With 2023 drawing to a close, it’s time to reflect on the year that has passed and set some intentions and goals for the year ahead. While New Year’s resolutions among Americans have commonly been synonymous with adopting healthier lifestyles, this year, there’s a new resolution taking the top spot – a shift from physical fitness to financial fitness. According to a survey from Statista Consumer Insights, 59% of Americans report they resolve to save more money in 2024.1
While it’s always a good time to save some money, the increasing shift to financial fitness is a testament to the lessons learned in navigating the recent economic landscape. From ongoing inflation and global shifts, to fluctuations in the economy, there is a renewed need for financial stability among consumers of all ages – but perhaps most notably, retirees.
Just as regular screenings and checkups are vital to overall health and wellness, financial checkups are essential to financial stability in retirement years. Consider the following tips to set the stage for a renewed sense of financial confidence in 2024 – and beyond.
Reevaluate Your Budget
While budgeting is an essential part of smart money management at any age, it’s even more imperative during your retirement years. In adjusting to a reduced or fixed income, it’s no longer enough to just set a budget and hope for the best. Savvy retirement plans are constantly evolving – and so too, should your budget. With today’s higher prices seemingly the new normal, you’ll want to make sure your budgeting is up to date – and above all else, realistic – with regard to just how much money you’re allocating to different expenses.
Start by accounting for all your sources of income and weighing your regular expenditures against them. Housing costs, utilities, repair and maintenance expenses, transportation, groceries, and clothing are all essential costs you can expect to incur on a regular basis, so they’re a good place to start. Next, factor in some of the nonessential costs you face such as entertainment, travel, gym memberships, and other subscription services. It’s also important to note that spending habits can fluctuate over time, and you may be able to anticipate seasonal expenses to factor into your budget such as insurance premiums, auto registration, or even holiday, anniversary, and birthday gifts. These different expense categories can provide a great starting point for brainstorming where and how you allocate your retirement spending dollars.
Revisit Your “Rainy Day” Fund
Regardless of how carefully you’ve reviewed your annual or monthly budget, unexpected expenses can arise at any time. After all, life is unpredictable! And while we’d like to think we’re prepared to take on any additional or unforeseen expenses that life may throw us, the reality is many of us are not. According to a 2023 Bankrate report, more than one in five (22%) U.S. adults have no emergency savings.2 From a broken-down car, to an unexpected home maintenance or repair project, or unanticipated out-of-pocket medical expense, these costs can send us reaching deep into our wallets – potentially impacting financial footing. Having a stockpile of savings for these “rainy” days can provide a financial cushion to fund such expenses, without drastically needing to alter other budgeting and spending activity. Better yet, with proactive preparation, you can avoid the potential need to tap into long-term investments prematurely. In managing your finances for the new year, consider setting up an automatic (and recurring) transfer of funds from your savings or checking account into a specifically earmarked “rainy day” fund. Even small incremental deposits can grow over time and make a huge difference down the line!
Plan for Healthcare Expenses
When it comes to retirement, healthcare is an increasingly important aspect of planning – and an expensive one, too! According to the latest figures from the Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, the average retired couple can expect to spend an estimated $315,000 for healthcare expenses in retirement.3 While this figure can certainly result in sticker shock, regularly reviewing your insurance coverage and taking advantage of preventative screenings and services, can pay off – literally. While Medicare doesn’t cover everything, you may opt for a supplemental plan to fill any gaps in coverage, such as long-term care needs. Of course, the best medicine is preventative medicine – and preventative measures can also be taken when managing healthcare expenses. In prioritizing a healthy lifestyle and ensuring you are adequately insured, you’ll be well equipped to prevent large out-of-pocket expenses.
Inspect Investment Portfolios
Whether you wish to generate income, preserve capital, or achieve a combination of both, it’s a smart idea to regularly inspect your investment portfolio to ensure your asset allocation aligns with your goals. In reviewing your portfolio, you’ll want to weigh your income needs against risk tolerance. Market conditions are always changing, and you may find that a rebalance is needed to maintain your optimal asset allocation. Keeping up with economic trends and global events that may impact your investments could also help you make more informed decisions – or explore new opportunities altogether. If you’re planning to make withdrawals in the near future, considering tax implications could allow you to optimize your portfolio accordingly. As always, it’s important to consult a trusted financial advisor and appropriate government agencies for any effect on taxes or government benefits.
Look into Your Legacy Plans
A well-thought-out legacy plan can provide peace of mind for both you and your heirs. Just like any financial plan, your legacy plans should be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure they accurately reflect your wishes. A new year is a great time to revisit your will, trusts, and beneficiary designations. In reviewing your will and any existing trusts, take the time to verify that the executors and trustees you’ve appointed are still suitable for the role. For any trusts, take the opportunity to assess funding and ensure all intended assets are included. Once you’ve confirmed your plans are up-to-date and align with your current circumstances and desires, take the opportunity to organize all relevant documents and keep them easily accessible. It’s also important to consult with financial professionals to ensure you plans are legally sound and in accordance with current regulations.
Unlock the Power of Your Home’s Equity
As a homeowner, you’re all too familiar with the many expenses that come with a home. But did you know that your home may also be your largest asset? According to Federal Reserve data, housing wealth accounts for nearly two-thirds of total wealth for the median household.4
If you’re 62 or older, leveraging a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) – also known as a reverse mortgage, can allow you to convert a portion of this equity into cash. Unlike a traditional mortgage, where you must begin repaying the loan immediately, funds received from a reverse mortgage do not have to be repaid until a maturity event, such as when you sell the home or permanently move out. There are several methods for receiving funds6, including:
- A one-time payment, income tax-free5
- Steady, income tax-free monthly payments5
- A line of credit, to establish a “safety net” for future use
- A combination of these methods
And here’s another benefit – with reverse mortgages, monthly mortgage payments are optional (so long as you keep up with property taxes, insurance, and maintenance).
Many retirees appreciate the flexibility of a reverse mortgage – as well as the additional source of cash flow to fund their retirement years. In fact, over 1.3 million Americans have already made a reverse mortgage part of their financial plan.7
As we look forward to 2024 resolving to prioritize financial fitness, may these tips act as a catalyst for achieving greater financial confidence, security, and peace of mind. In addition to reviewing your current situation, equipping yourself with the knowledge and habits to make sound financial decisions is a key part of the journey to financial wellness.
At Longbridge Financial, we’re committed to helping homeowners reshape their financial future by providing education on reverse mortgages – and helping unlock the power of the home. We can help you use your hard-earned home equity to address the financial challenges that impact today’s retirees. We’ll get to know you, your goals, your home, and your finances as we discuss your options and help you determine if a reverse mortgage is right for you. For more information or to see how much home equity you may be able to tap into, contact the Longbridge team today.
Wishing you a financially fit and prosperous 2024!