Life Style

Follow these five rules to avoid financial worries as a retiree

The author, Donna Fenn, with her parents.

The author, Donna Fenn, with her parents.

Courtesy Donna Fenn

My parents both retired when they were in their early 60s. They had enough money and regular income to lead a comfortable life for more than 25 years. My father died eight years ago, but my mother is still alive and is now 86 years old.

Her retired years spent the summer in Vermont and went fishing on Lake Champlain almost every weekend. During the winter they were in Florida. In both locations, they had modest homes and small boats in addition to their primary residence and investment property in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

They weren’t wealthy by any means – my father grew up on a small farm and ran an auto parts business. My mother, the daughter of Polish immigrants who worked in the textile factories in my hometown, was a secretary. They were never wasteful, but instinctively they knew when something was worth spending and when to save.

It is true that my own financial situation is very different from that of my parents. Still, their example showed me how to handle money and plan my own retirement. I learned these things:

Debt is usually not a friend

Every bill my parents received, they paid immediately. They also never carried a credit card with them and only made major purchases when they could pay for them in cash.

The big exception was when, more than 50 years ago, they not only bought the two-family house in which they had previously rented, but also the two-family house next door. At that time, my father managed to arrange 100% financing with a local banker whose car he was working on and who trusted him. After 27 years he had paid off this loan.

He also refused to go into debt to pay for college. And so, in addition to his day job, he plowed snow at night to earn extra money for my tuition fees. The greatest gift my parents gave me was a debt-free college education. However, they insisted that I take out a small loan my senior year at school so that I could get good credit.

Make saving a constant habit no matter how much you make

My parents saved up for themselves, for me and, ultimately, for their grandchildren too. When she was still working, my mother opened savings accounts for my two children. For each of her salaries, she deposited ten or fifteen dollars in these accounts. She closed the accounts when they totaled $ 3,000 each and gave the money to me and my husband, and we invested it again for our children.

We thought it would be a good idea to buy them a few shares of Apple, and that turned out to be a pretty good decision. Now they each have their own shares, which were originally financed by their very hard-working “Babci”. Hopefully, her grandma’s example will influence her own financial decisions in the future.

You can also pay into your employer’s pension account or take out an individual pension plan

Although my parents earned modest salaries, they were very committed to contributing to their employers’ pension schemes. Those who are short of money are easily convinced that there is no way they can forego even a penny of their paycheck. Even small additional amounts that add up over the years are sufficient, especially if the employer pays your insurance premium.

If, on the other hand, you are self-employed, like me, then open an individual retirement account and conscientiously pay into it. Ultimately, you have another source of income that you can rely on in your retirement years.

Take out long-term care insurance

And do it now while you are still young and healthy. Seriously: right now. The younger you are, the cheaper it is. Also, if you are not wealthy, the chances are good that you will need it.

While chronic health problems prevented my father from getting long-term care insurance, my mother got one when she was 64. She recently moved into an assisted living facility and is now benefiting from the insurance benefits.

The rent of her new apartment is roughly the same as that of a modest one-room apartment in a good neighborhood in Brooklyn. So without the insurance it would be priceless. The national median of the cost of assisted living in America is $ 4,000 per month, and the average length of stay is two and a half to three years. Since health insurance does not cover these costs, you should expect about $ 144,000 or possibly a lot more if you need medical attention for memory problems.

I know this is not something you want to think about right now. Still, I advise you to do it anyway. My husband and I both have long-term care insurance. I am confident that it will relieve both our children and our assets if we should need assisted living in the coming decades.

Invest in a regular source of income

Now that I take care of my mother’s finances, I understand that retirement income comes from many different sources. Most people will not be able to retire on their social security benefits alone. Hence, it is important to have other sources of steady income.

My parents never had that many shares, but they kept the two houses they bought for $ 15,000 in 1968 and lived on the first floor of one of the two houses for most of their married life. Property management can be a headache at times and is certainly not for everyone. But these properties, which have been unencumbered by mortgages for many years, provide my mother with an important regular source of money. And I know that if she survives the benefits of her long-term care insurance, if she survives the benefits of her long-term care insurance, if she survives the benefits of her long-term care insurance, if she survives the benefits of her long-term care insurance, her sale or a mortgage will raise enough money to keep her safe.

This article was published by in December 2020. It has now been reviewed and updated.


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