May is National Older Americans Month, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the many contributions that our senior citizens have made to our country. This annual event provides an ideal time for older Americans to review their finances and consider wealth preservation strategies so that they have enough assets to enjoy their golden years to the fullest.
Let’s take a look at five tips for preserving your wealth:
- Perform a financial checkup
The best first step is to take an inventory of your finances. That means making a list of your sources of income, such as monthly Social Security payments, and all of your assets, including savings and retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, homes, and vehicles. List your debts, such as mortgage payments and outstanding credit card payments, as well.
It’s also a good idea to think about and write down your long-term goals, such as taking vacations and downsizing your home, as well as organizing your thoughts about passing down your assets to the next generation. Another important consideration is ensuring that your long-term care needs will be met. Long-term care insurance is an option to explore.
- Consolidate your accounts
Once you’ve made an inventory of your assets and debts, it’s time to review your finances with the goal of simplifying them. Consider consolidating your IRAs, 401(k)s, and other investments, as well as your checking, savings, and other accounts. The fewer accounts, banks, and brokerages you have to deal with, the easier it will be for you to manage your financial life and preserve your wealth. Before consolidating these types of assets, be sure to consult your financial advisor or accountant because some changes could have tax consequences.
Consolidating your accounts will also make it easier for your kids or trusted person to manage your finances once you’re unable to do so.
- Transition to more passive investments
If you haven’t already started adjusting how your money is invested, now is the time to take a closer look at your current portfolio. It’s common for people like you to change their investment strategies as they age to ensure that they have enough money to maintain their lifestyle for the duration of their retirement years. Consider whether moving your investments from higher-risk stocks to bonds, annuities, and other less risky investments makes sense for you now or at some appropriate point in the future. To find the right balance between investment risk and reward so you can better meet your financial goals, seek advice from your financial advisor.
- Protect yourself against fraud
Unfortunately, financial predators often target older adults. Cemetery and funeral rip-offs, health insurance and Medicare scams, identity theft, internet fraud, investment swindles — there’s no end to the types of deception that thieves will use to separate you from your money. Take these steps to protect your assets:
- Order a copy of your credit report regularly. You can order one free credit report from each of the three credit-reporting companies each year. Your credit report will give you a better sense of your debts and credit health, as well as alert you to potential financial frauds, such as credit card accounts opened in your name without your knowledge.
- Set up your bills for automatic payment. By having your mortgage payments, utility bills, and credit card payments paid automatically, you reduce the risk of identity theft and being tricked by fake bill collectors.
- Before making any significant move involving your finances, discuss it with family, friends, or a financial advisor. Check the background of any new person or company that you’re starting a financial relationship with by calling your local Better Business Bureau or doing a quick internet search.
- Make plans to transfer your estate
Creating a sound financial plan and signing essential legal documents is an inevitable part of preserving your wealth and being properly prepared for transferring it to a surviving partner or future generations. Actions to take include estate planning (including wills, living trusts, and other instruments), making beneficiary designations, signing a health-care directive, and executing a durable power of attorney.
By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to a more secure financial future.