Financial literacy may seem like an overwhelming topic to tackle for seniors and their families. Moreover, while getting sound financial advice is one of the first things most financial professionals recommend, that can be easier said than done. Many older adults rely on the advice of relatives, friends, or neighbors. However, this is a strategy that as many as 70 percent of fraud victims report having used. At Wellspring, our recommendation is to become as informed as possible yourself, and then consider getting further educated by an accredited and referred professional Financial Advisor. One online resource for understanding some of the basics is ConsumerCredit.com (http:/ /www.consumercredit.com/financial-education/55plus/resources/). This site offers useful tools designed for the 55+ population
To start, seniors and their families may wish to consider the following topics when evaluating their financial health.
Know where your money is going. Based on a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, over 60% of Americans do not have a budget. This is the first place to start in developing financial literacy. You cannot make informed choices about your money if you do not know where it is going.
Address your debt. Now that you know where your money is going, if you carry significant debt, it is time to develop a strategy to start eliminating it. For most seniors on a fixed budget, this means identifying expenses in your budget that you can trim, and developing strategies to change your spending habits.
Check your credit report. Because these days your credit report can impact not just your ability to get a loan, but also to rent an apartment or get a job, it is critical that you check your credit report at least once a year and understand the factors that affect it. If your score is low, there are many agencies available to help you start improving it.
Understand your retirement portfolio. When it comes to your retirement portfolio, it is important to understand your risk and to regularly evaluate your investment choices. While the safety of bonds has always been attractive to seniors, a perfect storm may be upon the bond market in the form of anticipated increases in interest rates. If your portfolio heavily favors bonds, it may be time to consider a more diversified financial plan, and evaluate whether your total living expenses could ride out a drop in value.
Be prepared. We have all heard the rule— you should have three to six months of expenses on hand for an emergency or change in life circumstances. If you do not think you can get there, start somewhere. Target at least several thousand dollars to set aside so that if you have an unexpected change occurs in your life, you will have something to fall back on.