Millions of senior citizens are discovering that they do not have adequate financial resources to retire. Some seniors are unable to retire due to the recent economic crisis and others due to poor financial habits. The stark truth is this: financial decisions that you make on a daily basis have a direct impact on your financial future. Poor financial habits will have you working longer, retiring later and finding yourself flat broke in your golden years. Here are six financial habits that could be keeping you from reaching your retirement dreams.
IN PICTURES: 10 Retirement-Wrecking Moves
- Keeping Up with the Joneses
Do you have to buy the latest model luxury car as soon as it hits the showroom floor? Do you spend a lot of money on impulse purchases that you really didn't plan on buying until you were in the mall? Trying to keep up with your neighbors by owning every possession that they have will delay your retirement. Status symbols may make you look financially prosperous but will have your bank account showing something completely different.
One of the most effective ways to reach your retirement goals is by simply living without your means. Set your budget and stick to it. Spending too much on expensive clothing and jewelry can have you spending your golden years right beside the Joneses in the financial poorhouse. (For more, check out Stop Keeping Up With The Joneses – They're Broke.)
- Bad Habits
Bad habits have a way of quickly eating up your retirement savings and keeping you from your retirement goals. Smoking, drinking and gambling are expensive habits to have and the cost is only going up each year. The average price for a pack of cigarettes nationwide is currently $5.00 according to Bankrate.
Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day will cost you $1,825 per year. Over a 50-year time period, the cost would be $91,250! That figure is based on cigarette prices not rising, which we all know is highly unlikely. New York residents are already paying over $10 for a pack of cigarettes. (Aside from the health effects, the financial cost of smoking is way higher than you think. Don't miss The Real Cost Of Smoking.)
While drinking a glass of wine a day may lengthen you life expectancy, imbibing too much alcohol may kill your finances. With the average price of beer running $4, just drinking two bottles of beer a day can cost you $56 a week. That's almost $3,000 a year that could have been used to fund your IRA.
You don't have to travel to Atlantic City or Las Vegas to gamble away your financial future. Everyday people give away their paychecks trying to hit the lottery jackpot. Imagine how much money you could save by not wasting $5 to $10 daily on card games, online games and lottery tickets.
- Underfunding Your Retirement Plan
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American has less than $50,000 in their retirement accounts. This includes young adults and baby boomers near retirement age. Poor financial planning is causing many senior citizens to work during their golden years. These seniors are finding it difficult to retire because they would not be able to enjoy the same quality of life. Social Security alone just won't cut it.
So, how can you avoid falling into the same situation? Sock away as much money as possible in your retirement plan. Max out your contributions and plan to save more money than you think you will need so that you can survive financial emergencies. The current economic downtown has forced many senior citizens to return back to the workforce. (Learn more in Turn Small Savings Into A Big Nest Egg.)
- Taking on Too Much Debt
The number one thing that keeps people from retiring is debt. Millions of Americans rack up huge amounts of debt due to auto loans, personal loans and credit cards. The Federal Reserve measured consumer debt at a whopping 2.46 trillion dollars. And that doesn't even include real estate debt! The average credit card debt per household is over $16,000 according to Creditcards.com.
The debt problem is not just specific to the United States. Millions of U.K. baby boomers have high mortgage balances and have relatively little money in savings. (Need some help? See Expert Tips For Cutting Credit Card Debt.)
- Investing in Depreciable Assets
Investing in depreciable assets instead of appreciable assets can leave you with nothing to show for your hard-earned money except a lot of regrets. Depreciable assets are assets that are likely to decline in value such as cars, boats, computers and machines. Instead invest your money in appreciable assets like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange traded funds and annuities. These assets have the ability to appreciate, and spend their time working for you instead of against you.
- Spending Too Much on Entertainment
Hitting the town and eating luxurious dinners night after night will eat a huge hole in your retirement savings. Entertainment expenses can be major budget busters because they are often unplanned events. How many people keep track of how much money they spend at movies, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and sporting events? Small expenses like these may go unnoticed and leave you wondering where your paycheck went.
The Bottom Line
Retirement may seem like a long ways away but it is just around the corner. Avoiding poor financial habits and making solid financial decisions for your future will have you sipping Mai Tais on a Hawaiian island in no time. (To learn more, check out our Retirement Planning Tutorial.)
Check out last week's business highlights in Water Cooler Finance: My iPad Beats Your Toyota.