As we now enter the New Year, older Americans may want to take an extra moment to reflect on money matters and make certain they are well-positioned for any unexpected jolts 2021 could send their way. That could be more important than ever after all the uncertainties and setbacks of 2020.
Despite another round of coronavirus relief stimulus checks coming to qualified Americans, many baby boomers and seniors have seen their retirement savings dwindle to less than a month's income with many having little to no retirement strategy at all. Meanwhile, the rising costs of healthcare and long-term care can put a stress on financial stability for an entire family.
Here are four money tips for those in or near their retirement years:
- Make sure you're getting the most out of Social Security. There is growing concern that Social Security will be unable to fund the retirement needs of seniors and baby boomers beyond 2034 without government intervention into alternative models of funding. In the meantime it's important to understand the rules of Social Security so you can maximize your benefits and minimize tax liabilities. Decisions such as what age you will start collecting to lock in the highest monthly benefit for life can get complicated, so doing your homework and even seeking professional advice might be in order.
- Investigate how to pay for long-term care. One unfortunate reality of aging is that many older Americans at some point need expensive long-term care. Long-term care insurance can help, but you need to find out if it's the right or an available option for you. Can you pay for the premiums without stretching your monthly budget too thin? Generally you will need to pay premiums for many years before ever using it. The best time to buy long-term-care insurance is when you're in your early- to mid-50s and in good health. About 25 percent of people in their 60s are turned down for the insurance.
- Explore the pros and cons of a reverse mortgage or a life settlement. Struggling seniors who want to avoid drawing too much out of their retirement accounts and risk running out of money could consider a reverse mortgage or a life settlement. A reverse mortgage is a mortgage loan or line of credit, usually secured by a residential property, that enables the borrower to access the unencumbered value of the property. The loans are designed for older homeowners and do not require monthly payments for as long as the homeowner is living in the home. A life settlement is the sale of an existing life insurance policy by the owner to an investor for a percentage of the death benefit paid out as a tax advantaged lump-sum of cash. Life settlements are the only financial option for seniors that will pay them more money the older or sicker they get. Life insurance policies are one of the most stable and valuable assets people own but millions of seniors every year will abandon a policy without realizing the value they could receive through a settlement. Reverse mortgages and life settlements are well regulated and mainstream transactions that people have become more aware of over the last three decades from seeing TV commercials about both on a daily basis.
- Take advantage of senior discounts and membership organizations. Many businesses give older Americans a break on prices for everything from a haircut to a fast-food meal to a seat on an airplane. Joining groups such as AARP or AAA are also a great resource for services and member-only discounts. Unfortunately, many people don't take advantage of these opportunities and discounts as often as they should. In many cases that could be because it just doesn't occur to them, or it may be because they have a hard time thinking of themselves as seniors.
Aging is an inevitability for all of us, and there is no need to fear what could be some of the best and rewarding years of your life. The key to arriving financially and physically fit is in the investments you make in yourself today. Regardless of how old you are, it's never too late to make a positive step forward into your senior years.
Chris Orestis, President of LifeCare Xchange and known as the Retirement Genius, is a nationally recognized senior care advocate and expert in retirement, long-term care and specialty senior living funding solutions. The author of two books, numerous published papers and articles, and a frequent industry speaker; he is the innovator that brought the LTC Life Settlement into the market over a decade ago.
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