Once you've retired, it's easy to feel like most of your big money decisions are behind you. After all, to get to this point, you've likely made some financial sacrifices along the way in order to reach major goals like funding your retirement, buying a home or even putting kids through college.
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While it's true that many of these expenses may have been among the biggest of your life, retirement doesn't mean that your financial planning days are over. With many Americans living 30 or more years after they stop working, it's essential to continue making prudent financial choices to ensure that you don't outlive your money.
Here are some of the money moves retirees always seem to regret, so try to avoid them as you sail off into the sunset.
Overspending on Housing
Many retirees find themselves in the position of having "too much house," and it can often be a financial problem. For some retirees, the problem comes in the form of having a large house that no longer suits their needs.
For example, if you are now single, or if you have kids that have moved out, you may find yourself paying for a 2,500 square-foot home when all you really need is a 700 square-foot condo. If you're still paying a mortgage, this could be a major and unnecessary drag on your cash flow.
Even if you own the home outright, the maintenance and heating or cooling bills could be much more than you need to be paying. Consider downsizing to a more appropriate and budget-friendly domicile if you're looking to preserve your cash flow.
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Being Too Generous
Being generous is not a fault. In fact, many retirees look forward to being able to share their good fortune with family and friends in the form of buying gifts, helping out with college funds or even paying for weddings.
However, unless you've amassed a significant nest egg that will cover 30-plus years of expenses with plenty of room to spare, you might regret being too generous with your money, especially soon after you retire. Although you shouldn't stop being generous entirely, just make sure it all fits within your retirement budget.
Not Budgeting Enough for Healthcare
Healthcare is often the biggest expense that retirees face. Although Medicare and private insurance may cover many of your costs, you will undoubtedly face healthcare expenses that will have to come out of your own pocket.
These costs may come in the form of uncovered procedures, deductibles or co-pays. You'll also have to budget for long-term care, which often isn't covered unless you have a specific policy. It pays to sit with an insurance specialist when you retire to be sure that all of your most expensive medical costs will be covered -- and that you can set aside enough in your budget to cover any extra expenses.
Ignoring the Effects of Inflation
Inflation is the unseen killer of many a retirement fund. While inflation has been relatively modest for years, it has come back with a vengeance in 2022, topping 9% in June.
At those rates, the purchasing power of even a significant nest egg diminished rapidly. If prices continue to rise at 9% per year, the average cost of everything you buy will double in just about eight years. As it's unlikely that you can safely and consistently earn 9% or more on your retirement savings, you'll have to prepare for the fact that purchasing power diminishes over time.
In other words, it's not enough to retire with an amount that can cover your costs in current dollars. You'll have to build up enough savings to cover the increased prices brought by inflation.
Investing Too Conservatively
These days, it's not unusual for someone to retire and then live 30 or more additional years. This is why it's still important to keep some growth investments in your retirement portfolio. Certainly, you don't want to risk your entire nest egg by putting it all into speculative investments. But an allocation to equities is still an important part of retirement planning.
In the past, advisors would recommend that retirees immediately take all risk out of their portfolio, as they couldn't take the chance of enduring a portfolio drop. If you are going to live another 20 or 30 years, though, you'll still have plenty of time to recover from regular market corrections and still keep enough growth in your portfolio to help counteract the effects of inflation.
Being Too Trusting
The elderly are prime targets for scammers looking for an easy buck. For starters, many seniors have amassed a lifetime of savings and thus have money that can be taken. Secondly, many retirees are too trusting, which leads to falling for scams.
Criminals know just how to appeal to the sensibilities of retirees and try to entice them with promises of good travel deals, bonuses on money transfers or other scams that may appeal to their good nature and eagerness to help others. Without a regular job to keep replenishing your retirement funds, it's important to protect yourself from scammers looking to fleece you of your hard-earned money.
Claiming Social Security Too Early
Qualifying retirees are able to claim Social Security as early as age 62, but that's not always the wisest strategy. Benefits are permanently reduced by about 30% for those who file ahead of the full retirement age, which is 67 for those born in 1960 or later.
Still, about one-third of retirees do file for benefits at age 62. In some cases, that money is absolutely necessary to live on, but for many others, the idea of delaying payments is too hard to resist. If you anticipate living a long life in retirement, you're much better off waiting to claim benefits until full retirement age or even age 70, which is the latest you can file.
Taking On Additional Debt
While inflation can eat away at your purchasing power in retirement, debt attacks your actual cash flow. If you accumulate debt in retirement, not only will you have to divert some of your money to pay it off, you'll also likely face double-digit interest rates on your balances.
At an 18% interest rate -- which might actually be low if the Fed continues to raise rates -- the interest accumulating on your debt could double it in as little as four years. With that type of financial burden on your back, it will be hard to make ends meet. While everyone should try to avoid going into debt, it's particularly important for retirees, who are no longer collecting a regular paycheck.
Refusing To Pick Up a Side Gig
Many retirees stubbornly cling to the idea that "retirement" means never working again. While that's a nice dream, in reality, retirement expenses -- and rising inflation -- often require seniors to find additional sources of income.
Working a few hours per week at a side gig can have many benefits, financial and otherwise. For starters, a few hundred or even thousand dollars per month can make a big difference when it comes to covering all of your expenses in retirement. Additionally, part-time work can have numerous side benefits as well, from making new friends, learning new skills, keeping your mind sharp and finding new things that you enjoy.
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