It’s no secret that debt can be a massive burden in retirement. The good news is that there are steps you can take to manage your debt and make the most of your retirement years. This blog post will discuss 15 tips for managing debt in retirement. Follow these tips, and you can rest assured knowing you’re on track for a successful retirement!
When you’re retired and living on a fixed income, there’s no room for big mistakes like credit card debt. And yet, The average American debt (per U.S. adult) is $58,604 and 77% of American households have at least some type of debt, according to CNBC.
- Figure out how much debt you owe and what your monthly payments are going toward.
- Make a plan for paying off your debts by prioritizing them based on their interest rates and other factors.
- Not all debt is the same. Some types of credit can be good for your credit score and help you become financially successful, while other forms drag down your finances or even lead to bankruptcy.
Types of debt
Debt is a way of life in the United States. Consumer debt in the United States has reached $16.5 trillion as of September 2022, with the typical American owing $96,371. Credit card debt, student loan obligations, mortgages, and other forms of debt all contribute to the overall figure.
But not all debt is created equal. Some types of debt are good for your credit score, while others can harm it — or even lead to bankruptcy.
Here are some of the most common types of debt you’ll see on your credit report:
Bad debt is the kind of debt that you want to get rid of as soon as possible. This is usually consumer debt, like credit card balances (bills) or a car loan, which has high-interest rates and no tax deductions. It’s also known as “bad” because it’s not being used for an investment that will generate income in the future.
Good debt is borrowing more money to buy something that will appreciate in value, like a home or a business. The value of these things usually goes up over time, which means you can borrow more against them later if you need to.
The Downsides of Debt
Interest accrued on a savings account is compounded when it is added to the interest already accrued on the account.
The concept of “interest on interest,” or the power of compound interest, is often credited to Italian economists of the 17th century. A sum will increase more quickly than with simple interest, which adds nothing to the initial investment.
An increase in the number of compounding periods will result in an increase in the compound interest rate.
The maximum amount you can borrow from a revolving credit account, such as a credit card, is known as your credit limit. Your available credit will be reduced by the amount of every purchase you make. The remaining amount is your available credit.
You may be charged a higher interest rate because you have bad credit. The lender will consider your financial history, including any previous late payments or defaults on other accounts. If the lender is not confident that you will repay your debt, it may charge a higher interest rate to compensate for the additional risk.
Impact on Inheritances
If you have bad credit, your children may not be able to inherit property from you. If your estate is subject to probate, the court will review the financial documents and determine whether your heirs are responsible for any outstanding debts. It may reduce their inheritance if they are not legally obligated to pay off these debts.
15 Effective Ways Debt Management for Retirees
1. Take inventory of your debts before retiring
The first step to building your retirement portfolio is assessing your debt situation. It’s important to understand the details of each loan, including the rate, payment amount, and length of time until it expires. If you have different rates or terms, consider consolidating them into one low-interest loan before retiring so that you can save money by paying less interest over time.
2. Pay off bad debts as quickly as you can
Most people have a few bad debts on their balance sheet, and often these are the ones that are dragging down your credit score and making it difficult for you to get loans or lines of credit at reasonable rates. The best way to get rid of these debts is by paying off the balance in full as soon as possible. If you have a lot of high-interest debt, make sure to budget enough money each month to cover the minimum payments so that you can pay off the debt sooner rather than later.
3. Save an emergency fund
Some of the most important things to do when saving for retirement is to save an emergency fund. It’s absolutely essential to have money set aside in case of an emergency, and if you don’t have an emergency fund, it’s time to start one! You should have at least three months of income saved up so that you can take care of yourself and your family in case anything goes wrong.
4. Scrutinize new potential debts carefully
If you’re retired and debt-free, congratulations! But don’t get complacent—you can still be vulnerable.
We all know that the key to managing debt is to avoid getting into it in the first place. But if you’ve already taken advantage of some tempting offers, or had unexpected expenses come up while your income is limited, here are some strategies to help you manage your debts.
1. Use an online tool that helps you make a budget and track your spending.
2. Find out if there are any programs in your area that will help people with low incomes manage their debts.
3. Pay off high-interest loans first so that you can save money on interest payments over time by having lower balances on other accounts as well.
4. Scrutinize new potential debts carefully before applying for them so that you know exactly what they entail and whether they’re worth it financially speaking (they probably aren’t).
5. Consider consolidating
In order to reduce the number of payments you make each month, you may wish to consider a debt consolidation loan. You can apply for a loan to merge all your various obligations into one manageable payment by filling out a debt consolidation application. Then, the new loan is paid off by making monthly payments.
When seeking a debt consolidation loan, most consumers first approach their financial institution (bank, credit union, or credit card provider). Having a solid rapport and on-time payment history with your bank makes this an excellent first step. You can look into alternative lenders if you are denied a mortgage through a bank.
There are a variety of factors contributing to creditors’ willingness to take this action. The possibility of collecting from a debtor is increased with consolidation. Financial organizations like banks and credit unions are common sources for debt consolidation loans, but specialized debt consolidation service companies also exist.
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6. Consider refinancing
Consider refinancing your home If you own a home and want to lower your monthly payments, consider refinancing. This can be a great way to free up some cash for other financial goals or emergencies.
7. Speak to a credit counselor
If you’re a retiree, you may have started to think about your financial situation differently. After all, you’re not working and you don’t have the same income coming in as before.
That doesn’t mean that your debt management needs to change. However, it does mean that you might need to take some different steps to ensure that you are paying off your debt on time and keeping up with payments.
One of the best ways to do this is by speaking with a credit counselor. A counselor will help you create a plan for how best to pay off your debts while ensuring that they are still manageable. They can also help determine whether there are any other ways in which they can help reduce interest rates or monthly payments so that they don’t become too burdensome on your budget.
8. Avoid tapping into retirement savings
Retirement savings are one of the most important financial goals you can have. If you’re unable to meet your monthly obligations, avoid tapping into your retirement account. Instead, look for other ways to reduce expenses or increase revenue.
9. Avoid digging deeper into a debt hole
It’s tempting to try to pay off your debt with a credit card. However, this will only make matters worse. Credit cards carry high interest rates and can lead you into a deeper hole of debt if used improperly.
10. Prioritize Payments
When you’re retired, it’s easy to let your bills slip by. But if you don’t make a point of paying the most important ones first, you could find yourself in a tough spot. Make sure that your mortgage and other housing expenses are paid on time—and consider getting an automatic payment plan for those so that they’re not missed. You should also pay off your credit card debt before anything else, because it can be incredibly expensive and detrimental to your credit score if you don’t.
11. Declare Bankruptcy (If Necessary)
If you’ve tried everything to get out of debt but nothing is working, bankruptcy may be a good option for you. However, know that it can have long-lasting effects on your credit score and finances.
12. Use a Reverse Mortgage to Pay Mortgage Debt
If you’re a homeowner, a reverse mortgage can be used to pay off your home loan. However, there are some hidden costs involved with this option since the lender will charge interest on the loan.
13. Cash Out Life Insurance Policies
If you have a life insurance policy that pays out when you die, you may be able to cash it out and use that money to pay off your debt. However, keep in mind that this will affect your estate taxes and there could be additional fees involved with cashing out a policy.
14. Consider a Credit Card Balance Transfer
If you have a credit card balance that’s high, consider transferring the balance to another card. This will allow you to pay off your debt faster since the interest rate will be lower than what you were paying on your previous card. However, keep in mind that there are fees involved with doing this and it’s important to read all of the fine print before signing up for a new account.
15. Find an Extra Income Source
If you have a little extra cash lying around, consider putting it to good use. Look for side jobs such as babysitting or yard work that can help you make some extra money. You could also take on a part-time job if you want to make the most out of your free time.
How to manage debt in retirement FAQs
Should I empty my retirement to pay off debt?
It’s usually not a good idea to use retirement funds (such as a 401(k) or an IRA) to pay off consumer debt. That’s because taking money out of your retirement account before you turn 59 1/2 could cost you an extra 10% in taxes on top of your regular income tax rate.
What percentage of retirees are debt free?
To quote from newretirement.com: More than one-third of Americans (36%) spend more than 40% of their monthly income on debt payments, and 26% (or 25% of homeowners) have a mortgage with more than 20 years to go. However, just around a quarter of retired Baby Boomers are genuinely debt-free, despite the fact that more than half of them say they aim to enter retirement without any debt.
Is it better to build savings or pay off debt?
Our advice is to put off saving money until you have paid off your major debts. When you’ve eliminated your debt, you can put all of your monthly payments toward savings instead of interest.
Should I pay off my mortgage in retirement?
Retirees and those on the verge of retirement who are in a lower income bracket, have a high-interest mortgage, or don’t qualify for the mortgage interest tax deduction may want to consider paying off their mortgage early. Paying off a mortgage with retirement income is not a good idea.
If you are struggling with debt in retirement, there are several strategies that you can use to manage your finances more effectively. These include prioritizing payments based on interest rates, using a reverse mortgage to pay off mortgage debt, and finding an extra income source. You may also want to consider declaring bankruptcy or cashing out life insurance policies if these options seem more appropriate for your situation. Ultimately, it is essential to stay focused on your financial goals and take steps to reach them in a practical and responsible way.
If you’re like most people, you want to avoid debt in retirement. But sometimes, life happens and you may find yourself carrying some debt into your golden years. The good news is that there are steps you can take to manage your debt so it doesn’t become a burden. Try following these 15 tips for success and see how much easier retirement can be. And if you need help getting started, be sure to give me a call or schedule a free consultation. I’ll be happy to answer any of your questions and get you on the path to a worry-free retirement.