Courtesy of Janet Campbell
It’s never too late to become financially literate. Statistics show that 65 percent of Americans do not have a budget, which suggests that many enter their elderly years uninformed about personal finances. Taking good care of your finances at this stage of your life is essential – your financial stability, health and personal happiness are at stake, so consider carefully these tips that financial advisors consider crucial for older adults.
Set a budget
Establishing a budget helps you keep track of where your money is going and makes it considerably easier to plan for the future. Most advisors contend that setting up and sticking to a budget is the most important building block in maintaining one’s financial health. It’s especially important for seniors because it ensures that you’ll have enough money to pay for the things you need and want. If you’ve never lived according to a formal budget, once you’ve got it down and incorporated it into your routine you can predetermine what months you’re likely to be tight on money and when you’ll be in the black. A budget helps you plan for unexpected expenses, those times when life bites you and forces you to dig deep into your funds.
Sidestep the scams
Beware of fast-talking salespeople and telemarketers looking to take advantage of confused and vulnerable elderly people. They’re usually the first ones to be targeted, so watch out for “deals” that involve a lot of complex detail, evasive answers or an unwillingness to answer questions, a lack of documentation (i.e. no paper trail), and pressure to sign a contract right away. This is always a red flag, no matter who’s involved or what stage of life they’re in.
Be skeptical about investments
If you retired with investments, they can give you a real advantage in your senior years but it’s dangerous to rely on them too heavily. A budget can help you forecast but it can’t help you where the market’s concerned. An over-reliance on the returns it can bring is a dangerous way to approach your finances, especially if you’re working with limited funds to begin with. Unscrupulous salespeople are especially dangerous when it comes to stock market investing, which can be arcane and intimidating to someone with limited experience. A good rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember, savings, a good budget and careful money management are the building blocks of a solid financial foundation.
Many people nearing or having reached retirement age tend to see Social Security as a nest egg or financial magic bullet. Yes, you can begin drawing on your social security benefits beginning at age 62, but it can be well worth your while to wait a bit. Nevertheless, it’s estimated that 75 percent of Americans start going through their benefits early, which means they’re not maximizing what they could be getting from Social Security. Timing is a big part of doing Social Security right. Put simply, the longer you wait to draw Social Security, the more you’ll get each month. Taking Social Security before official retirement age (between 66 and 67) results in an unnecessary reduction of your benefits, whereas your benefit increases as much as 8 percent a year if you wait until you reach 70.
Follow the basics
The old rule that says you should have three months of expenses ready to go still stands once you reach old age. If you’ve ignored that rule during your working lifetime, make a good stab at it. Set aside what you can in case the unexpected happens when you’re at your most vulnerable. Some people age 65 or older are able to sell their life insurance policy, which may be an option to consider if you can’t afford the premiums or don’t need one anymore. Just be sure to do your research first so you understand the ins and outs of the process.
Keep following the same good financial advice you’ve gotten throughout your life once you reach retirement age. Budget, save, and stay away from “can’t miss” investment offers. Much of what’s served you well all those years won’t go wrong once you hit 67.
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