National debt is a massive problem in our country and there’s no shortage of advertising reminding us that we need to pay off our personal debts. Sadly, statistics clearly indicate that the numbers of individuals who are retiring in debt are on the increase, so much so that over half of those who retire are in the red.
Earlier this year Newsweek reported that the golden years have been severely tarnished with mounting medical expenses, rising credit card debt, and little or no savings. Newsweek stated that a law professor at the University of Michigan found that individuals over the age of 55 now account for more than 20 percent of all bankruptcies in the U.S. CESI Debt Solutions, a nonprofit personal-finance firm, conducted a study and discovered that 56 percent of retirees carried outstanding debts with them as they left the workforce.
CESI Debt Solutions also discovered that 40 percent of Americans who were surveyed are intentionally accumulating credit card debt and are not concerned about paying it back before they pass away. One of the suspected factors behind this reasoning is that the recent recession slashed many retirement accounts by at least half.
There are other retirees that are still worried about their debt and are seeking debt counseling. Long-term financial planning has taken its toll because of the American economy over the past few years and those who have some savings left, are desperately trying to re-focus and search for some type of solution.
If You Can – Take Preventative Measures
Before you plan on doing anything, you may have to change your way of thinking. Retirement used to be a given, but those days are long gone. If you have a circle of friends who are retiring early or are able to retire at 65 years old, it’s so important not to compare, or live up to their goals. Everyone is unique and there are no two situations that are identical. It sure won’t be easy, but losing the mindset that “everyone else is doing it” is crucial to your emotional and financial well-being.
If you have to, then keep working. There’s nothing wrong with delaying retirement to pay down debt. It may not be as bad as you think – if you must work another two to four years to pay down or pay off your debt , it’s also an opportunity to continue building a nest egg, and this will possibly make it even better than you originally planned.
If need be, find alternative income. Perhaps what you have saved is mediocre but not enough to carry you past a few years. A part-time job may be enough to provide some income in order to supplement your savings.
Some individuals contemplate the thought of actually using what’s left in their retirement savings to pay down or pay off their debt. This decision should never be made in haste and must be very carefully considered. Seeking financial advice is recommended before making any final decision.
Some credit experts have made suggestions to their clients that taking social security benefits early to pay off debt is advisable. One thing is a given, unless credit card payments are well in excess of the minimum payment due, the balance is barely being touched as it is mostly monthly interest that’s being paid. Dipping into social security benefits is not smart to do unless you have done some serious number crunching first. Most financial advisers feel that should you decide to take this route, then the longer you wait to tap into social security the higher your benefits will be. Regardless, dipping into social security benefits should be the very last consideration you ponder.
Taking an in-depth look to reduce expenses may be the answer you’re looking at to help hack at debt. Perhaps something as simple as not purchasing a cup of coffee every day can save you a quick $45 a month – and that’s more money to go into paying down debt.
One other step to take to help reduce or eliminate debt before you retire is to consider a reverse mortgage. This is a loan that allows the homeowner (minimum 62 years of age) to convert part of their home equity into tax-free income. Fees for this may be high but speaking to a financial or mortgage expert is highly recommended when considering this as an option.
All is not lost, there are solutions to be found, but arriving at them may take time. Remember, gone are the days of mandatory retirement – and many people are thankful for this because they like to work. Take advantage of working a couple more years – it may just be want you need to eliminate your debt and truly enjoy your golden years!