Recovering from money mistakes is easy when you’re young. Your 60s, however, are a different story: when it comes time to start divvying up your nest egg, making poor decisions can prove costly.
Financial planning is important at all stages in life, but it takes center stage as you near retirement. Between deciding when to start taking social security, figuring out health insurance and managing your investments, making the right choices will help ensure that you and your family are properly cared for.
Once you’re over 60, avoid these financial mistakes, and you’ll be better prepared to enjoy your life.
Withdrawing social security too early
You can start withdrawing your Social Security benefits as early as age 62. Tapping your account before your full retirement age, however, will reduce your monthly benefit by about 30 percent for the rest of your life. And that can cause you to lose out on hundreds of dollars each month. If you’re still making enough money to get by, waiting until full retirement age — either 66 or 67 if you were born after 1943 — will allow you to withdraw your benefits in full.
You might want to wait even longer, according to Ben Hampton, certified financial planner and wealth advisor at Atlanta-based TrueWealth. “For many people,” he explains, “delaying taking their Social Security benefits until age 70 can be a great strategy.” That’s because the government offers “delayed retirement credits” for folks who don’t cash in their Social Security at full retirement age. For each year you delay, your benefit grows by 6 percent to 8 percent (8 percent if you were born after 1943) until you turn 70.
Not signing up for Medicare on time
Even if you delay Social Security benefits, not signing up for Medicare at age 65 could cost you. You have a seven-month window that begins three months before the month you turn 65 to enroll in Medicare Part B. And the earlier you do so, the better. If you miss that window, you could be charged a late enrollment penalty of at least 10 percent on your monthly premium — for the rest of your life.
You may be exempted from this penalty, however, if you’re still covered by your current employer at age 65. Your health plan must come from current employment, though, so COBRA and retiree health plans don’t count.
Not budgeting for Medicare expenses
Medicare is not free. Danielle Roberts, a Medicare expert and co-founder of insurance agency Boomer Benefits, says about 40 percent of her clients have no idea that Medicare costs money. Unfortunately, failing to budget for those costs — which can include monthly premiums, deductibles and copayments — often means having to delay retirement.
“Assuming Medicare is free is one of the money mistakes that often cause people to work a few extra years instead of retiring,” Roberts warns. “They suddenly find that they don’t have enough money when Medicare takes up 20 to 30 percent of their Social Security check.” She recommends putting away extra money for Medicare costs well before age 65.
Not having a long-term care plan
Roberts says many of her clients also don’t realize that Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care, which includes nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Chances are high that you’ll need to budget for long-term care expenses: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that seven out of 10 people turning 65 today will need some type of long-term care during their lifetime.
You can build this into your retirement savings plan, but keep in mind that the cost of long-term care is extremely high. Costs can range from $20 per hour for a home health aide to over $7,000 per month for a private room in a nursing home. For many, taking out a long-term care insurance policy is the best option. The earlier in life you obtain this coverage, the less you will pay in premiums.
Investing too aggressively or conservatively
As you near retirement age, you want to make sure you aren’t investing your retirement savings too aggressively, as there’s less time to recover from steep losses caused by serious drops in the stock market. Robert Johnson, certified financial analyst, CEO of Economic Index Associates and professor of finance at Creighton University, calls the five years before retirement the “red zone.”
“Just as a football team can’t afford to turn the ball over and fail to score points when inside the opponent’s 20-yard line,” he explains, “the retirement investor can’t afford a big downturn in the retirement red zone.” During this period, shift more of your investments to less volatile fixed-income assets, Johnson advises.
However, don’t be too conservative, warns Hampton. The reason? You risk losing money if the rate of return on your money doesn’t outpace inflation. “Part of making sure that your savings and investments last for your lifetime is ensuring that they are invested appropriately for some growth,” he says. You can use Bankrate’s Asset Allocation Calculator to get an idea of how to balance your portfolio between stocks, bonds and cash in your 60s.
Overspending on adult children or grandchildren
It should be obvious, but once you’re on a fixed income overspending can deplete your savings and squelch any plans you had for a secure retirement. Keep in mind that it’s often little expenses added up over time that drain your retirement savings.
One of the biggest threats to your retirement savings might be your loved ones. According to a Bankrate survey, 50 percent of Americans are putting their retirement savings at risk by financially supporting their adult children. It’s important to develop a spending plan well before retirement and stick to it, even when requests from family members or your grandkid’s Christmas list tempt you to overspend.
Letting your partner deal with all the finances
It’s not uncommon for couples to leave financial matters in the hands of one partner rather than dealing with them together, but continuing to do this into your 60s is dangerous. The somber truth is that one of you will probably die before the other, and you don’t want to be left alone with a financial situation you don’t understand.
This point is particularly relevant for women in heterosexual relationships. Women outlive men by five years on average, yet 56 percent of married women say they leave financial planning in the hands of their spouse, according to a report from UBS.
Everyone should take control of their future, but in your 60s, having a plan for your money is essential to a happy and financially healthy retirement.