It is true that you spend the first half of your life trying to get something and the second half of your life trying to keep it. If you are a senior, or very nearly there, it is time to review how you plan to protect your finances. Below are seven steps to assist you in your financial planning.
- Get Qualified Help
Unless your expertise is in senior financial planning the best thing to do is get qualified help. Be sure to check professional credentials when retaining the services you most need. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has a web site (www.finra.org/investors/professional-designations) that can guide you and provide tips on choosing an investment advisor. Additionally you should prepare for the possibility that you may not be able to manage your finances in the future. It is a good strategy to write down a list of your financial institutions and account numbers and put it in a safe place so that it is accessible to your family or loved ones in the event of an emergency. Consult a qualified attorney to help you decide if you should formally designate a trusted individual with power of attorney (POA) over your finances. POAs vary from state to state so be certain you understand your particular situation. Should you move to a new state get a local attorney to review if changes need to be made to your legal documentation.
- Develop a Spending Plan
Develop a spending plan and learn new ways to limit expenses. If you no longer commute by car to work advise your auto insurer and it will likely lower your rate. Create short term goal savings with pension money or other sources of income for holiday gifts or vacations so that you avoid large withdrawals from your retirement investments. Short of a disaster do not touch your principal; it takes money to make money. Use senior discounts and programs, learn how to spend less and live within your means.
- Limit Unwanted Marketing
Realize your age makes you a target for marketers. You can limit incoming phone calls by joining the national Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov) and learn how to limit other unwanted marketing or identity theft by visiting Consumer Information on the Federal Trade Commission website (www.consumer.ftc.gov). Also, to reduce spending, carefully review your credit card and bank statements to be sure you do not have any auto subscriptions to services you don’t use or could live without. You can potentially save hundreds of dollars each year in fees that are automatically charged to your credit card or bank account.
- Check Your Credit Report
Check your credit report once a year for accuracy. (www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action) According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AnnualCreditReport.com) the website is “…jointly operated by the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The site was created in order to comply with the obligations under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) to provide a mechanism for American consumers to receive up to three free credit reports per year.” Mistakes or other errors on your credit report can increase a credit card rate or make it more expensive to purchase insurance or to borrow money. Checking your credit report can also ensure you are not a victim of identity theft.
- Avoid Advances on your Finances
Be very wary of offers that advance you a portion of your future pensions or Social Security benefits. These are actual loans similar to pay day loans and they most often involve costly fees and interest rates. Use your credit cards cautiously paying off your balance in full each month. Use credit cards that give cash back for things like the purchase of groceries and gasoline. Remember that if you find yourself considering a reverse mortgage for supplemental spending money it will eventually have to be paid back, with interest. If you or your heirs wind up selling your home a significant portion of your home asset value can be lost to a reverse mortgage depending on the amount of equity you put into play. If you absolutely have to enter into this sort of arrangement remember if you live with your spouse be certain they are also on the documents signature page so that a surviving spouse can continue to live in the home.
- Look for Ways to Earn Supplemental Income
If you have a hobby or expertise you can find ways to consult or create saleable items giving you an additional revenue stream and an additional sense of purpose. Supplemental income can affect other aspects of your finances so be certain to know how it might affect your taxes, possibly increase your Medicare costs or trigger a temporary reduction in Social Security benefits.
- Choose the Best Annuity
If you are considering entering into an annuity or other financial product to help augment monthly income be sure you are buying the one that is most right for your needs. There are many to choose from and it is imperative that you purchase the right product from a reputable company. Any major shift of assets must be carefully considered.
Learn how to spend less, protect what you do have and best prepare for your financial future with trusted professional help. Contact our Winter Garden office at 407-654-7028 and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can assist in your planning needs.