The economy’s recent downturn makes it more important than ever for all Americans to reconsider their financial futures, but senior citizens face even more urgent circumstances. Retirement plans based on booming IRAs and stock market picks must now be re-evaluated in order to safely navigate your senior years. Don’t fret, experts say, because a little planning can provide for a comfortable and predictable retirement.

The AARP says that preparing is the single most important factor in securing your financial future. From a simple pen and paper list to a detailed session with a financial adviser, fiscal plans can be modified to meet your individual needs.

“Financial planning isn’t optional,” the organization warns.

Below is a list of financial considerations that seniors ought to consider:

Creating a personal financial plan

This is an important first step. Begin by compiling important financial papers, so that easy access is ensured when considering various options. Next, make a list of major financial goals, from retirement to vacations to inheritances. Calculate cash flow by listing income and spending habits, then calculate larger net worth by balancing income and expenses with larger assets (investments, home-ownership) and liabilities (loans, credit card debt). These figures will help determine if your financial goals are realistic.

The AARP also recommends making assumptions about potential changes to a financial situation such as inflation, career retirement, illness or divorce. Consider how each circumstance might influence the larger financial picture, and make plans to manage such changes.

Once you have evaluated your total financial situation, you will be more able to plan for each of your goals, directing income and savings to achieve specific objectives.

Various resources are available to help begin your financial planning, from published guides to local workshops:

• The national AARP offers two guidebooks: “Money Matters: Your Guide to Financial Security,” and “Future Focus: Your Guide to Financial Planning for Retirement.” For copies, call the

Austin office at 512-480-9797 or email member@aarp.org and include publication title and your complete address.

• The U.S. Department of Labor also provides a sourcebook, “Savings Fitness: A Guide to Your Money and Your Financial Future,” available electronically at www.dol.gov/PWBA/PDF/SavingsFitness/pdf, or call 800-998-7542.

• The Senior Source, Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas , periodically offers a women’s financial workshop through their Women’s Financial Clinic; for information, call 214-823-5700.

• The Consumer Credit Counseling Service offers a financial course for seniors, called “Live Longer and Like It.” Course schedule depends upon community interest; call 800-783-5018 and ask for the education department.

Enlisting the help of a professional

While initial planning can be done at home with a little time and consideration, individuals with various income sources and more complex situations may decide to seek the help of a financial professional. He or she can advise you on planning your investments through retirement and keep accurate and consolidated records of assets to aid in the eventuality that a spouse or family-member become involved.

Several organizations can aid in selecting a financial adviser.

• Local financial advisers can be located at the Total Life Planning Resource Center, www.deni.net.

• AARP offers investment advisers through the AARP Investment Program; call 800-322-2282.

• The Senior Source, Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas, offers The Money Management Program for lower income elderly who have difficulty managing finances; call 214-823-5700 or visit www.theseniorsource.org/pages/managingmoney.html. The Senior Source’s Women’s Financial Clinic also provides financial resources and referrals for women; call Ann Moy, 214-823-5700, Ext. 213.

Be sure to investigate the credentials of any financial professional you hire. The CFP Board of Standards offers both advice about choosing a financial planner and information about currently certified planners. Visit www.cfp.net, click on “Check the Status of a CFP Certificant,” or call 888-237-6275.

Tackling everyday financial obligations

The Senior Source offers more short-term financial assistance for seniors needing help with daily activities such as budgeting or bill paying. The bill-payers program is available on a temporary or permanent basis, and matches a volunteer with a senior citizen who would like assistance with paying bills, balancing a checkbook or planning a budget. The financial program can assist in negotiating with creditors as well.

Suzanne Cobb, Head of Financial Programs at The Senior Source, explains, “Our goal is to help seniors stay independent as long as possible, in their own homes. We provide home-visits for a variety of circumstances, from seniors with declining eyesight who would like help in writing bills to individuals suffering from an injury or stroke who request help with sorting through the mail.”

• For information, call The Senior Source at 214-823-5700.

Estate planning, living wills, powers of attorney

Of course, after planning for your own financial future it becomes necessary to consider how your finances will be handled after you pass away. Estate planning involves preparing wills with both financial and medical instructions for your survivors, thus insuring that your wishes are honored.

Michael Condon offers estate-planning services for the Dallas area. He recommends keeping an updated list of all your finances, from IRAs and stocks to checking and savings accounts. Condon says, “One thing I think is important is to sit down and list where all your assets are located. I’ve seen many situations where a husband may have multiple investments but only he knows where they are. How is his wife to find them? I recommend that you document what you have, where it’s located, and list appropriate telephone numbers. After you figure out what you’ve got, an attorney can work with you from there.”

Medical decisions should also be planned and legally documented. Living wills and durable powers of attorney allow you to decide what type of life-saving or life-sustaining measures you would like performed in case of serious illness. While a living will details medical treatments you desire, a durable medical power of attorney designates the individual who will make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. Often your last will and testament will include your medical choices and power of attorney.

For assistance with will-preparation or power of attorney:

• Michael Condon can be contacted at 214-348-6088

• Information about medical powers of attorney is available in the Nob Press publication, “Healthcare Directives FAQ,” at www.nolo.com/lawcenter/ency/index.ctm.

• Find a Dallas elder law attorney at www.naela.org. According to ElderLifePlanning.com, provided by Informed Decisions, Inc., seniors should consider locating an elder law attorney instead of or in addition to an estate planning attorney: “While traditional estate planning is tax-focused and primarily concerned with asset preservation, elder law attorneys share this focus, but have the specialized expertise needed that goes well beyond traditional estate planning. While estate planning attorneys often focus exclusively on a wealthy clientele, elder law attorneys also serve the broad middle class.”

Funeral planning

Finally, thinking about your funeral now can be as financially beneficial as the rest of your financial plan. Because the many decisions involved can be difficult for your grieving family, having your funeral wishes known can help ease stress. Additionally, pre-planning your funeral can bypass costly financial mistakes.

The Funeral Help Program warns of the many ways families can get in financial trouble planning a loved-one’s funeral, explaining, “No one goes into a car dealer and says, ‘Give me whatever you think I ought to have, just make it nice,’ yet this is exactly what many, perhaps most, families do at the funeral home.”

n For tips on making informed and cost-wise funeral decisions, download the sourcebook, “The Affordable Funeral” at http://dragonet.com/funeral.

Whatever your personal financial decisions, planning is key to providing for yourself and your loved ones. AARP advises, “You’ve worked hard for your money all your life. If you want your heirs to benefit from that hard work, it’s important to think now about what will happen to your money after you’ve gone.” For extensive financial advice and information, visit The Senior Source, Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas, www.theseniorsource.org; or visit AARP, www.aarp.org.


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