they will spend less money once they’re retired because they won’t have the expenses for food or commuting and other out of pocket expenses; what they don’t plan for is the money spent on hobbies or travel or leisure, now that you have leisure time. You may also see an increase in your family food budget because you’ll be eating more meals at home than in the past.
  • Save as much money, as often as you can. Check on your investments and, depending on your age, invest either more robustly or conservatively. Your financial adviser is your best point of contact for your investment planning.
  • Take a look at your lifestyle. Are there items you will want to do once you retire that you don’t now? How much will they cost? Are there activities you do now that you won’t once you retire? How much do they cost? If you plan to travel or take up a new hobby you will want to calculate those costs so you can budget for them. You don’t want to look at retirement as “sitting around the house with nothing to do” time you want to enjoy your Golden Years and pursue hobbies and activities you perhaps didn’t have time for while you were working and raising a family.
  • Will you be able to afford to live in your own home? Will you need to downsize or even make arrangements to live in a retirement community? What will that cost? Will it make sense for you to invest in long-term care insurance? Talk with a trusted advisor before you make any decisions on this purchase.
  • Get your paperwork in order. Don’t wait until you need a power of attorney or a healthcare proxy or a will – by the time you need it, it will be too late. Talk with your attorney and your family and get these papers drawn up early so they are in place in the event of a health emergency when you can’t speak for yourself. While it may be a bit morbid, you may want to put your funeral arrangements in writing and even get them planned so that your family won’t have to wonder at what your wishes would have been.
  • Pay off as much of your debt as possible. It’s best to not have to worry about credit card debt or loans with high interest rates, especially when retirement is drawing near and when your income will likely be lower than it was when you were working.

Taking steps to prepare for living to be 100-years-old is best done when you’re younger and in good health!

Getting Your Financial Paperwork In Order

Talking with your aging parents or family members about drafting a medical power of attorney (POA) is likely not a conversation that will come easily to most individuals. Truly, a medical power of attorney is a document that each of us should have, regardless of age or health. This power of attorney is only activated in the event you are unable to make decisions on your own behalf. If you are coherent and in control of your faculties, you are allowed to make your own decisions even if a family member disagrees. It’s important to have these forms prepared and filed prior to dementia or some illness or injury that causes you to be unable to legally sign it.

With a medical power of attorney you are making a decision (while you still can) to spell out your wishes as they pertain to what you want done, and don’t want done, in the event you suffer a medical crisis. The decision you make on your POA can be whether you’d like to be on life support, whether you want to donate organs, what (if any) heroic lifesaving measures you’d like taken. The individual that is granted the POA on your behalf is legally and ethically required to perform in good faith on your behalf.

Bottom line a medical power of attorney is one that is drawn up and signed by a competent adult (the principal), and the person being designated as the POA to make decisions on his or her behalf and then signed and filed with the attorney. The individual named in the POA to act on the behalf of another is called an agent.

In order for the agent to make medical decisions on the behalf of the principal his or her doctor must determine the principal is unable to make decisions on their own. This determination from the physician is in writing and in some states the determination requires the signatures of two physicians to have it deemed valid.

When an individual is admitted to the hospital, whether for routine surgery, as the result of an accident or for other surgical or medical procedures, the POA is part of the hospital admittance paperwork and stays with the patient chart.

While the medical POA grants rights to the agent, he or she cannot make a decision on the type and amount of medical care. When you’re drawing up the form with your attorney you can place limitations in the form that can hinder the decision-making authority an agent may exercise. These forms can be changed and updated at any time. Check with your attorney to see whether the state you reside in requires it to be notarized or prepared by an attorney if changes are being made.

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Tips For Effective Money Management For Seniors

Effectively managing your finances following retirement and into your Golden Years brings with it challenges that need to be addressed so that you can continue to live the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed. One way to do this is to begin planning for retirement early in your working life and to work within the confines of a budget once you retire. Living within your means allows you to enjoy the perks you had when you were employed while still keeping a comfortable nest egg. Maintaining long-term financial stability requires thoughtful planning and may involve making changes to your daily lifestyle. Remember, financial planning for your retirement and senior years is more about long term goals than short-term.

Here are some money management tips to put into place prior to retirement. If you’re already retired, these are tips that can be implemented even now to help you enhance your financial stability:

  • Clear up your long term debt. Pay off your mortgage and pay down your credit cards. Revolving debt can wreak havoc on your savings. Having to worry about making monthly debt payments can negatively impact your long term financial stability. Additionally, knowing that your debts are paid off, or paid down, will add to your peace of mind.
  • Writing and sticking to a budget. To remain financially viable into your retirement you will need to live within a budget. Take time and make certain you include all of your expenses when making your budget. Include items such as health insurance, auto insurance and long-term care payments in addition to the income you’re bringing in.
  • Take care of your health. Illness can negatively impact not only your overall health but your ability to remain within your budget. Eating healthy meals, remaining active and having regular medical check-ups will go a long way in helping you enjoy your retirement years.
  • Stay involved. Volunteer, take a class at a local community college, visit neighbors and friends. Remaining involved with friends and continued learning leads to better mental acuity and could even ward off health related mental deterioration.
  • Do you need to downsize? If you’re still living in the home in which you raised your children, it may be time to consider downsizing to a smaller, more efficient home. Whether you move into a small home or an assisted living or retirement facility, taking the time to address trip and fall hazards and upgrading the bathroom and other rooms in the house to be senior friendly make the home safer as you age. Individuals that may be living alone or dealing with balance issues or other health concerns may want to consider equipping the home with a medical alert device as a way to have immediate access to health care in the event of an emergency.

Prior planning will help you enjoy your retirement years with grace and ease.

retirement

retirement (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

Three Steps To Relieve Retirement Anxiety

There is never a wrong time to begin tracking your income and spending, but truly the more thoroughly you understand your money habits and gain control of your budget, the more quickly you will be able to take charge of your future. When retirement is just around the corner, you may feel you’ve lost valuable time to gain control of your finances, but there is still time.

Here are three strategies to help you set up a workable budget and stick to it:

  1. Save more money. This may seem a simple solution, but in many cases the simpler the solution, the easier it is to implement. Once you’ve charted your income and expenses, you can look at what’s left over and make a decision to bank 10 to 20% (or more) of your income. If you find that 10% is too much, start smaller and work your way up. Being successful at socking away 3% of your income weekly will help you build toward a higher percentage going into your savings on a regular basis. Once you discover that you can live without that additional 3% or more you can move your savings amount up to the ultimate goal you’ve chosen.
  2. Spend less money. Saying you’re going to “save money and cut expenses” is a vague generalization and won’t offer a measurable goal. Set a specific goal of, “I’d like to spend $10 a week less on take-out food,” or “We’re not going to use a credit card for purchases of less than $100.” Those goals are measurable and achievable. Unsubscribing to department store emails and updates may help you save money because you won’t be tempted to give into an impulse purchase. Also, before you make a purchase over a certain dollar amount, take time to ponder that purchase. Studies show that individuals that don’t give into an impulse purchase, but who instead take a few days or a week to determine whether they truly need an item will spend close to 25% less annually than those who purchase on impulse. Consider the impact on your long-term financial goals before making a purchase of a large ticket item.
  3. Pay down your debt. Paying down credit card balances, especially as you near retirement age, makes incredible financial sense. Paying down your debt also allows you the opportunity to put more money into your bank account. In addition to freeing up your money, paying off debt can also lower your stress simply because they won’t be looming over your retirement years. You may need to put the brakes on some of the activities you currently enjoy such as dinners out with friends, splurge purchases, etc. Look for free or low cost entertainment options, invite friends to a potluck at your home, take time to consider whether you truly need that large ticket item. If you know, for example, that you have set a goal to pay cash for all purchases of $50 or less it may make you pause to consider whether you need to make the purchase at all. Putting an item on a credit card rarely requires thought and is usually not thought of again… until the bill comes due.

Having sound financial practices in place prior to your retirement will help you more fully enjoy your golden years.

Retirement

Retirement (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

Five Tips For Estate Planning And Your Will

Writing your will and planning for the disposition of your estate is not a task to be undertaken lightly and these chores bring with it thoughts of your demise, something no one ever wants to ponder. As the saying goes, the only two things we can count on in life are “death and taxes,” and as such it is wise to take steps now to ensure that our assets and all we have worked for our entire lives goes into the hands of those who matter the most – our loved ones.

Thinking about death is a topic that no one wants to bring up at a family gathering but when you understand that your prior planning will make it easier on your loved ones, the importance of this vital task becomes more evident. Also, if you don’t make legal plans, the state government will step in and make determinations on how to distribute the assets of your life’s work.

Here are five tips on how to make the process easier on the family:

  1. Talk to experts. While there are online sites where you can put your will together, it’s best to have a face-to-face meeting with a legal advisor that can walk you through the steps of preparing a will. Even if you don’t believe you have “enough assets” to make this worthwhile, it is still the best course of action. An attorney can help you draw up the documents, help you file the paperwork and keep a copy of the document safe until the time it’s needed (make certain your family members know who your attorney is and that they have a copy of the will as well.) Working with a lawyer that specializes in wills and estate planning will help your loved ones retain the most ownership in the assets you’re bequeathing. Ask for a free consultation with an estate planning lawyer so you are aware of what the costs might be and so you understand what you would need to bring to an initial appointment.
  2. Divvying up your possessions is something you can determine on your own, but you may want input from your family. There may be a set of china or other possession that a particular family member would love to have as a memento and those emotional attachments to items should be taken into consideration where possible. Bring your family members into the discussion so they are aware that you are going to, for example, “divide the estate up into five equal portions,” or that, “Jimmy is going to be the executor and therefore his share will be a bit larger than the others’.” Make certain the distribution of items are put into writing and added to your will.
  3. Consider setting up a trust for your survivors. You don’t have to be a millionaire to set up a trust. A trust, is a document that is a supplement to a will that helps manage the distribution of assets. Ask your attorney whether a trust is advisable for your particular situation. You may also want to consider setting up a trust for your survivors as a whole, rather than divvying it up individually.  Trusts are not for everyone and every situation, but it may be something to consider.
  4. Enjoy your assets while you’re still here! While it is nice to think that your children and grandchildren will benefit from your life of having lived frugally, consider the joy everyone would reap if you enjoy your retirement years to the fullest. Plan family trips, give monetary gifts to your loved ones, help out with college tuition or the down payment on a home (make sure you talk with your legal advisor on potential tax ramifications). It may be better to enjoy your family by sharing the wealth while you’re still here to enjoy it with them – within reason, of course.
  5. There is no time like the present. As we know, circumstances can change in an instant. Regardless of your age, and regardless of the amount of assets you believe you have, the time is now to begin thinking about your estate planning and the writing of a will. You want to ensure that you have been the one to make the final decisions on the distribution of your assets to your family – not the government.

Why not plan a time to gather your family for a serious discussion on estate planning and the writing of your will. Having the family involved may take away the dread of having to face such a task.

 

Senior Financial Care And Planning

The cost of both aging in place and the cost of private care in an assisted living facility or nursing home continues to increase. It’s anticipated that by 2028 the cost of private nursing home care will double from its levels today. Additionally, the government has forecast that there could be a 50% increase in those individuals aged 65 or older and that could put a strain the resources available for nursing home care.

Aging is something that should be anticipated, especially as it typically means more time for travel and relaxation and time spent with family and grandchildren. For peace of mind, though it is imperative that steps be taken to address the need for care as you age, whether that care will be in your own home, a private facility or with a family member. Leaving the task up to your caregivers is a daunting one as they may be unaware of your wishes or your finances. Spending time with family members to formulate a plan for either aging in place or making a move to another location should be done well in advance of the need arising. While it is not an easy conversation to have, it relieves the burden on your potential caregivers and helps assure that you will have the care you desire as you age.

Here are some items to discuss with your family:

  • Your financial situation
  • Where your medical records and other medical papers are stored
  • What options you’d prefer as it relates to in-home care or moving to an assisted living facility or whether you’d move in with a family member
  • What state or federal benefits you have available to pay for your care
  • Access to your health and life insurance policies and information
  • What steps you’d like taken in your care and the signing of a health care proxy
  • What steps you can take to make your home more secure and safe as you age and the potential of installing a medical alert device in the home to make certain that if a health issue arises, you have access to immediate medical emergency care.

An essential element in your retirement and health planning will be funding the lifestyle to which you’ve been accustomed and would like to retain. Working with a financial adviser or a family member to arrange your finances to accommodate your needs is a task better done sooner rather than later to assure you have the cash flow necessary when the time comes to retire.

8 Steps to Getting your Financial House in Order

Maintaining a healthy financial portfolio is critical to living a happy and stabilized life. Understanding your personal finances and working to improve your financial standings have significant benefits that extend far beyond the wallet. When it comes to money, there are certain things every individual should be in tune with, including the following:

1. Have Attainable Financial Goals: Mapping out short and long-term goals in relation to your health, wellness, education, family, dreams and travel will make your financial ambitions closer within reach. Knowing what you want and the steps you need to take to make your ambitions a reality will aid in securing your financial future.

2. Create and Maintain a Budget: Understanding the money you are taking in versus the money you are spending is the basis of your financial health. Creating a financial calendar forces you to think about how much money is being spent each month and how much is being saved or invested. By knowing where your money is going, you will be better able to see and (hopefully) curb unnecessary spending and reduce debt.

3. Build Credit Responsibly: When used correctly, credit cards can be extremely powerful financial tools. Credit cards help establish credit history, allow users to receive special perks and premiums and often award cash back bonuses. Credit cards should be paid off in full each month. Racking up massive amounts of debt negates the benefits associated with credit cards. Planned debt including borrowing money to remodel a home, or making a large purchase like buying a car, are typically debts that people plan for and factor into their expenses. Unplanned and unnecessary debt should be avoided at all costs. If you cannot pay off debt each month, make sure you use a credit card with the lowest interest rate.

4. Invest in Education: Furthering your education often equates to greater career success. Increasing your education does not always mean spending a lot of money, however. Attending conferences, taking a community class, going to a vocational school, enrolling in online class and attending seminars through work, are all ways to get your education level up without spending a great deal of money.

5. Get Insured: Protect yourself in case of emergency and save yourself unforeseen costs in the process. Insuring your home, health, automobiles, business and personal assets not only gives you peace of mind but saves you time, energy and money in the long run.

6. Save and make sound investments: Looking into your finances and assessing how much you can save each month and whether or not you would be able to support yourself for six months in case of job loss are both very important aspects to financial health. Most Americans can expect to work 50 years prior to retirement and need to save and plan for their post-work lifestyle. Preparing for the rest of your financial future can seem like a daunting task, but you can always start small by opening up a savings account and talking to a financial adviser about your investment options.

7. Be a homeowner: Owning a home leaves you with a high-value asset once you pay off your mortgage in 15-30 years. When purchasing a home it is important to make sure you have 20 percent saved to put toward a down payment, your monthly payments will be lower and you can eliminate mortgage insurance. When searching for a home make sure your Realtor adheres to your planned budget and that your mortgage broker lines up loan options that are comfortable for your lifestyle.

8. Create a Will: Death is a part of life, there is no avoiding it. Planning what will happen to your estate once you’ve passed away will save your loved ones a lot of stress. Working with an experienced estate attorney is a key element to insuring that ambiguities and unanticipated problems are avoided. Trying to draft your own will with licensed software often leaves many loose ends. The initial consultation with an experienced attorney is typically free – confirm this with the attorney prior to meeting. It is also important to have beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and life insurance documents coordinated properly. Look into establishing a living will as well so that your health is handled properly, should anything unexpected occur.

Making sure your financial house is in order will make other aspects of your life easier. By taking control of your finances, you will be better equipped to deal with life’s little (and not-so-little) stressors