13 Financial Resolutions for Retirees in 2013
Jan 8th 2013 6:00AM
Updated Jan 15th 2013 3:07PM
Let's take a look at 13 resolutions designed specifically for retirees.
1. Get real with your budget.
New retirees especially have trouble adjusting their spending for the fact that they don't have regular paychecks coming in anymore. The best way to get a handle on your new means is fairly straight-forward: Do a side-by-side comparison of your pre-retirement and post-retirement income. Even with Social Security and pension payments, you probably have less money coming in now. Make it a goal to find spending cuts to match up with your income cuts.
2. Eliminate the debt demon.
It's hard enough to get out of debt when you have a solid, growing income. Retirees don't have that luxury, so debt can send your finances into a downward spiral. Aim to get home mortgages and credit cards paid down quickly to avoid escalating interest payments down the road.
3. Get smart with Social Security.
One of the toughest decisions retirees have to make is when to take Social Security. If you're younger than 70, you may have an opportunity to get more from Social Security, even if you've already started taking benefits. Read this article to get tips on the best time to take Social Security.
4. Make Medicare work harder for you.
Between traditional Medicare, supplemental insurance programs, and Part D prescription drug coverage, you have a lot of choices to make with your health care, and figuring out your best choices can be tough. But taking the time to look closely at all the plan options out there can lead to some major cost savings, as the right coverage can match up well with the particular care and drugs you need.
5. Use those senior discounts.
Remember when you were younger and made fun of senior discounts? Now's your chance to laugh all the way to the bank. With savings of 10 percent or more available everywhere from hotels to local restaurants, you can't afford not to take full advantage of discounts. Ask and you'll often be surprised at what you can get.
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6. Get the best of today's low interest rates on savings.
Retirees have seen interest on their savings dwindle to almost nothing. But don't settle for zero. Today, high-yield savings accounts only offer about 1 percent on your money, but that's still more than you'll get from most big banks and money-market mutual funds. Check local banks as well as online banks to find top rates.
7. Invest for longer-term needs.
Financial planners advise retirees to be conservative with their money, but that doesn't mean keeping all your money in so-called "safe" investments. Recent retirees especially need to be financially prepared for the potential of a decades-long retirement. That means keeping some of your money in long-term investments like stocks and bonds in order to get some growth as well as income.
8. Be tax-aware with bonds.
Bonds aren't offering very high interest rates these days, but one area that's worth looking at is the municipal bond market. Especially if your retirement income puts you in a high tax bracket, the tax-exempt interest that munis offer can save you a bundle, and rates on many munis are comparable to Treasury rates even before taking into account the tax break.
9. Look for income from dividend stocks.
Because it's so hard to find income from bonds and bank accounts, many retirees have turned to dividend stocks for income. That's a smart choice, but you still have to be careful about risk. Tried-and-true dividend stocks with long histories of increasing their payouts to shareholders are the right place to start.
10. Check your beneficiary designations.
IRAs, life insurance policies, and certain joint bank and brokerage accounts require you to name the beneficiaries who will receive account proceeds after your death. Check with your financial provider to make sure those names are up to date, or else the wrong person could end up with your money.
11. Look into Roth conversions.
After saving in an IRA or 401(k) for a lifetime, you hopefully have a pool of cash to supplement your retirement spending. But if you're in a lower tax bracket now than you were during your career, consider converting part of those retirement assets to a Roth IRA. Your accountant should be able to verify if paying tax now at a relatively low rate makes sense for you.
12. Get your estate planning done.
It's easy to put off estate planning while you're busy with your career, but with that excuse gone, don't wait any longer to get wills and powers of attorney in place. The right legal documents will make it far easier to deal with unexpected illness or injury, and can head off the potential for family discord after you're gone.
13. Pass your wisdom on to the next generation.
The biggest asset that retirees have is their experience. If you haven't taken the opportunity to share hard-learned lessons about money and life with your family and friends, don't wait. The benefits could last for generations to come.
Resolve to have a better 2013
Despite the difficulties retirees face with their money, you can overcome big challenges. By following these resolutions, you can get yourself on the path to financial stability and security in your retirement years.
For more smart money advice:
- 13 Common Money Mistakes to Avoid in 2013
- Your Year-End Tax To-Do List: A 5-Step Plan
- Year-End Review: Give Your Workplace Benefits This 3-Step Check-Up
Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't expect to retire for a while yet, but he has his own resolutions to follow up on. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger.