What’s a new year without resolutions? And if you haven’t guessed yet, the ones I’m writing about have nothing to do with going to the gym or eating better (though those are still good ones for retirees and pre-retirees).
This is the perfect time to make sure you have your financial house in order, and that’s especially true for retirees. So I asked financial planners from across the country to help come up with a list of financial resolutions for retirees.
Fidelity’s New Year Financial Resolutions Study found that older Americans are more likely to set non-financial resolutions than financial ones. Younger Americans are more likely to do the opposite, says Ken Hevert, senior vice president of retirement at Fidelity Investments. But among older Americans who did make financial resolutions, saving more and spending less are top goals. “We also know that people over age 69 are concerned about the market and the economy, and very concerned about health-care expenses,” he says.
The key issues for retirees and pre-retirees relate to saving and better planning in the New Year. This list of expert suggestions will help you focus on getting over that planning hump.
Kimberly Foss, author, founder, Empyrion Wealth Management, Roseville, Calif.:
• One of my favorite tips to help people save for retirement is to download an app like Acorns that rounds up your everyday purchases and automatically invests the spare change. You’ll be surprised how quickly your savings add up! Say you spend $2.50 on coffee each day of the week. You can round your purchase up to $5 so that $2.50 will be deposited into your savings each day. By next year, you will have deposited nearly $1,000. Let compound interest work its magic, and in 40 years, at a 6 percent growth rate, you could have more than $150,000 in retirement savings.
• Another great way to get financially fit for retirement in the New Year is to eliminate heavy payments. Credit-card debt is an enormous drag on your ability to save for retirement. Plan to pay off your credit cards gradually, first targeting the one with the highest interest rate. Each time you pay off a balance, direct what you were paying for that card to the next card on your list.
Marcy Keckler, vice president of financial advice strategy, Ameriprise Financial:
• People already retired should make sure that they have a tax-smart withdrawal or spending strategy. It makes a lot of sense to get a second opinion on how you are taking money out of accounts. With some types of accounts you incur the possibility of taxes. Others, such as Roth or normal brokerage accounts, may not incur tax consequences.
• Take a fresh look at your insurance situation. Make sure the coverage you have still fits your situation. Sometimes people have life insurance they put in place when the children were young. Many now have different needs. Your homeowner’s insurance may not have kept place with improvements or market changes.
Wes Moss, chief investment strategist of Capital Investment Advisors, Atlanta, author and radio host:
• Spend at least five hours a year on financial planning. Just an hour or two per quarter will ensure that you are on track and that there are no glaring issues in how your budget and investments are positioned.
• Get busy with more “core pursuits.” One of the most important rules in financial planning — and for happy retirees — involves understanding what your money is for. What did you save so diligently for over the past 50 years? Surely not to just sit on the front porch for the next 20 years. So develop at least one new “hobby on steroids” in 2016. I didn’t begin playing golf until I was almost 40 and look forward to every time I’m able to get in at least nine holes. It’s never too late to start.
• Don’t lose faith in stocks. 2015 was a flat-to-mostly-down year for nearly all stock categories (U.S. and international). Just because you are retired doesn’t mean you have a short investing time horizon. A 65-year-old retiree could have two or three decades to invest. Think about how far our economy has come over the past 20 years. Retirees shouldn’t have all of their savings in stocks, but they will be sorry over the next several decades if they don’t have some participation in the equity markets.
Carol Schmidlin, president, Franklin Planning, Sewell, N.J.:
• Know your magic number. Know how much you need to save to sustain your retirement over your lifetime. Ask yourself what are your expenses. Look at what you are bringing home now, your income level to meet fixed expenses and what you want to do in retirement. Say it is $10,000 a month. Add inflation to that and say this is what you need to save. At least that gives you a lifetime goal.
Ken Hevert, Fidelity Investments, Boston:
• Set up an automatic required minimum-distribution withdrawal that not only will ensure you don’t get penalized financially by the IRS but that also can sweep those required distributions into a cash-management account or into an investment account.
• Have a plan for a surviving spouse or partner in the event pension income, or other income, stops when a partner dies. Having this plan in place will alleviate a lot of stress and worry about the survivor’s future.