Aging. Something we all get to do if we are lucky, but don’t feel lucky when it actually happens. The conversation about fitness changes radically as we get older, and it becomes more about maintaining physical fitness levels and less about getting more physically fit. The same could be said about our finances. Learning the basic fundamentals of personal financial helps us shed debt and grow wealth when we are young, yet one day we realize that our priorities have shifted to trying to maintain our investment accounts and not lose what we’ve got.
I am happy to report my recent membership into the elite “Fifty Plus Club” where club rules are akin to prison rules when it comes to your physical health. As a childhood athlete, I just assumed my physical health would naturally carry over to the second half of my life. I take the stairs in office buildings – I’ll be okay, right? Then one day, all that changed in the blink of an eye and my physical fitness was put on notice. I am now trying to hurry up and get stronger, maintain flexibility and turn back the biological clock that I haven’t worried about for thirty years. Not an easy task.
How does this translate into our financial health? Once day you wake up and realize the kids are grown, your parents are old (if you’re lucky) and your own retirement is right around the corner. You’ve been saving “some” in your retirement accounts, but one day you realize that it’s not enough. You cut back eating out, cancel cable and stop buying expensive Christmas gifts…but it’s hard. Ramping up saving for retirement late in life is not an easy task.
The Fifty Plus Club is just as much about your finances as it is about your health – so let’s explore the steps to pursuing and staying financially fit:
7 steps to pursuing Financial Fitness (source: CFA Institute 01/01/2017)
- Set Financial Goals. How can you reach your goals when you don’t know what they are? Determine the cost of the goal (adjusted for inflation) and length of time you have until the goal should be funded. Back into how much you can save over this time period and be gentle with yourself if the goal just can’t be met.
- Understand where your money is going. Create a cash flow plan so you are in charge of your money, not the other way around. Track your spending and periodically compare to your budget. Make your budgeting realistic, so you can live the life you want yet have room to save and invest.
- Manage your debt wisely. Minimize usage of high interest credit cards, seek other leverage strategies where you can. Build a debt management strategy to prioritize and accelerate debt pay-downs. Curtail the use of debt for everyday spending until you have a handle on your budgeting.
- Put your finances on autopilot. Use direct deposit for savings / investing strategies. Make regular contributions to retirement accounts. Use autopay to manage recurring bills but review them often to not continue to pay for services no longer used.
- Maintain a relatively steady financial lifestyle. Spending does not have to grow at the same rate as income. Use income growth has a way to increase savings / investing, afterwards using the surplus income to raise your standard of living.
- Invest Wisely. Choose low-cost investment solutions, paying more for advice than for products. Use diversified portfolios of equities, bonds and alternatives using the percentage allocation that matches your risk profile and time horizon. Where appropriate, maintain a long-term mindset and don’t let short-term performance prompt emotional trading.
- Obtain knowledge and advice. Understand your finances, never rely solely on your advisor, accountant, or banker. Learn the differences between products versus registration. Know the basics of every investment you make. If it seems too complicated for you, that may be a red flag.
How to maintain Financial Fitness into the twilight of your life. (source: AARP 08/01/2013)
- Pay off consumer debt. Yep, this is still a thing as you grow older.
- Understand Mortgage ReFi’s and Reverse Mortgages….and the long-term effects for your lifetime and transfer to your heirs.
- Maintain a sustainable income distribution from retirement assets. Look at principal draw down vs supplementing with earned income when necessary.
- Review life insurance and long-term care policies
- Address changes of risk tolerance and time horizon when it comes to your asset allocation.
- Update your estate planning! I can’t stress this one enough! Wills, trusts and power of attorney documents should not be on “set it and forget it” mode.
- Watch out for lifestyle creep. The topic is just as relevant in your 70’s and 80’s as it was in your 30’s and 40’s. Spending can rapidly increase out of our control late in retirement, so it’s best to manage when/where we can early in retirement.
- Consider downsizing…..everything.
- Keep the children (and grandchildren) off the payroll. Yes, I know you love your children. Yes, I know you really love your grandchildren. But there are loans for houses, cars, college and even braces…but there are no loans for retirement.
- Create multi-general tax planning strategies for large IRA balances. Work with a tax advisor to learn strategies that could help keep more of those retirement dollars in the family tree.
Kimberly Enders CFP® CWS® CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
Enders Wealth Management
37800 Van Dyke Ave, Suite 125
Sterling Heights MI 48312
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