While many of us worry about similar things, some areas are of greater concern to certain age groups. In this article, we focus on some common financial concerns for retirees, most of which are centered on maintaining independence. A retiree's level of financial independence determines his or her ability to maintain independence in other areas, as well as maintaining dignity during any long-term illness.

Making Your Nest Egg Work Smarter and Longer
The Worry

  • Many retirees are concerned about whether they will outlive their savings, and in seeking ways to ensure that this does not occur, they look for savings and investment options that will produce earnings that are sufficient to cover their living expenses.

The Risks

  • With income usually being limited to earnings on investments, retirees are often tempted to put their savings into investments that produce guaranteed rates of return. While these investments usually guarantee the principal and earnings, the rates of return are usually relatively low when compared with other investments.

  • Unfortunately, there are some sales representatives that are more interested in meeting sales goals than matching clients with suitable products. As a result, investors are often locked into unsuitable investments and don't realize it until it's too late. For example, suppose you are persuaded to purchased a variable annuity because it includes an annuity payout option that provides guaranteed income for as long as you live. Depending on your situation, this investment may not be suitable because, in the event that you need to liquidate the annuity or make early withdrawals, you may be charged large penalties.(For more insight, see Getting The Whole Story On Variable Annuities.)

The Solutions

  • Make a list of questions that you want to ask before you meet with the financial service provider and make note of the answers you receive. Where possible, ask for the responses in writing from the representative.
  • Conduct thorough research into the investment product in which you are interested and compare it with other investments. General information on financial products is available at websites such as www.investopedia.com, http://www.sec.gov/, http://www.nasd.com/ and http://www.irs.gov/. However, financial institutions often add features and benefits to distinguish their product from those of their competitors. Some will include features such as lower fees, higher interest rates and a waiver of early withdrawal fees. This allows the consumer to choose the brand that most suits his/her needs. (See the SEC's article "Variable Annuities: What You Should Know".)
  • Work with a competent financial planner to design a portfolio that is balanced and risk-appropriate. Most financial professionals recommend investing more conservatively during retirement, but not to the point of losing out on opportunities that could product more income while maintaining an appropriate level of risk. (To learn about what a financial planner should consider when advising retirees, see Providing For Older Clients.)

Getting Affordable High-Quality Healthcare
The Worry

  • The older we get, the more likely it becomes that we will need healthcare. For retirees, the concern is whether they will be able to pay for good quality healthcare when they need it. After working for a lifetime, retirees want to know that their golden years will be just that - golden, and spending some of those years in a sub-par nursing home is sure to make the experience much more difficult to enjoy. (For more insight, see Fighting The High Costs Of Healthcare.)

The Risks

  • Paying for private nursing home care can quickly wipe out a lifetime of savings.
  • A retiree's ability to pay for the cost of in-home healthcare, adult day-care and nursing home expenses may determine the quality (or lack thereof) of healthcare the retiree can receive.

The Solutions

Becoming the Victim of a Scam Artist
The Worry

  • While everyone is at risk for fraud, retirees often face greater risks, as there is a growing number of scam-artists who target retirees. These scam artists hope that the retiree is not only home most of the time, but home alone. This increases the likelihood of them being able to pitch a scam when relatives are not around. (To read more on this topic, see What Is A Pyramid Scheme?, The Biggest Stock Scams Of All Time and the Online Investment Scams Tutorial.)

The Risks

  • According to Consumer Action, "senior citizens aged 60 and older comprise 15% of the U.S. population, yet they are estimated to make up 30% - nearly one-third - of fraud victims." The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) has dedicated an area of its website to exposing schemes designed to fleece senior citizens of their savings. Unfortunately, in many cases the losses are unrecoverable. Many of the individuals who prey on senior citizens portray themselves as investment professionals with the proper licenses. However, in many cases, they are unlicensed, and/or lack the experience necessary to properly service investors.
  • In many cases, retirees have paid unscrupulous contractors for work that was never done (or shoddily done), invested in Ponzi schemes and have been generally defrauded by individuals they believed they could trust.
  • Sadly, family members, relatives and individuals who are supposed to be friends are also sometimes guilty of taking advantage of elderly retirees by abusing the authorities with which they are entrusted, such as using a power of attorney to conduct transactions that are not consistent with the retiree's goals and objectives, or even defrauding the retiree. (For related reading, see The Importance Of Estate And Contingency Planning.)

The Solutions

  • Avoid investments that seem too good to be true - usually, they are. Retirees should also check into the background of an investment professional before agreeing to have that person manage investments. One resource is the NASAA, which hosts a Senior Investor Resource Center dedicated to educating seniors on how to protect their nest eggs. Information is also available at the NASD's and SEC's websites.
  • Check into the background of other service providers, including contractors for home-improvement projects. This information is usually available on state, county and/or town websites.
  • Ensure that more than one trusted relative or family member is kept abreast of relationships with investors and other service professionals. When family members or relatives are placed in charge of financial affairs, establish a structure in which they are required to provide frequent updates to a party that has only a professional interest in the retiree's affairs, such as an attorney.

Conclusion
The need to maintain independence leads us to make decisions on our own, instead of seeking the assistance of family members. This is a natural tendency, as most individuals do not want to be considered a burden to others. However, for individuals who prefer not to rely on family and friends, other resources should be used, such as those provided by the state and federal government. Making the right decisions and investing wisely can help to ensure that your nest egg is sufficient to finance your retirement and that you have the provisions in place to provide you with any healthcare services you may need.

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