How to Keep Growing Your Savings in Retirement

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.

Ah, the golden years, that magical time when people trade in their workers’ aprons and finally get to enjoy some much-deserved rest and relaxation.

However, one’s comfort level during retirement depends upon having an adequate nest egg. In the wake of the 2008 financial crash, many people dipped into retirement savings or increased the amount of debt they carried by taking out home equity lines of credit and the like. This means many seniors today experience a bit of anxiety when looking at their retirement funds, wondering if they will have enough to carry them through comfortably for the rest of their days.

Fortunately, techniques for continuing to grow savings even in the golden years exist, and people’s money can continue working long after the employee has hung up their hat. Here’s how.

Catch up on Your Contributions

Those 50 or older who remain in the workforce should take full advantage of the IRS rule allowing for catch up contributions to your 401(k) or IRA. Workers can contribute up to $6,000 per year without tax penalty. However, the vast majority of workers with 401(k)s can truly benefit from a retirement boost, as the contribution limit for those 50 and older changed to $24,000 per year, much more than the previous contribution limit.

Continue Paying Yourself

A long, long time ago, indubitably some economics instructor lectured on the importance of investing in savings even before paying other bills. Today, placing your savings goals on autopilot doesn’t even require a trip to the bank.

Those receiving direct deposits can simply call or log into their financial institution and direct them to divide income among checking, savings and investment accounts. Another tip — avoid linking debit cards to savings accounts. Merely having to drive to the bank to make a withdrawal versus hitting the ATM makes it easier to decline impulse purchases.

Avoid New Debts

Nothing can cut into retirement savings like high-interest credit cards that need paying each month. Avoiding new debt when nearing retirement should be a logical choice.

Unfortunately, too many people anxiously awaiting their retirement ages yield to the temptation to buy their dream car or take a no-expenses-spared vacation. While driving into the sunset in a shiny new Porsche sounds tempting, adding a $600 monthly payment may break one’s retirement budget. Try to resist the urge to splurge.

Consult Your Financial Planner

Your investing needs change as you age, and by the time you reach retirement age, dropping high-risk investments in lieu of lower-risk vehicles makes sense. By age 60, approximately 75 percent of any investment portfolio should consist of low-risk assets such as bonds. Contacting a qualified financial planner on an annual basis can help stretch nearly any retirement budget.

Have a Little Patience

Many people know waiting to retire means earning more in Social Security income, but holding off on pulling money from other retirement accounts may result in significantly increased gains. For example, those with $1 million in investment assets by age 60 can add another half-million dollars simply by waiting to retire until age 66, assuming a 6.5 percent return on investment.

Consider Downsizing

Many retirees find themselves rattling about in homes meant for growing families, not those approaching their sunset years. Larger homes require more money to heat and cool, increasing annual costs of living significantly.

Given the current stability in the housing market, the time to downsize has come. Additional proceeds from the sale of an overly large property can pad any retirement budget, and the savings in heating oil, not to mention in property taxes, cuts expenses at the same time.

Make Money with Hobbies

The entire point of retirement means finally shaking off the mantle of work responsibilities and spending time doing what one loves. Some hobbies can generate additional retirement income.

Seniors savvy about fitness can seek Silver Sneakers instructor certification and take up teaching classes. Crafty seniors can create unique gifts to sell at local fairs. Animal lovers can open a pet-sitting business.

Stepping out of the workforce means increased loneliness for many seniors, and harnessing a hobby helps keep them involved in their community while providing extra money.

Finally Dig Those Discounts!

Don’t overlook the power of the senior discount! Just about every grocery store hosts a monthly senior day where those 55 or older receive an additional percentage off purchases. Use these days to stock the pantry.

In addition, many Medicare supplement plans come with free fitness memberships. Why not work out when it’s free? Movie theaters, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues likewise often offer senior discounts.

Happy Retirement

Just because a senior retires from the workforce doesn’t mean their money has to stop working for them. By managing money wisely, one’s golden years can become the best ones ever. PSECU, a credit union in Pennsylvania, has created this interesting graphic on the average retirement savings by age — check it out here!

How To Apply For Social Security Disability (SSDI)

Written by Becky Wilcox

Are you unable to work due to injury or illness that causes physical of mental disability? You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI). SSDI is a federal program meant to provide monetary assistance to people with disabilities. The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the program.

Are you eligible for SSDI?

Ideally, anyone who is unable to work due to some disability qualifies for disability benefits. For instance, if your previous work involved standing for long hours and your current condition prevents you from standing, you can qualify for disability benefits.

The SSA determines SSDI eligibility, and it has stringent acceptance guidelines. Mostly, they only accept individuals with medically proven disabilities. Therefore, before you apply, talk to a medical professional about your disability. The doctor will provide you with the proper medical documentation to prove that your disability is hindering your ability to work.

The doctor should provide the evidence in a written statement. The statement should outline your current medical condition and their opinion of the depth of your disability. Also, the statement should provide details on the type of work you cannot and should not do.

It is also essential that you gather your medical history, records of hospitalization, tests, and procedures leading up to your disability and provide them as proof.

When to apply for SSDI?

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. However, you will only start receiving the benefits after six months of disability. The six-month waiting period begins the date the SSA determines your disability began.

According to the SSA, you are disabled if:

  • You are unable to do any significant work due to your medical condition.
  • Your medical condition has prolonged and is expected to last for at least a year, or the medical condition is expected to cause our death.

How to apply for SSDI

Make an appointment at the nearest SSA office to apply for SSDI. You can either apply via phone, email, or by visiting the offices in person. Whichever application process you chose, you will have to fill out the Social Security Benefit Application form and the Adult Disability and Work History Report.

Reviewing the Adult Disability Starter Kit

Once you decide to apply for disability benefits, the first step should be getting and reviewing the Adult Disability Starter Kit. The kit contains:

  • Factsheet: the fact sheet has the SSA definitions of disability and answers questions about the disability benefits application process.
  • Checklist: the checklist contains information about the documents you should prepare for the disability benefits interview.
  • Worksheet: the worksheet helps you prepare for the interview. It has the information that the SSA will ask you and space for you to write down the answers.

The SSDI interview

A Social Security claims representative will conduct the interview. Usually, it takes at least an hour. If you went through the checklist, you know you should have the following information:

  • Certified copy birth certificate, or proof of residency if you are an immigrant.
  • If you are a vet, provide a certified copy of the military discharge form.
  • The last year’s W-2 form or federal tax returns form if you are self-employed
  • Worker’s compensation history
  • Checking or savings account number
  • SSN of your children and spouse

Filling out the worksheet you received with the starter kit is very important. It helps you prepare for the interview and helps to complete the online disability report. The information required in the worksheet is mostly related to your current medical condition and your work history.

Additional information about SSDI

  • Aside from matching the SSA’s definition of disability, you must have worked and made social security payment for at least five of the last ten years.
  • You cannot qualify for disability benefits if you are over the maximum retirement age.
  • You can apply for disability benefits when receiving worker’s compensation. However, the amount you receive will be reduced.
  • The average SSDI payments were $1,179 in 2017. The amount might not meet all your needs. For that reason, the SSA has the ‘Ticket to Work’ program that helps people who have been approved for disability to return to work.
  • Many applications are rejected the first time. You can increase the odds of qualifying for the benefits by consulting an SSDI professional, such as a disability lawyer. Remember, you have a very short window to file an appeal once your application is denied.

The application process of SSDI is not a difficult process. All you need is proper evidence of disability and to prepare the required information and documentation.

Make the Most of Retirement by Staying Active

Retirement promises a chance to escape the busy lifestyle demanded by fulltime work and raising a family. After decades spent racing madly down the path of life ever struggling to make ends meet retirement tantalizingly tempts with that light at the end of the tunnel, that shelter from the storm, that taste of freedom well deserved.

Before retiring I imagined what life would be like when (and if) I finally got there. No more stress, no more hurry-hurry, no more time spent frozen in immovable traffic, no more struggling to make ends meet. I envisioned myself setting my own comfortable pace, choosing how I spend the hours, content in the knowledge I was in charge. And for the most part it turned out to be just that. But few things worthwhile just happen.After seven years retired (that went fast!) I learned when you finally arrive at the doorstep of retirement it is important to keep moving. Without a variety of interests or passions or distractions the dreaded boredom may find its way into your days and that we do not want. It took supreme effort and commitment to get here – now is not the time to live anything less than the best possible retirement we deserve.

Keep physically active

My wife gave me a Fitbit for my sixtieth. I have always been someone who keeps active. I can’t sit still for long before I feel the urge to move. Whether heading to the garden for a little trimming or firing up the vacuum to tidy up or throwing the ball for our ball-obsessed Boston Terrier Frank or walking up the hill, I like to keep moving. After wearing the Fitbit for a month I found my antsy nature translates well into steps taken for the day. The target is 10,000 steps each day which it turns out I regularly attain. I try to walk rather than ride when possible and take the stairs rather than elevator. I confess at the end of the day should I find myself close to but not quite at 10,000 steps I will walk up and down the house until I get there! Not really cheating since the goal is to ultimately get to 10,000 steps.

A friend from years ago who was a dedicated bodybuilder used to say “If you’re not lifting, you’re shrinking.” I like to retune that sentiment with the emphasis on staying active each day. “If you’re not moving you’re slowing down.”

Keep mentally active

The reality is if you do not keep your mind engaged you begin to lose your edge. That first year after quitting my job for the final time I felt I was not as sharp as while working. Nothing drastic it just seemed I didn’t have the same old pop in daily conversations. Without the job I did not have a lot new to talk about. My career was in sales where I talked with people all the time – that was the job. Now in retirement I was spending more time alone without the interaction I was accustomed. I love having time for myself. I am able to do what I want when I want for as long as I want. That was not the problem. The problem was since I found myself talking less those speaking skills taken for granted were beginning to dull. And that was after only one year! My retirement should last 20-30 years God willing so something needed to happen.

When I left my final job I swore I would never work again. Retirement was to be my salvation from fulltime employment. There was no place in my busy retired life for another job.

After a handful of years feeling relatively content ensconced in an assortment of interests that insidious boredom started to creep into my world. What I was doing began to feel routine, the same thing day in day out. I was running out of things to do earlier and earlier in the day. There were no new activities I wanted to explore. It did not look good.

Then I found what turned out for me to be the perfect retirement gig – pouring wine at a small tasting room within walking distance of home. Three days a week I engage with people from all over the world sharing some excellent wines along with the story of our winery. We tell tales and share laughs in a friendly happy environment (it is a wine tasting room after all). But more importantly I engage with others on a regular basis, keeping my mind active. And I believe my thinking is sharper than it would be if I was alone.

Find meaning (or a reason for being)

One positive aspect of a job is when you look back at the end of the day you feel you have accomplished something. You may not have solved the problem of world hunger but in your own little piece of the universe you made a difference. Achieving goals and completing tasks has a positive impact on our psyche. We are worthy, we made it happen, we matter. Retirement does not typically offer such milestones, such measures of achievement. But you can find your own ways to experience that satisfying end-or-the-day contentment. It may be as simple as pruning a row of roses in preparation for winter. You may exceed those 10,000 steps a day for a whole week. Maybe you plan a surprise sixtieth birthday party for your spouse who comes home from work to be totally surprised (totally) at the whole thing. That expression on his/hers (my) face can be incredibly satisfying.

With time on your hands there are many activities and undertakings, hobbies and interests, passions and experiments to investigate. Whatever floats your personal boat it is important to stay active and engage. You will feel more energized. You will be more interesting. And ultimately you will make the best retirement possible for you and those around you. Good luck and enjoy!

LoveBeingRetired.com