5 Common Money Mistakes Seniors Should Avoid

5 Common Money Mistakes Seniors Should Avoid

Sep 02 2014

Retirement means no longer waking up at the crack of dawn and spending 45 minutes in traffic, but that doesn't mean you should forget all your cares: you need to keep a close eye on your finances.

In fact, with longer lifespans and expensive medical costs, retirees should be more diligent than ever to avoid these five common money mistakes.

1. Ignoring Inflation


After the recession, many thought it was a wise move to put their investments into accounts low-yield accounts like CDs and bonds. Unfortunately, this means slow-growing money devalued by the rate of inflation. That alone can crack a nest egg wide open.

"A portfolio of bonds and CDs will most likely cause their standard of living to slowly deteriorate over time as inflation eats into the purchasing power of their dollars," says Scott O'Brien, a financial planner with the financial planning company WorthPointe.

To counter this, seniors should include stocks in their portfolio for a growth component. Some experts estimate a long-term inflation rate of 3% to 4%, so the interest should be higher than that.

And low-yielding CDs and bonds aren't exactly worthless. They're good for quick access to cash so you can keep long-term investments undisturbed.

2. Not Saving Enough


With the average life expectancy at about 85, seniors must plan for a longer retirement--yet many don't understand how much money it actually costs to retire.

The trick to beat this money mistake? Plan way, way ahead when calculating your retirement income.

Tim Shanahan, founder of the financial services company Compass Securities Corporation, says retirees should plan as if they will live to be 100, not just ten or even 20 years past retirement age.

"They often disagree until we question them, 'What if you're wrong? Where will the funds to live on come from if you spend out at some arbitrary age like 80?'" says Shanahan.

3. Not Planning for Medical Care


On top of the general cost of day-to-day living, seniors also have to worry about the bank-draining cost of medical expenses.

According to Fidelity Investments, a retired couple needs about $220,000 set aside for medical expenses during retirement. That cost doesn't factor in retirement homes, assisted living, or in-home care.

That's enough money to buy a house.

And for seniors who don't plan enough for the future, they might have to reach into their home's equity or refinance in order to pay for medical bills.

4. Always Bailing Out the Family


It's natural for seniors to keep wanting to help their kids and family. But it can also be a big money mistake for retirees.

"The biggest mistake I see is retirees helping their kids and grandkids out so much that they jeopardize their own future," says Helen Hogan, a financial planner with Sunshine Financial Services.

The trick is to choose wisely when you should help your kids and loved ones and not just be an always-available ATM.

5. Not Seeking Help


Having enough money for retirement is a huge step. Knowing what to do with it can be tricky.

It's a smart idea to look for a financial planner you can trust. Even if you don't need their help now, you might in the future.

For example, if your spouse played a key role in your financial planning and they pass away, will you know what to do?

Also, avoid seeking help from friends and family--they may mean well, but they probably aren't financial experts.

Finding a trusted planner without any family ties now will help you avoid those who may want to take advantage of you as you grow older.

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