A Cautionary Tale About Retirement

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A Cautionary Tale About Retirement

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Recently I met a woman whose retirement is in dire economic straits.

A Cautionary Tale About Retirement By Judy Heft

In addition to my business as a Financial Concierge, I volunteer at SilverSource (formerly Senior Services of Stamford). SilverSource is a senior provider network that has been operating for over 100 years, financially assisting older Americans who are in emergency situations. Typical things they may pay for include:

  • Heating or rent
  • Transportation to medical appointments
  • Eyeglasses or hearing aides

Volunteering at SilverSource is a change of pace for me, because most of the seniors that utilize Judith Heft & Associates are either residing in high-end assisted living facilities or they’ve remained in their homes with the help of caregivers. It’s important to note, however, that not all of them are wealthy. Many of my clients are solidly middle class people who just happened to start saving for their retirement at a young age.

But when SilverSource contacted me to see if I could help one of their clients, I soon learned that this client was quite the opposite: She has two meager pensions and no savings whatsoever, and she is on food stamps.

She does own a small condo with no mortgage, but she had been living off a line of credit and some credit cards…until the bank cut off her line of credit. Now she finds herself in a crisis situation where she doesn’t have enough money to pay her condo association dues or her utilities in addition to her basic budget for food and medical care.

A Cautionary Tale About Retirement By Judy HeftGiven her circumstances, I immediately wondered about doing a reverse mortgage. Unfortunately, the board of the condo development that she lives in doesn’t allow reverse mortgages. So this woman is left with very few options, and there is not much I can do to help her. For their part, SilverSource has already reached the maximum amount of money they can spend on her; there is a dollar limit for each individual that SilverSource serves. Meanwhile, the wait for low income senior housing in Stamford is 2-7 years. Talking with this woman about the options that are (not) available was painful for me, but I knew that my discomfort was nothing compared to the anxiety she must be feeling.

The lesson of this story is that anyone, of any background, can thrive during their retirement if they start saving and investing early enough in their professional lives (20-somethings, I’m looking at you!). The power of compounding interest is available for all of us to harness! Studies have shown that when you start investing in an IRA when you’re in your 20s, by the time you are retired you’ll have millions of more dollars as compared to someone else who starts 10 years later and contributes more money.

You don’t have to be wealthy to retire well if you start planning when you’re young.

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