The scariest financial risk people face in life is running out of money at an old age. I’m 83 and I’m speaking from personal experience. After a long career as a newspaper editor, I retired in 1991 at the age of 60, with my wife, who is 14 years younger and retired in 2004. I’ve learned about financial matters the hard way, and I ghost-write articles like this one to earn some extra income. I’m not scared about running out of money in my lifetime, but I am fearful of not leaving enough money to my wife, who is much younger than I. Let me share with you some financial lessons I’ve learned. Of course, these are my personal opinions, not anybody else’s.
1.DO NOT elect to take Social Security benefits early. If you do take early benefits, you probably will be shortchanged on what you would have received in total payments over the rest of your lifetime. People are living longer these days. You will add 8% a year in payment totals after full retirement age if you can wait until age 70 to take benefits.
2.Downsize your home at the earliest opportunity. Once you become an empty nester, the odds are that you do not need a house as large as the one in which you now live. Sell it and buy a smaller one. Pay cash if at all possible.
3.Consider moving to a retirement community, which can be a highly desirable and cost-efficient place for the elderly to live. Your neighbors in such communities most likely are like-minded and in your age group. Also, such communities are especially designed for elderly living, and most are located near good health-care facilities. Plus, they offer social, educational and recreational facilities designed specifically for the elderly.
4.If you are not already out of debt, get out as soon as possible. When you are not in debt you can live on much less month to month, thereby lessening your chances of outliving your money.
5.If you have two cars, sell one. If you only have one, drive it twice as long as you did in the past. You probably will be driving less at this time in your life, and you can most likely drive your current car much longer without encountering excessive repair bills. If you are in the practice of making monthly car payments, once you've paid off your vehicle you can put all of the payments you would have made before into your savings.
6.If you are part of a close-knit family, do not move very far from your children and grandchildren. Life-changing occurrences such as death, divorce and disabilities are easier experiences when you have the support of family members around you all the time.
7.Finally, and most important of all: Continue to save all that you possibly can. The amount that you can save if you follow the previous six recommendations may be considerable. Where and how should you invest it? Seek out a financial advisor that you are sure you can trust and that you are sure is competent, and turn investment decisions over to him or her.
Bob McGinty is a retired newspaper editor who occasionally ghost-writes articles for financial advisors.
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