Fear of financial instability is very common among women over 60. Learn how to break the chains of fear by employing the three actionable steps proposed by financial expert Pam Krueger. Enjoy the show!

Margaret Manning:

My guest today is financial and investment expert Pam Krueger. Pam is an author and a television host on the PBS show, MoneyTrack. She has also developed the online tool Wealth Ramp, which helps connect fiduciary financial advisors with consumers. I’m really happy to have you here, Pam. Welcome.

Pam Krueger:

It’s great to be here, Margaret. How are you?

Margaret:

I am great. Thank you, Pam. I’ve been looking forward to this interview for a while because since we last spoke, we’ve had so many women leaving questions and showing interest in the topic of financial planning in your 60s.

This is a big deal for our generation because we’re becoming very conscious of our health, our education, and living long, healthy lives. But the big fear is that we’re not going to have enough money in our savings or our earnings to help us through those years.

Pam:

You’re so right. That’s the biggest fear. The other fear is that even when you do have money – saved and invested – you wonder, “Is that money really going to last me for the rest of my life? And I want to leave something for the next generation…”

In our younger years, we built up all these expectations around what retirement was supposed to look like, and we all imagined the golden years. We thought that we’re going to be living really well without worry, total peace of mind.

But when you arrive at the doorstep of ‘retirement’ and decide to stop working and earning money, that’s when reality sets in. And it’s the same for everyone.

I talk to women who have five million dollars, I talk to women who have $50,000, or none at all. Everyone has the same exact fears: how to make sure they won’t run out of money and how to generate enough income to last to 95.

Margaret:

It’s so true. Also, when you have a full-time job, you have a salary that comes in every month. And, even if it isn’t the best salary in the world, you know that you’re covered. You’ve got a safety net.

But once you give up that job to retire and other things start happening in your life in terms of people leaving due to divorce, passing away or going out of town, the whole context changes. When all your insecurities add to your financial insecurity, that creates a big problem and a big fear.

What do we do about it, Pam? What are some of the things that you could advise women to do?

Pam:

Actually, if you start by understanding that this is the fear talking, that your emotions are getting the best of you, you will be one step ahead in separating your feelings from the math of money.

In this country, and probably everywhere else too, we really think of retirement as this land of total peace of mind, great health and constant travel. So, it’s really no surprise that so many millions of people feel a little bit disappointed when they realize the truth is different.

Even if you didn’t have that dream in your own mind, society often makes us feel like we’re supposed to celebrate the golden years. So, my advice is to understand that a lot of this comes from learnt behavior.

It’s crucial, then, to separate your emotions and fears from the calculations of your money, in terms of what you need and what you’re going to leave behind.

So many times, our fear is irrational, and things aren’t half as scary as we think. In order to get out of our own way sometimes, we just have to face the fear. We have to separate the things we can’t control from the ones we can control.

For instance, you cannot entirely control what happens in your health. You can partially control it because you’re taking care of yourself, but you can’t do it fully because you could get an unexpected diagnosis.

The same goes for your spouse’s health and your family’s health. No matter how healthy you try to live, that’s beyond your control. Unexpected things can happen at any time, and they can have a huge impact on how you’re going to live and how much money you’re going to need for such expenses.

Losing a spouse or getting a divorce is another thing, as more women 55 and up are getting divorced. What about the stock market? Is it going to continue to go up as it has for the past nine and a half years?

Is the war situation going to change suddenly? And what about the economy, politics, the media? All the scary headlines that we hear about: trade wars and all the stuff is like a noise that’s playing in the back of your head.

Margaret:

It sure is. But thank you for taking some time to talk about money in terms of relationships. Because money is not just pieces of paper that you’re trying to earn and save. It’s so much more than that. It’s your ability to stay healthy in a world where nothing is stable or secure. It’s about your relationship with the people around you and with the fears that your mind generates every day.

Pam:

So, the whole exercise has to do with separating what you can control from what you cannot control. There’s a reason for it, too. Once you shove all the stuff you can’t control over to the side and accept that they’re not worth worrying about because you can’t do anything about them anyway, it allows you to clear the slate, take a deep breath and consider the three things that you actually can control.

Number one is, even if you’re not working anymore, how much money are you still saving – if any at all? You can control that.

Number two, you can control how much you’re spending every day, every week, etc. If you’re in a spending routine, stop in it and examine it. Don’t judge it. Just look at it. They’re just numbers that you have to consider.

The third thing you can control is the timing of major financial events in your life that are within your control. These include, when are you going to completely stop working and getting an income? If you’ve already stopped working, and you’re in good health, you can consider bringing in more income.

Another one related to timing is, when is it time to sell the family house and move to a smaller environment where you can control your expenses and spending? These things all play together.

With all that in mind, people also want to know how much they can afford to leave their kids. Of course, there’s a bit of guilt playing here, because many people think that if they don’t leave their kids something, they fail.

But let’s go back to the three things that have a direct impact on living in retirement with better peace of mind. Remember, money or lack of money just boils down to bringing you peace of mind so you can relax and sleep at night.

When you’ve retired from your career, you often find that no matter what you do, you don’t have exactly enough blanket to cover the bed. Let’s say that you have a half million to a million dollars in savings. That’s what you’re tapping into for your expenses.

But you’re living in fear every day, because you’re thinking, “Am I going to run out of this money? Am I going to have anything to leave my kids?” Every day, you wake up and it’s like Groundhog Day – you have the same worry over and over with no answer.

One way to answer those questions is by sitting down and looking at those numbers. This could be a good time to engage with a fiduciary, fee-only type of a financial advisor who can map out your spendings and savings, sells and purchases and come up with different scenarios for your money.

They have some very powerful software that can run some projections and stress-test your plan. You might not love the idea that you’re going to see the answer, but that will empower you to take action.

So, let’s say that you’re that woman that has between 500,000 and million dollars saved or less. You go to a financial advisor, and the answer to that question is very unsatisfactory. Basically, you’re not going to make it on your savings until 95, nor will you have enough to leave for legacy.

But here’s an example. A good friend of mine was an interior decorator designer by hobby. It wasn’t her career. When she retired, she went to a financial advisor who ran her scenarios and she really didn’t like what she saw. She decided to do something about it.

What she did was, she turned her hobby into income by picking 3, 4, or 5 projects per year. She’s now 74, and she’s been doing this for five years. She jumped back in and turned her hobby into an income-producing endeavor.

Margaret:

That’s a really empowering story. Many women in our community have made and are making that same choice. They’ve retired, and not only are they missing the money and peace of mind, but they are actually missing the social connection, too.

When you retire, you cut yourself off from a whole host of things that nourish you and enrich you. Do you agree with that? I think that going back to work part-time brings you the whole package, not just the money.

Pam:

Exactly, money equals peace of mind, some freedom and good sleep at night. That’s what money is for.

So, with regard to my friend’s story, is she bringing the same income that she had when she was working full time? No, but that’s not the expectation. Just by her bringing in even half, or less than half, or a third of the income she used to make, she’s offsetting her need to spend her savings.

For every year after age 65 that you put off tapping into your own money, you are adding interest to your savings and the effect is exponential.

Margaret:

You’ve covered the topic pretty well, Pam, and your message is loud and clear. The whole goal of money is having peace of mind and confronting your fears about finances. That’s at the heart of the problem.

Those three things you mentioned: monitoring your savings, your spending, and the timing of major financial events, are really going to help you get that peace of mind.

Pam:

It’s about getting real without judgment.

Margaret:

Totally. I think that you’ve given people actual steps they can take. You are great. I love talking to you. You inspire me and our community. Thank you so much, Pam. We’ll talk again soon. Bye.

What fears hold you back from improving your financial situation? Have you looked at your finances? What did you find? Please share your comments and let’s all learn from our mistakes, together.

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