I’ve done some writing before on common retirement mistakes. Here’s my first article on things you should avoid going into retirement. And now, below, here is my second article. I have expounded on a few pitfalls, and added a few others. I hope that these help you in making your retirement financial plans, and if you have other suggestions, I would sure like to hear them. Please put your ideas below once you’ve read my suggestions.
Not Getting a Financial Planner and a Tax Specialist
Unless you got a college degree in Finance, there is no way a lay-person can keep track of all the details of retirement planning and taxes. When I first started researching the retirement planning subject, I got overwhelmed! In fact, I started an article the other day about tax planning for retirees, and I totally got lost. There are so many variables. And, if you are in a situation like me, where you have very little savings (ya, thanks 2008!), you just can’t afford to make costly mistakes. Get a trusted financial planner, one that has references and a good track record. Also, find yourself a good tax consultant. In the end, both will be well worth the money.
Thinking You’ll Die Young
I know that if genetics has anything to do with it, I’m going to live until I’m 100. Both my grandmothers lived that long, and my mother was in her late 80s when she went. So, I don’t think I will die young. However, the men in my husband’s family don’t make it to 60. So it’s hard to say what will happen to him.
The average U.S. life expectancy is just under 79, but that’s from birth. If you make it to 65, you can expect to live another 20 years or so. Half of all women currently in their mid-50s will live to 90, as will 1 in 3 men, according to the Society of Actuaries. People with healthy lifestyles and more education tend to live longer than average.
So it behooves you to plan for worst case (or best case, depending on how you look at it!) scenario and think about your retirement in the long term.
Ignoring Your Spouse
When one spouse dies, the other spouse needs to be able to live on one Social Security check, the larger of the two checks they were receiving. It’s important to maximize this survivor benefit by having the higher earner delay filing for Social Security as long as possible. Also think about pensions. Consider a “joint and survivor” option, so that your spouse continues to receive benefits once you are gone.
Carrying Debt Into Retirement
Interest payments on debt can really dig into your retirement savings, so you will want to reduce your debt as much as possible before you retire. But before you use your savings to pay down the debt, be sure to check with your financial planner. You will want to know if what you are earning in interest on your savings will offset the interest you are paying on the debt. In a lot of cases, what you are earning is far more, and it is best to leave your money in your savings, rather than try reducing your outlay for debt. My plan is to pay off all debt except for our mortgage, which is at a very low interest rate.
Failing to Plan for Long-Term Care
Please click here to see my article on the cost of Long-Term Care. Especially if you end up living a lot longer, these costs can really add up. Because of this, while planning for retirement, one MUST look into long term care insurance, or at least have enough in savings to cover these costs.
Assuming You Can Work Longer
I know my own mother had to retire early because of a back injury. I also know several people who retired early due to sickness. About half of retirees report leaving the workforce earlier than they had planned. A few get lucky, thanks to windfalls or strong stock markets. Many more retire because they lose their jobs and can’t find replacements or because of ill health (their own or a loved one’s). Working longer can help you make up for not saving enough, but it’s not an option you can count on. I know as I get older, the cush gig that is my job right now is getting harder and harder to do, and I can’t imagine myself doing it in my late 60s. I’m going to have to work at a side gig if I’m to make it to my max benefit age.
Planning to Work Indefinitely or Putting Off Retirement Too Long
My husband and I jokingly talk about having to work until we die. But we are both realists, and understand that at some point we will have to stop. But here’s my thoughts on taking Social Security early vs taking it later, from my first “pitfall” article.
“There are two schools of thought on this. One thought is the obvious one. You get more money per month if you wait until you’re 70, vs. taking your monthly payments at age 62. That’s of course if you live to age 70.
On the other hand, if you start taking the lower monthly payment (Let’s say it’s $800). That’s a total amount of $76,800 for years 62-70 you will be collecting. And you would be locked in at the $800 per month. But if you wait to age 70, and take the higher monthly payment (Let’s say $1500), it will take almost 10 years to make up that lost $76,800 that you didn’t collect. And who knows what will happen in that amount of time? Will Social Security still be able to pay me $1500 once I hit 70 years of age? Hard to say. But here’s my research on Social Security, so you can understand more about this issue. And definitely see a financial planner to help you decide which option is best for you.”
Relocating on a Whim
Some retirees get it in their heads that they can just up and move where ever, or when ever they want. This is really not true, unless you have wads of cash set aside for just that.
Moving costs money. Think about turning off and turning on utilities, and the deposits that run with them. Think about getting movers to pack and trucks to move it all in, and the expense of that, and understand, that you ARE NOT doing it yourself at your age. Think about hotel rooms and meals and other expenses you might incur while looking for a house or waiting on the moving truck. You can rack up some bills in no time.
Do some heavy-duty research. Look at where you are moving to. Look at housing costs, taxes, availability of health care and transportation, and several other aspects of life I’ve named in this article. Moving on a whim can cost you a large portion of your savings.
What if you don’t like where you end up? You should probably plan a long visit to the place you are thinking of moving, to see if you like the climate, the neighborhood, and the community. As mentioned before, it’s expensive to relocate, so do as much research as possible before you pull up stakes.
Falling for Too-Good-To-Be-True Offers
I have written a bit on get-rich-quick scams. Here are my articles on that subject:
Falling for one of these can rob you of your entire nest egg, and then some. Seniors are particularly susceptible to fraud (here’s my articles on senior fraud and cyber fraud) because we are considered to be too trusting and too frail to fight back.
Putting Off Saving for Retirement
My problem with having too little saved for retirement isn’t that I put off saving, it’s from losing it all (ya, thanks again 2008!). But even after we lost our business, we began again to save for retirement. A person should start saving with their very first job, and continue saving, even throughout his/her retirement if possible. Even during the roughest of times, a couple dollars here and there can really add up. So never think it’s too little. Whatever you can save will come in handy in the long run.
Borrowing Against Your Home
If your home is paid off, bully for you! Your home is one of the biggest and best assets you have in your retirement portfolio. Even if it isn’t paid off, you likely have some equity in it that can eventually go into your retirement funds. If you have paid off your mortgage, then it is wise not to borrow more money against it. Of course there will be real estate value swings from year to year, but over time, your property will gain in value. Your home is like a giant nest egg. If you borrow against it, you reduce the value you will have later, plus you pay interest on that loan. Refinancing to reduce your payment is great, but be sure to leave all the equity there, so you will have retirement savings later.
Failure to De-Clutter
Every retiree, grandparent or not, should consider de-cluttering. Have you ever watched those hoarder TV shows, where the people just keep gathering stuff until they can no longer sleep in their beds or use their kitchens and bathrooms? I can tell you that, in our situation, we are nowhere near that, but my husband has a tendency to find a home for anything free, and that home is his garage.
I know when my in laws passed away, we had 30 years worth of their stuff, plus all of their parent’s stuff. It wasn’t as bad as the hoarder shows, but it was daunting, none-the-less. I look at what we have now, and we still have a good share of that stuff, plus our accumulated stuff from our 25 year marriage. If we don’t start to de-clutter and downsize now, our kids are going to be stuck the with mess. Do you want your loved ones to have this issue?
Besides, you don’t know what your future holds, whether you’re a brand new adult, or a retiree, or anything in between. Wouldn’t it be better to have a manageable amount of things that can be packed quickly, in case there’s some new thing you want to do, or some new challenge thrown your way? I know that at times I’ve felt paralyzed by all the stuff we have, and getting rid of it would sure give us freedom to do a lot more things.
Putting Your Kids First
I know, what parent in their right mind wouldn’t put their kids first? But in this case, you MUST think of yourself first. I know, easy for me to say, when my kids both have good, paid-for educations and lucrative careers. But I know others who are close to retirement, and are providing for adult children. I’m talking not only room and board, but paying for their cars, their computers, and their cell phones.
This can be a very difficult situation that may have started long before the child became an adult. And there truly are some people who cannot be expected to support themselves: those with birth defects and chronic conditions, just to name a few. It’s a fine line, I know, but if you are supporting an adult that can otherwise work and support him/herself, you’re going to run out of retirement money, and at very worst, work too long past when you should retire.
If you are in this situation, you must put your foot down. You are going to have to show some tough love here. You did not save enough in your retirement to support anyone other than yourself and your spouse. There are plenty of opportunities for adults now, and plenty of government programs if they really can’t support themselves. Unemployment is at record lows, so there are plenty of jobs available. Your children must get out and support themselves, or at the very least, support the household by getting a job and paying for the expenses that they are racking up within your home.
Neglecting Estate Planning
There’s one thing about life…no one gets out alive! The sooner we accept that we are all going to die someday, the better off we are in being able to prepare for it. If you prepare, it is so much easier on the ones you leave behind. That is the best gift you can give your children and grandchildren. Get a lawyer or visit a website like Legal Zoom, and get a will or a trust started. Also, check with your life insurance company to make sure you have updated information on primary and secondary beneficiaries. Putting down your final wishes on paper and making sure they are legally recognized, will help your loved ones sort out what’s to be done when your moment comes.
What You Can Do To Offset All Of These Worries
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All I am saying here is, that retirement can’t be something you run off and do willy-nilly. The more you plan, the better off you will be. I always used to say to my kids, “Plan for the worst, and hope for the best!” You should take this same approach to getting ready for retirement. So take these suggestions and come up with others that might fit into your life, and plan plan plan! You will retire all the better for it.
Please put your comments and questions below, and thank you so much for reading!