Senior Finance: How to Save Money During Retirement

Five ways to enjoy retirement without breaking the bank.

For many, retirement is a time to do some of the things you put off earlier in life. Take a class. Travel. Find a new hobby. But it’s not easy to ensure that enjoyment doesn’t come at the high price of financial insecurity. When a loved one is retired, you can encourage her to make the time joyful, while helping her remain financially stable.

Jack Tatar, a retirement coach and author based in New Jersey, shares his thoughts on how families can support retirees.

1. Enjoy retirement responsibly

Retirement is prime time for seniors to enroll in a cooking class, learn a foreign language, or explore any interest, but it’s important to approach these pursuits practically.

For example, you could encourage your loved ones to skip the gym membership and make use of their community’s fitness offerings. Many senior living communities offer in-house exercise and educational classes, which have the added benefit of being great socialization opportunities.

Never force people to turn down an opportunity that would make them happy, just think about the best way to participate in those activities.

2. Communicate openly—and soon

Tatar advises that families have “that talk” about financial and life concerns sooner rather than later.

These conversations can be uncomfortable, but they’re extremely necessary. Transparency can help you understand your loved one’s goals and wishes during retirement, making you a better advisor for her.

“Most everyone has that talk, but they usually have it too late,” Tatar says. “Make sure you clarify what expenses are coming up, what expectations both the parents have and the children have. Then you have a better feel for what you can spend.”

3. Rethink savings

“So many people get hung up on not spending their principal,” Tatar explains. “That might make sense if you plan on passing money onto your heirs. But if you don’t and it’s necessary to maintain your lifestyle, then it may be okay to eat into that sum, understanding that it could impact your income flow later on due to the decreased principal to earn income from.”

According to Tatar, it’s okay for seniors to use a little bit of their savings to supplement income if necessary—less than five percent. Between five and ten percent, it starts to get risky, he says. Everyone’s situation is different, but Tatar urges people to never use more than ten percent of their savings and understand that using any amount of your savings can decrease the level of growth and income you’ll earn in the future.

4. Pay attention

Unfortunately, there are people in the world who prey on seniors. Tatar says that adult children can protect their aging parents by watching for suspicious activity. Pay attention to your parent’s mail and beware of solicitations from investment advisors and financial statements for unfamiliar accounts.

“Studies show that seniors’ financial literacy decreases, but their confidence in the decision-making process actually increases,” Tatar says. “They’re trying to be friendly by picking the phone up every time it rings and often end up getting solicited, which can often lead to poor financial decisions.”

Tatar also says that adult children can play a valuable role in helping their parents avoid scams.

Make sure your loved one has caller ID and can avoid talking to unknown people, and that they’re on the National Do Not Call Registry.

5. Add up expenses

The best way to spot potential savings is to take a detailed look at where your loved one is spending the most. Is the cost of utilities adding up? Is she paying for a car she doesn’t use? Once you identify these problem areas, you can find ways to cut back. For example, the monthly fee at many senior living communities includes utilities, transportation and other services.

But, as Tatar says the biggest benefit of community living has little to do with money. “Social interaction is really the big one. The more you have those people around you, the better your life will be.”

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