Talking about money and actually deciding what to do with your nest egg can be overwhelming. Putting aside one hour to focus on learning something new may help those daunting tasks feel more manageable and reduce stressors associated with caring for your personal finances.
Here are nine small money moves seniors can make that can help alleviate stress related to their finances.
1. Tinker with a budgeting app
A significant amount of money-related stress is not due to having a lack of money, but rather due to not knowing where your money is going. In a recent survey, baby boomers revealed that they were almost equally stressed about health and money. That’s a big deal when you are potentially living on a fixed retirement income. You can alleviate some of the mystery (and fear) around your finances by creating and sticking to a budget. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) found individuals who make and stick to a budget tend to feel more confident about their finances.
There’s no one way to make a budget, but as with almost anything in 2021, there are plenty of apps for that. Many of these apps will connect to your accounts and pull your spending data for you, helping you more easily track where your money is going by placing your outgoing money into different categories. Note that these apps aren’t perfect, so they will often miscategorize expenses and will at times miss certain types of payments. That said, having that data in front of you gives you more control over establishing a plan for how to spend and where.
Set a deadline for yourself, almost as a trial run. If the app isn’t working for you or you haven’t quite mastered it come your deadline, try another approach.
2. Schedule a call with a financial adviser
Sticking with the theme of “knowledge is power” here, talking to a financial advisor can help you get a better understanding of your finances, especially around tax time. Financial advisors can do a lot for you when it comes to your finances, including giving you recommendations related to your retirement income and your budget, and helping you chart out debt repayment. All told, if you plan on paying closer attention to a budget and paying down debt but aren’t feeling confident doing it alone, a financial advisor can help you navigate your way through the process.
3. Watch a health insurance webinar
Health care spending and money stress are tied together for seniors and for most Americans in general. Around 66% of Americans stress about how healthcare impacts their finances, so it’s no surprise that baby boomers feel uniquely impacted by these concerns.
One solution for seniors to reduce this stress is to watch a seminar on how health insurance works and how your needs evolve as you age. Understanding what type of health insurance options are available may help you successfully plan for the future. Plus both Medicare and private health insurance plans can be overwhelmingly complex, so gaining a bit of extra knowledge in this area can go a long way to helping you uncover cost savings (especially considering a 60-year-old may find themselves paying nearly three times as much as a 21-year-old for health insurance in some states).
4. Read a book on retirement finance
Educating yourself on health insurance is just a starting point. The entire personal finance environment can be confusing, especially after retirement. There are numerous books that can illuminate finance concerns unique to baby boomers and retirement. Books on retirement planning may not be the most useful, but you could find a wealth of information in books on budgeting or books specifically on how to save, spend and earn money as an individual who is retired or soon to be retired.
5. Start shopping for used items
Are you overspending in some areas? Now is a good time to start considering value shopping. Shopping for used items can help you scratch that itch you have for spending money while making sure you’re not overspending in a way that breaks your budget or hurts your finances. Consider taking more trips to used book stores, consignment shops or second-hand goods stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. If you’re into online shopping, you may want to try eBay auctions before trying to purchase goods brand-new. In many cases, you can save a large percentage on the cost of the item.
6. Flash that I.D. for senior discounts where possible
You may be fighting the “senior” label, but you can certainly take advantage of the benefits of your age. Senior discounts still exist for everything from travel to restaurants to movies. Joining a discount society like AARP is a starting point, but you may also find age-related discounts at different retailers. Many mobile phone companies, for example, offer senior discounts on phone plans. Both Verizon and T-Mobile offer discounted phone plans for individuals aged 55-plus.
7. Cancel or suspend subscriptions
While you’re taking advantage of those senior discounts, now may also be a great time to start canceling or suspending your unused subscriptions. We’re not just talking about Netflix. You may also have newspaper and magazine subscriptions you could probably either ditch or switch to digital versions for less money. Some older Americans still have a print subscription to a newspaper. We know that giving up some of these subscriptions may be hard. But take some time to analyze how much you’re using them, and then cut out any subscriptions that you aren’t using or aren’t using enough to justify the continued expense.
8. Research online-only banks
If you’ve never heard of a neobank, now is a great time to learn. A neobank is a new type of bank with no physical branch. Instead, these banks offer checking and savings accounts completely online. By dropping physical branches, they’re also able to offer much higher interest rates. Some even offer interest rates that exceed 2%, which you simply won’t find with a brick-and-mortar bank or even a credit union.
9. Find a charitable cause close to your heart
Giving away money might sound like a strange way to improve your financial status, but donating to charity has two key benefits. First, charitable donations are tax-deductible. You can reduce your taxable income by giving to charity, leading to a lower tax rate. Second, and perhaps more uniquely, donating to charity can give you an emotional boost about the state of your finances. The act of giving reduces stress and lowers blood pressure, among other health benefits.
For seniors, money-related stress is exceedingly common. Thankfully, educating yourself about your finances and changing your money-spending habits doesn’t have to be something only experts can do. Plus, you can reduce your stress considerably and feel empowered that you are doing what is right for you.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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