Senior Living

By Liz Weston NerdWallet (AP) One of the biggest retire- mentmistakesyoucanmake is not realizing what you don’t know. The reality is that most people don’t get good, objec- tive financial advice before they retire, says actuary SteveVernon, consulting re- search scholar at the Stan- ford Center on Longevity. Many people simply wing it, figuring that if they have a Social Security check and a little savings, somehowev- erything will work out. Unfortunately,retirement is complicated, and your de- cisions canhave irreversible consequences. Talkingwith a professional — ideally a fee-onlyfinancial planner— could save you froma costly mistake, including any of the following. Thinking you’ll die young (or at least early) If you die early in retire- ment, your worries about paying for it are over. Live longer, though, and you eas- ilycouldoutliveyourmoney. That stacks the deck in fa- vor of waiting to start So- cial Security, since eachyear you put it off fromage 62 to 70 increases your benefit by about 7% to 8%. That’s a guaranteed return on a stream of income that you can’t outlive or lose in a stock market downturn. Plus, you may live lon- ger than you think. The av- erage U.S. life expectancy is just under 79, but that’s from birth. If you make it to 65, you can expect to live an- other 20 years or so. Half of allwomencurrently in their mid-50swill live to 90, aswill 1 in 3 men, according to the Society of Actuaries. Peo- ple with healthy lifestyles andmore education tend to live longer than average. Ignoring your spouse Speaking of Social Secu- rity: When one spouse dies, one of the couple’s two So- cial Security checks goes away. The survivor has to get by on the larger of the two checks. It’s important to maximize this survivor benefit byhaving the higher earner delay filing for So- cial Security as long as pos- sible. Also, married people who will get a pension should strongly consider a “joint and survivor” option that allows payments to con- tinue for both lives. Carrying debt into retirement If you’rewealthy, having debt may not be a big deal —youhaveplentyof income to make the payments, and your investments may be earning more than you’re paying in interest. If you’re not rich, though, you may be pulling too much from your savings to service the debt. That could increase the chances you’ll run out of money. Big withdrawals from retirement funds also couldpushyou into ahigher tax bracket and increase your Medicare premium. Give yourself some options by planning to have debt paid off by retirement, but consult a financial planner before you tap retirement accounts to pay off any big debts, such as a mortgage. Failing to plan for long-term care If there’s anything peo- plewant to ponder less than death, it’s decrepitude. Yet someoneturning65todayhas a 70% chance in the future of needing help with daily living tasks, suchasbathing, eating or dressing. Family and friends will help some, butabouthalf willincurcosts forlong-termcare—and15% will incur costs of $250,000 or more. Long-term care in- surancemaybeonesolution, or youmaywant to earmark certain investments or your home equity. Assuming you can work longer About half of retirees report leaving theworkforce earlier than they had planned. A few get lucky, thanks towindfallsor strong stock markets. Many more retirebecause they lose their jobs and can’t find replace- ments or because of ill health (their own or a loved one’s). Working longer can help you make up for not saving enough, but it’s not an option you can count on. Putting off retirement too long With all this gloom and doom, now I’m telling you to hurry up already? This bit of advice is for my fel- low ants living in a grass- hopper world: Sometimes, thegrasshoppers get it right. 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