As a whole, 42 percent had $10,000 or less saved.
“If they don’t boost their savings, they’ll likely retire broke because that’s not enough to cover a year’s worth of expenses,” writes Cameron Huddleston, a columnist for GOBankingRates. “On average, adults 65 and older spend almost $46,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
In a second survey, GOBankingRates asked those folks who hadn’t saved anything why they hadn’t.
Forty percent responded with the obvious: They don’t make enough money. Twenty-five percent of survey participants said they can’t save because they’re struggling to pay their bills.
There was some good news in the report. The percentage of Americans who have $10,000 or less saved fell to 42 percent from 55 percent last year. And the percentage with more than $300,000 in retirement savings increased to 16 percent, up from 14 percent a year earlier.
If you’re struggling to save for retirement, here’s some advice.
“Whether you can still count the days since you started your first job or you are nearing the end of your career, saving for retirement should be a top financial priority,” writes Shawn Bumgardner, a financial adviser and president of Clear Horizon Wealth Advisors. “You have the potential to spend decades in retirement, so it’s worth committing to saving today.”
I love this one tip: Don’t use a retirement calculator.
Eventually you’ll want to calculate how much you need for retirement. But if you know you’re behind, seeing that large number might scare you into thinking there is no point. Even if you are far away from the goal, saving something is better than having nothing.
“It’s easy to put off saving for the future as you focus on more immediate needs,” writes Craig Stephens for U.S. News and World Report. “But it’s never too late to start saving for retirement. However, you’ll need a change of mentality to prioritize your long-term retirement needs over short-term wants.”
Do you think you’re saving enough for retirement? And if not, why not? Send your comments to email@example.com.
Retirement rants and raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. What do you like about retirement? What came as a surprise.
If you haven’t retired, what concerns you financially? You can rant or rave. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”
Last week I asked you to weigh in on this question: Have you been a victim of elder financial abuse, or do you know a senior who has?
Sue Rosenfeld, a 69-year-old American, living in Niger in Africa shared an elder abuse story that will give you a chuckle. And considering the lowdown and dirty nature of this type of crime, the laugh is welcome.
Rosenfeld has lived in Africa for more than 40 years. (She joined the Peace Corps and stayed on the continent.) About eight years ago a scammer tried to snare her.
“I received an email supposedly from a friend who also lives in Africa,” she wrote. “I will call him ‘Joe’ (not his real name). In the message Joe said that he got stuck in Nigeria and needed $2,000 to get back home. Only problem — when I received the message ‘Joe’ was sitting right next to me, on my couch, in my office. I said, ‘Oh Joe, you are stuck in Nigeria right now. You want me to send you $2,000.’ Then I said, ‘I don’t think I am putting myself at risk if I play along and pretend to believe this message, am I?'”
Rosenfeld then wrote back to the scammer, “Oh no. Joe, I am so sorry to read this. Of course, I will help. And what awful timing, coming right after your brother Bobby’s car accident (Joe has two sisters; no brothers). How is Bobby now? Out of the hospital yet?”
The scammer wrote right back, ‘Thank you for asking. Bobby is doing much better, yes. Out of hospital. Are you going to send the money?’
She replied, “Sending it now.”
After a while she got another message, “Are you going to send the money or not?”
Rosenfeld wrote, “‘Who are you? The real Joe already sent me a confirmation that he received the money and thanked me for it.’ Of course, I never heard from that scammer again, but I do hope that he felt that maybe I really did send money and he was scammed at his own game!”
Now, a word of caution. While I love this story, don’t monkey with scammers. It’s better to hang up if they call or ignore the emails. I often listen to the schemes, so I can become more informed about the type of scams out there. But again, it’s better that you don’t toy with them.
Please take the time to read the following columns.
Allan Scardina from Houston wrote, “My mother got sucked in by all type of scammers, but the worse were the ones asking for ‘yearly’ donations for all types of dubious enterprises: “If you were born before XXXX then you are owed money’ or various Social Security ‘defense funds.’ That she got taken once with a small donation was one thing, but these outfits would then send ‘annual renewals’ about once a quarter. My mother would duly write another check. The more money she sent, the more mailing lists she got on, and the more checks she would write. We then rerouted all of her mail to another family member to sort.”
Michael K. Gire from Ohio wrote, “My mother was the victim of financial scams. We went into court and had me appointed as her guardian, so I controlled all of her assets. When creditors called alleging she owed money I explained that since she was under a guardianship, unless I approved the expenditure they had no claim against her assets. This ended the fraud and we were able to preserve her assets until her death.”
Richard S. of San Francisco, wrote, “My neighbor was subject to numerous scams (he’s now in a senior facility). He wouldn’t listen to family or friends and even took to sneaking around getting money orders to hide his transactions from family. One side effect of the effort to let seniors live in their homes as long as possible is that they become more susceptible to scammers. There’s no one to help filter all these scams. I’d try to get him to throw away all of these solicitations, often not actually illegal but on the far side of unethical, but he never listened to me. Especially ‘charities’ made him feel important and needed. He loved having stacks of mail piled up. He felt obligated to donate for the little “gifts” like the return address stickers. It was pretty obvious that scammers manipulated my neighbor by becoming his friend. He was lonely. He loved to talk to scammers, they became his friends.”
Barb W. wrote, “About two years ago, over a period of several weeks, I received multiple phone calls on my landline. No messages were left, however I could see many calls from the same number (a 716 area code from Western New York where I had once lived). One day I finally answered, and it was a man claiming to be from the IRS. With a few minutes to spare, I listened. He was extremely pushy and threatened to send ‘the sheriff’ with a warrant. I knew this had to be a scam, so I called him on it and was surprised that he escalated and argued with me, telling me he was a federal agent and I was taking a big risk. I told him I was going to report him and hung up after getting his number from Caller ID. I went to the Treasury website where I reported his phone, his supposed name and as many details as I could. I never received another call. In addition to not falling for the scam (and I can understand how frightening this can be), readers who experience this can report such calls on the Treasury/IRS fraud line. What a despicable scam!”
Yes, please report to the appropriate agency any scam you come across. It often can help law enforcement officials build a case against the criminals.
Finally, here’s an extremely sad story from a retired former prosecutor.
“One of my last assignments was prosecuting crimes against the elderly here in the Central Valley of California,” the reader wrote. “One case involved an elderly man from a small town who had no close family and was lonely even though he was a regular churchgoer. Church members thought they were doing him a favor when they found a 40-year-old, unemployed fellow to live with the elder in his home and take care of his needs. Unfortunately, the 40-year-old took all of the victim’s money while also neglecting him. The local police struggled to investigate the crime. The church did not want the defendant prosecuted because it made them look bad for setting up the relationship in the first place and failing to monitor it. The victim had mixed feelings about the prosecution because the defendant was his closest friend, but he was consistent in his insistence that he had never given the defendant his money. In the end, the defendant received a lengthy prison sentence. The major financial losses to the victim (in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) were never compensated, despite California’s restitution laws. The victim died soon after the defendant was sentenced.”
The reader continued: “The case was tragic in so many respects. I relate it to you because it encapsulates many of the components present in elder financial abuse. The victim was lonely and vulnerable. Even though he had some connection to the community, it was insufficient to protect him from abuse. Taking the victim’s money was easy for the defendant. The police were ill-equipped to investigate the crime. The victim was never made whole. He not only lost all his money his heart was broken as well. I have hundreds of stories like this. In many of them, family members are the perpetrators. I’m glad you are writing about the subject. Too many people want to ignore it, but we’re sitting on a powder keg in this country regarding this issue.”
Elder financial abuse is the crime of this century.
Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)
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