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.
Going into retirement and having enough money to not only live comfortably but to be able to do the things you’d always dreamed of while you were working is a delicate balancing act. While you’re still employed, you want to be able to enjoy activities and make the purchases you want, but you still need to set enough aside to prepare for your Golden Years.
There is a way to attain a balance so that you can enjoy your working years while still saving enough for your retirement. Here are some of our tips:
- You need to have a plan. You wouldn’t take a road trip without a map, right? If you have to stop and ask for directions at every turn, you won’t know if you’re being steered in the wrong direction until it’s too late. Just as you need a roadmap for a trip, you need a plan for saving and investing (while still being able to spend now) before you take the leap into retirement. Talk to you accountant or financial advisor about your plans for retirement and ask what you can do now to realize those plans.
- When you are investing in retirement you should be planning to preserve your principal. Many retirees want an income that will sustain them for their lifetime and your investments should take that into account. Being conservative in your investments is likely the best way to go as you near retirement age. The time to take risks is when you’re just starting out.
- Whether you’ve operated with a budget prior to retirement, you should certainly have a budget or some sort of spending plan in place when you do retire. Seeing the amount of money you have in savings or in investments may lead you to frivolous spending now. Work out a budget that calculates any taxes you may have to pay, monthly fixed expenses, medical expenses and/or insurance payments. Once you’ve determined those numbers you can begin planning your budget for “fun” and relaxation in retirement.
- Have a backup plan. Regardless of how well you plan, there may still be items that blindside you and force you to rethink your original plans. Health issues, not receiving as much from investments or having higher than planned for expenses can all throw a curveball into your retirement savings. Having a reserve or an emergency fund may help with this – the reserve is something you hope you won’t have to access, but it provides peace of mind in case you do. A reserve fund could be a piece of property, a home that is paid for or even a collectible that could be sold if necessary, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a cash reserve.
- Have a talk with family members about your plans and even your financial situation so they are aware of your hopes and dreams. Protect yourself from falling for some of the get rich quick schemes that are perpetrated on the elderly. You need to have someone on your side that you can trust to help you with your money and investments if the need arises.
Planning for retirement involves not only your cash and finances, but where you will live out your Golden Years as well. Will you age in place or will you be moving into a retirement community? These are all plans that should be discussed with an accountant and your family prior to your retiring.
You’re “of an age” when you are considering stepping away from the daily grind of a full time job, but you’re not quite ready to spend all of your days on the golf course or watching the grandchildren, what are your options? Well, according to the Small Business Administration, close to 20% of all individuals 55 years of age or older are expected to start their own small business.
If you’ve ever thought about what you’d love to do, “once you retired,” perhaps pursuing a passion and becoming your own boss is the way to go. For many people, retirement simply means stepping away from a career with a company that they may have pursued for the past 20-plus years and doing what they “really want to do,” and that means different things for different people.
Individuals in the life-transition stage who don’t want to give up working entirely but don’t want to compete with their younger counterparts in the ever-dwindling job market can turn their time and efforts toward being their own boss. If you want to start your own business what are some considerations to that endeavor? Here are a few things to consider:
- What do you love? If you have a passion for something chances are you will follow through. Remember, some businesses are more technology based than others and if you’re not a technology lover you may find yourself getting frustrated before you’ve even fully begun the business and will walk away from the idea. Just as you stuck with your career for any number of years, you don’t want to start a business that you aren’t prepared to follow through on.
- What are your goals for wanting to become a business owner? Do you have information to share? Is there a hobby you have pursued part time for years that you now have time to pursue full time? Do you need, or want, more money? Do you want to start a business that will sustain you and your heirs? Are you looking for something that will just keep you busy on your schedule rather than having to “punch a clock” if for example you opened a retail business.
- Do you have experience garnered throughout your life that you can now put into your business? What experiences and expertise have you honed during your lifetime that you can now use to jump start a business of your own? If you don’t have experience, there is nothing to say you can learn about something new, master it and then start your business endeavor. If you’re retired, chances are you will have the time to do just that.
- Will your new business endeavor require large outlays of cash? Do you have the financial cushion on which to draw? Will you and your spouse or significant other be in agreement that this is a good use of your financial nest egg? If you can start your business without dipping into your retirement or mortgaging your home to do it, that is the best way to start.
- Now that you’re retired, did you have an idea in your mind of what your lifestyle would be? Did you plan to drive across the country and not be tied down to a specific location? If you are starting a business will it fit into the ideal you’ve had in your mind for your Golden Years? Unless you are truly driven and want to jump into a new business endeavor with both feet, craft the business so that it is a part of your life, but one that doesn’t take up your entire life – unless you didn’t have any specific plans in your retirement years. Will the new business involve you and your spouse or significant other or family members? Do you want it to? Has it always been a dream of yours to retire then open a bed and breakfast? If so, that could be the ideal option!
There are many business opportunities available for the driven retiree and just because you’re retired from your job doesn’t mean you have to retire from life! What will you do once you retire?
If retirement age is fast approaching or whether you’re worried about becoming a victim of the economy there are ways to have put money aside that will help you enjoy your Golden Years. Even if you are “behind” in saving for retirement you can start today and build a nest egg.
A recently released study shows that fewer than 40% of workers have $1,000 in in total savings and investments. The study also showed that fewer than 30% of retirees had more than $1,000 in savings and investments. When you consider how long individuals are living, thanks in part to medical advances, you can see why it’s critical that you are saving for your long-term living needs.
Even if you having started saving yet, here are five steps you can take today to begin building a retirement nest egg:
- You don’t need to always buy the latest and greatest. Simply because a new technology or vehicle or pair of shoes is introduced to the market, that doesn’t mean you need to own it … just then. Impulse purchases can be the bane of your savings account. You should weigh all purchases on whether you “need” it or whether you simply “want” it. If it’s not a critical need, then it’s best to delay the purchase.
- If you’re still employed and your employer provides a matching contribution in a retirement account, take advantage of that. Invest in the highest amount that your employer will match – it’s like free money in the bank!
- Make it a practice to save 10-15% of your income. Don’t think that you have to wait until the end of the year and then look at your earnings to determine how much to save. Take your weekly paycheck and deposit 10% of that. Once you’re in the habit, you will not miss that 10% that you’re putting into a savings account. It will become automatic and depending on how much you earn annually you could be saving significant dollars by years’ end.
- If you get a raise, immediately bank it. You’ve been living the past year without that raise in your pocket and if you don’t count on spending it now, you can continue to live as though you hadn’t received a raise. Consider putting any bonuses or tax refunds into a savings account as well.
- Pay off your debts wisely. Consider this: you’re saving 10% of your income but you’re paying credit cards with interest rates of 18-25% percent! You’re never going to get ahead. Pay off the highest interest rate cards first. Find a second job and devote all of the money earned from that to paying off the high interest rate credit cards. Your budget will thank you.
Enjoying life in retirement means many things to many people, but being able to live in the manner to which we have become accustomed is something that all of us want to do. What steps can you take today to make that a reality?
Change is typically front of mind for many when the calendar flips to a new year. If you’re in the Baby Boom generation, chances are you are also in the so-called Sandwich Generation. What is the Sandwich Generation? It’s that crop of Baby Boomers that are raising children, pursuing careers and taking care of aging parents.
If you’re taking over the financial responsibility for your parents you may find strategies they employed that make sense and that you will incorporate. However, you may find that your parents simply didn’t plan carefully enough for the future and with the potential for nursing home or assisted living costs looming, financial conversations need to take place sooner rather than later.
As a 50-something there is no time like the present to implement a financial strategy for yourself and your family. What can you do today? Here are some strategies:
- Understand how much you have “banked” for Social Security for when you retire. In the past the Social Security administration would mail out statements letting you know what your expected future benefits would be. They are no longer mailing statements but you can go online and see the amount you may collect when you retire. Go to www.ssa.gov. For many people, Social Security will not be enough to live comfortably on and that’s why there is the need to plan for future living expenses as you age.
- Look at your budget and determine whether you can put additional money away in a savings or retirement account. Even a modest increase in savings can add up in helping your retirement be more fiscally secure. Don’t forget to ask your accountant how much you can deposit into a retirement account to adhere to the IRS guidelines.
- Talk to a financial planner to see if you are on the right track for retirement. Do you have a true picture of your income and expenses? Do you know how much you need to live comfortably? Once your full time income is gone after you retire, where will you need to make cutbacks in the family budget and are those cutbacks items you can live with? You should know where your retirement income will come from and how much it is and compare that to expected expenses. If you plan to age in place you will also need to factor in home maintenance expenses and potential increases in utilities because you will no longer be out of the house at work.
- Are your investments working for you? You want to have an investment portfolio that matches your individual style, whether you are an aggressive investor or whether you simply want your money to grow at a steady pace. Understanding your investment style, though will help you determine your financial status once you retire and begin living off of the investment income.
- Determine whether it is worth it to you and your family to invest in long term care insurance. Have a plan in place for the time when, or if, you or your spouse can no longer live independently. Will you have the funds available to move into an assisted living facility that you prefer or will your finances force you to move into a facility in which you’re not happy?
If you’re in the midst of gathering up your paperwork to meet with the accountant and file your taxes, now is the ideal time to take a good, long look at your finances and make certain you are planning for your future.
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 (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
The Golden Years are the times in our lives when we look forward to enjoying the freedom afforded us by a lifetime of having worked and saved. We anticipate our retirement years as times when we can enjoy the fruits of our labors and spend time in pursuit of hobbies we hadn’t had time for previously.
The truth, though, for many individuals as they near retirement age is that they may not be as prepared as they’d imagined they were, nor have they used their accumulated wealth in the most fiscally sound manner.
Many of us that have reached, or are nearing retirement age, understand that planning for retirement is difficult, but living in retirement can be even more of a challenge. There are steps that can be taken, and retirement myths that must be debunked for those of us that are nearing retirement age, they are:
Having $1 million in cash, assets and 401Ks will be enough. In the past, this may have been true, but in 2013, $1 million doesn’t buy what it used to, and saving that much in assets is out of reach for many middle class Americans. Working with a financial advisor and making certain he understands your retirement desires – travel, lifestyle, etc. – will go a long way in help you ensure you have the funds you need when you’re in your Golden Years.
- Healthcare costs may be a big budget item, but it’s not likely that it will be the biggest you will face in retirement. The number one expense most retirees face are taxes. The fact that many individuals will be drawing money from assets they have enjoyed tax deferral status on during their working years, is not one that is always considered when retirement draws near. It’s important to work with your financial advisor to devise a plan to meet the tax responsibilities that arise when you begin drawing on your tax deferred retirement savings.
- Moving to a smaller home will reap large rewards. While in some instances a smaller home may be more beneficial for some individuals, downsizing to save money may not be the end result. In some cases, it may be more cost effective to remodel the existing family home to meet the needs of the aging residents. When you consider the fact that many seniors will have paid off the family home, it may not make sense for them to take on another mortgage payment. For example, closing off the upper floors and moving the living space to a ground floor may make more sense. Age-proofing the home with updated, senior friendly bathroom fixtures and rearranging cupboard space could be more cost effective and allow the senior to age in place in familiar surroundings. Additionally, the investment in a home medical alert system also provides peace of mind to the senior and the family members that if a medical emergency arises, the senior will have immediate access to health care at the push of a button.
- Speaking of homes and mortgages, it may not always make sense to pay off one’s home mortgage early; this hinges on the interest rate on the home as compared to interest rates on other items you’re paying off on a monthly basis. If you have a mortgage that has a low interest rate, and if mortgage interest remains a tax deductible expense, it may make sense to simply pay additional amounts on the monthly mortgage payment rather than cashing in a retirement account to pay it off entirely. Paying off high interest rate car loans or credit card debt is a more fiscally sound approach.
- Don’t rely on Medicare to cover your healthcare expenses. The purpose of Medicare is to provide coverage in the event of a catastrophic illness or injury, not as a way to cover healthcare costs. Medigap and other supplemental coverages are available for individuals in need of healthcare coverage. It is best to check on costs and providers for additional healthcare coverage prior to retirement.
Planning early for retirement is the best course of action, but even those individuals who haven’t taken the time to meet with a financial advisor in the past, can reap the benefits as a way to make living in retirement a more enjoyable venture.
Studies show that individuals who remain active and involved have an improved brain function and an overall sense of well-being. For many individuals, retirement brings with it a wealth of free-time but may also bring a feeling of being disconnected. Because people spend so many years juggling family, careers and other daily responsibilities, the downtime associated with retirement may lead to despair and depression. A way to combat this lack of purpose that comes with retirement is by volunteering. The benefits of volunteering are myriad and include the sense of well-being from helping others as well as having a sense of purpose cannot be discounted.
Some of the benefits of volunteering include:
- Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s: Because volunteers feel a greater satisfaction with their lives and have a higher quality of life than those who don’t volunteer, the risk of Alzheimer’s can be lessened.
- Lower rate of mortality: Getting up and out of the house on a semi-regular basis not only benefits the charity or place they volunteer but it also benefits him or her by keeping them active, social and engaged in the community.
- Keeping bones and joints strong. UCLA researchers found that “productive activities” could prevent the onset of frailty, a condition marked by low energy, low strength, weight loss and lowered physical activity. Reducing the impact of frailty could help a senior avoid a trip or fall accident which befalls many seniors over the age of 65.
- Brain function improvements: Seniors that participate in activities remain more alert and cognizant and this can help them age in place for more years than those who don’t participate in outside activities.
In addition to the benefits listed, volunteering offers immediate satisfaction by imparting a sense of accomplishment, purpose, enhanced social skills and helping by staying connected and involved. As a caregiver it may be a good idea to discuss the possibility of volunteering with the seniors in your life. Help them find an organization that is a good fit for their skills and abilities. Helping keep them active will enhance their ability to remain active and enable them to live independently.
Prior to making any commitments or signing any contracts to sell the family home and move into a retirement community, you need to look at all the options. If the move involves relocation to a new city or state you truly need to step back and look at everything before you choose new living accommodations.
Here is a brief overview on the various options for aging adults when aging in place is either no longer an option or whether you’re looking to move to a community that offers a chance at being involved and active as you age. Remember, no matter where you live, your home medical monitoring device can move with you and act as an added layer of safety in the event of a medical emergency or trip or fall incident:
- A traditional retirement, also known as patio community, living environment. These communities cater to a specific age group, such as over the age of 50, and offer in-community amenities in a traditional living space in which you are in your own home. Living in one of these communities means you will be paying for the home itself as well as a monthly fee that pays for the various amenities which could include lawn care, housekeeping, swimming pool or gym facilities, or even in-community parties and events.
- A life-lease environment offers the senior a chance to invest in the community in which he will be living without having the responsibility of home ownership. The cost of living in an arrangement like this is typically less expensive than most other real estate transactions. The money paid into the life lease community helps pay for support services such as medical or other community-based activities.
- Condos in retirement communities are another option. A retirement condominium is becoming a popular option for seniors. In some instances, these communities also offer housekeeping or health support services as part of the condo fees. These accommodations may be found in popular vacation destinations which provide the opportunity for vacation living year-round.
When searching for alternative living arrangements there are several factors to consider, including:
- Overall cleanliness and appearance of the home itself
- Overall maintenance and upkeep of the property
- The fee for the home itself
- Community fees – cost and what it includes
- What are the lease arrangements?
- What are the stipulations for breaking the lease when living independently is no longer an option
- Will the fees increase? If so, how often and how much notice will you be given?
- Are you allowed to invite your children or grandchildren to come and stay with you if they’re visiting?
Make certain you read the fine print before signing any lease agreements and if necessary have a family member or your family attorney check the paperwork before you make any final decisions.