The good news is that no matter what the reason for your financial problems, there are actions you can take to salvage your retirement. The most important thing you can do is face the issue head on and take action as soon as you realize you have a problem. Below are a few common challenges which could hurt your retirement, along with possible financial solutions.
Not Enough Money in Your Retirement Savings Accounts
According to an article titled "Money Missteps" in the April 2017 AARP Bulletin, as recently as 2013 almost 30 percent of U.S. households headed by someone over the age of 55 did not have a retirement savings account or a future pension. No money saved at all for retirement.
The sooner you recognize and deal with your financial shortfall, the better off you will be. As frequently mentioned in other posts in this blog, you have a number of choices: Continue working until age 70 before you start to collect your Social Security benefits, supplement your Social Security with a part-time job, downsize your home, move to a less expensive area, or get a reverse mortgage (assuming you have equity in a home.) Most importantly, you want to avoid building up debt in order to finance your retirement. Eventually, that will only make your situation worse.
You Have Retirement Savings But It is Dropping in Value
As we all discovered during the Recession of 2009, sometimes our retirement savings accounts can lose money faster than we ever expected.
Depending on your situation, you may want to talk to a financial planner to discuss your overall retirement plan and investment portfolio. They could recommend moving your savings into a different mutual fund or into a safer, less volatile investment. In addition, they may suggest you reinvest all the income from your retirement savings and add more money until you are able to re-build the value. This could delay your retirement plans, but will probably be worth it in the long run.
You Have No Equity in Your Home
Some people hope they will be able to take out a reverse mortgage against their home equity to finance their retirement. However, what can you do if your home has lost value and you now owe more than it is worth?
If you can afford the house payments and the house is in good repair, you may want to continue making payments until inflation and your payments rebuild your home equity. It could take a few years, but might be worth it in the long-run. If it is not an option for you to keep making the payments, you may be able to refinance your home through the Federal Home Affordable Refinance Program at harp.gov. If you do not qualify, you could try to get your bank to agree to a short sale. That is less damaging to your credit than waiting for foreclosure.
You are Buried in Debt
Unfortunately, some people experience a job loss, a serious medical problem, a natural disaster or other financial catastrophe in the years just before they hoped to retire ... or right after they have begun their retirement. If they are too sick or too deeply in debt to recover, they may believe they have no hope to ever retire and/or may have to spend the rest of their life drowning in debt.
Medical bills are the most common reason for bankruptcy in the United States, especially for people who are near retirement age or who have already retired. If you have suffered a severe financial setback which leaves you deeply in debt, bankruptcy may be the best option for you. In fact, it may be the only way you can stay out of extreme poverty as you age, and the future financial stress could potentially worsen your health situation. Talk to a lawyer and see if bankruptcy or debt reorganization is an option for you. Many well-known figures have had to resort to bankruptcy in order to save their retirement. Ordinary people should consider this option, as well, especially if you have so much debt that you know you will never be able to pay it off.
You Are Still Supporting Your Children or Grandchildren
An estimated 3 million people over the age of 60 are supporting their grandkids. An estimated 60 percent of people over the age of 50 are financially supporting an adult child or other relative. An unknown number of parents and grandparents extend some kind of financial aid to a family member on an irregular basis. These numbers show that the vast majority of people who are retired or near retirement age are helping to support someone else. If the burden of supporting other family members is derailing your retirement, you may need outside help in dealing with these problems.
If you are a grandparent supporting your grandchildren, in some states you may qualify to become the foster parent of your grandchildren, which would make you eligible to receive financial aid from the state. In addition, you may be able to apply for housing vouchers, SNAP (food stamps), and other types of aid. You are performing a lifesaving service for these children and should not be embarrassed to ask for financial help.
If helping your adult children or other relatives is putting your own well-being and retirement at risk, you may need to solicit assistance in setting boundaries with these people. You can ask other relatives or your financial advisors to help you explain to these dependents why you are no longer able to give them money. If you do decide to loan them money, put your agreement in writing and charge interest of at least 2 percent. If they default, at least you will be able to deduct it as a "non-business bad debt" on your taxes. However, your best bet is to avoid giving them money in the first place.
If your adult child or other relative is also in a bad financial situation, you may see if you can help them apply for various forms of financial aid ... housing vouchers, food stamps, disability, unemployment, welfare, SSI, etc. If necessary, take them to your local social services department or homeless shelter to see if there are programs in your community which can help people who are homeless or nearly homeless get back on their feet. Your goal is to make these relatives less dependent on you and more dependent on themselves or government aid. After all, you will not be around to support them forever. At some point, they need to have a plan to support themselves, even if that means they need to rely on disability and food stamps.
If you are looking for additional information about retirement planning, common medical problems, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
If you want an overview of retirement planning tips, watch for my book Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be available from Griffin Publishing in 2018.
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