Smart ways to achieve financial fitness in the New Year
Nearly every older adult has some vision of financial fitness – whether it’s freedom from debt, comfortable retirement, money in the bank or beyond.
But very few older adults can achieve financial fitness without being conscientious now and planning for the future. The new year is a good time to assess your finances and make necessary plans for “shaping up.”
Experts at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (probably better known as the familiar FDIC at your local bank) say it’s important to consider financial fitness before you retire. And if you’re already retired, do it immediately. Then take time every year or so to make sure your plan still works.
Here are six tips to plan for and achieve financial fitness.
Plan with your partner
If you’re married, experts agree it’s critical to talk with your spouse about your financial fitness expectations. You both want to be aligned on what retirement and life on a fixed income will be like.
Think about it: If one spouse’s idea of financial fitness is the ability to buy a boat and sail off for years, and the other hopes to downsize into a retirement village, there could be a problem!
Develop a spending plan around a fixed income – whether you have it now or will soon – looking for ways to cut costs, continue saving and do the things you enjoy.
Check your credit
FDIC experts recommend you review your credit reports even if you don’t intend to apply for a loan or open a credit card. Reason: If there are mistakes, you can clear them up before they make it more costly to buy insurance or borrow money down the road.
Plus, if you monitor your credit reports, you’re better prepared to detect identity theft. You can get annual free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Simplify, where possible
Try to make it easier to manage your money and pay bills. If you have several accounts at multiple banks, consider consolidating. Also, limit the number of investment accounts and credit cards.
Get payments due to you – such as pension or tax refunds – automatically deposited into an account you can easily access. Consider signing up for more direct withdraws – such as for utility bills -from an account you routinely keep sufficiently filled.
Many older adults have already made smart financial decisions throughout their lives – and are confident about their ability to make the best decisions going forward. But others may want to talk with a financial advisor.
The most important thing when considering financial advisors is ensuring they’re qualified and credible. FINRA – the agency authorized by Congress to oversee the broker-dealer industry – offers advice here on the types of financial advisors you might choose, plus tips on how to safely pick one who is ideal for you.
Prepare for the possibility you won’t always be able to handle your finances, too.
Write a list of your financial institutions and account numbers and keep it in a safe place that a trusted loved one can access. You might want to add a trusted co-owner to accounts who can handle necessary transactions if you can’t.
Also organize bank and/or brokerage statements, checkbook, credit card information and other financial records securely together. You might keep them in a safe deposit box or home safe. At the very least, seal them in an airtight, waterproof plastic bag to prevent water damage.
Also consider working with an attorney to create a power of attorney (POA). You can designate a person or two who can make key decisions on your finances, in case you can’t.
Protect against fraud
Fraud can destroy your financial fitness plans. You want to take steps to avoid being a fraud victim, including knowing these signs of fraud:
- Unsolicited call, email or request for a large amount of money before receiving goods or services
- An unexpected email or call requesting an account number or personal information
- An offer that sounds too good to be true
- New or unusual interest in your finances from someone who shouldn’t, and
- Pressure to send money quickly or secretly.
You can also get more information at the free online ViGR (R) Financial Symposium brought by Friends Life Care on January 26 and 27. Sign up here.
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