Retirement: sink or swim

Over the years, I have enjoyed listening to financial gurus like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman, and I have learned a lot from them. However, I wish I would have known about them many years ago when I first started working, I would be a lot better prepared for my retirement years.

Now that I am a single senior and the age of retirement is staring me in the face, can I survive retirement is on my mind. I’m sure others have had that same thought. I’m not there yet, and there is still time for me and young seniors to prepare, as well as providing the much-needed information for those who are not seniors to make plans for their future, and Suze Orman sized it up with her seven simple rules of retirement planning in the August/September edition of AARP magazine.

Some people believe they have a retirement plan, but until they look at the questions, advice, and reasons for planning, they may find they are not quite as ready as they thought. Americans need to realize that the line for the average age of life expectancy has moved and 70 is the new 65 and living into the 80s and 90s is more of a reality than a statistic. But, are you prepared to live 20 or 30 more years past retirement?

First, since people are more active and working longer, Orman says to delay collecting that social security as long as possible, or at least until age 70. Putting it off offers a monthly payout that is more than 75 percent higher than the age 62 benefit. According to Orman postponing Social Security benefits until 70 and living on a 401(k) or IRA savings during your 60s might help but be careful. The longer you wait to collect, the more time it has to grow and support you during the years when you really need it. So, if you don’t see yourself working past 62, want early retirement, and want a less stressful retirement, think about taking a part-time job to compensate.

Second, downsize because the less you spend today, the easier it will be to adjust to less income and maintain your retirement lifestyle tomorrow. In other words, learn to “live below your means but within your needs.” Once the kids are grown and outside the house, do you really need all those rooms accompanied by high energy costs and maintenance, or would selling it and moving into something smaller work better?

Third, she says be aware of “fake Suze” and other scams, such as online purchases, fake checks, prizes, sweepstakes, free gifts, fictitious debts, advance fees for loans, and others such as phishing spoofing, friendship/sweetheart scams and charitable solicitations. Identity theft is rampant and can be reduced by setting up text alerts for all your transactions, never give financial information over the phone, and, don’t believe everything you see and hear. Orman gives an example of how a fake picture of Wolf Blitzer interviewing her on CNN circulated telling everyone they should invest in a certain financial product.

Fourth, in order for women to be truly impowered, requires financial security. Make sure you have in place some emergency savings that meets eight months of living expenses; make sure the primary earner delays retirement until age 70; if your spouse has a pension, the 100 percent joint-and-survivor option is the best; and every financial account should correctly list the beneficiaries.

Fifth, look at retirement as needing two buckets: needs and wants. Spend wisely by making sure needs will be met before putting money into the want bucket.

Sixth, making sure your family has some direction in case you can’t tell them is important for you and them. Prepare the following documents: a living will that offers directives for medical and personal treatment if you cannot make the decisions yourself; durable power of attorney for healthcare; a revocable living trust giving a responsible person control of your finances when needed; a will that clearly spells out who gets what; and a durable financial power of attorney because not all your financial assets can or should be in a living trust.

And, seven, plan for your care when you can no longer care for yourself. Orman says she is an advocate for long-term care insurance.

These are all great suggestions for retirement and a better road to “aging gracefully,” but talking to someone about life after retirement is always best.…