Regrets. We all have a few, whether it is not taking that trip to Paris when we were younger or passing up that special job — our lives are plagued with regrets due to uncertainties. However, a recent survey shows that the most common regrets are far more certain.
Allianz Financial Services Company surveyed 3,000 adults and found they regretted not spending enough time with children (32 percent) and wished they had traveled more (38 percent). But the most common regret, at 52 percent, was that they wished they had saved more money.
I always lay the regret on spending time with children on the altar of parental guilt. No matter how much time we spend on our kids, we often feel it is never enough. Traveling more can be fixed most often by just doing it now, regardless of your age. However, the financial issue can be altered by changing habits no matter what your stage of life.
This particularly becomes more important as we look at longer lives and more time in retirement. This same survey reported that 70 percent of us feel financially unprepared for a long life. The old formulas had us planning to live 30 years in retirement. With increasingly early retirements and people living to 100 and beyond, we might need to plan for as much as 40 to 50 years of retirement. That translates to needing a robust savings account or a generous pension plan. These generous pension plans are harder and harder to find and, because of the current fiscal situation, there is always the chance that these plans could disappear. All of us need to plan to save money to make that retirement landing just a little more comfortable. Whether you are 25 or 65, there are ways we can become more financially secure.
Live on less. It isn’t a case of how much money you make. It is a case of how much money you keep. Always live on less than you make. It’s tempting to increase your standard of living as your income increases, but if you keep your lifestyle the same as you move up the economic ladder, you’ll have more to save.
Reduce expenses. In this same vein, reducing your current expenses will allow you to save more. Most of us don’t even know what our current expenses are. Take a few minutes with your bank and your credit card records to see where your money is going now. Look closely and see if what you are spending reflects what you thought you were it spending on and if it matches your values related to money. If not, make some changes. Reducing expenditures, no matter what your stage in life, will give you the opportunity to save.
For some of us, our children have left home. My expenses have gone down now that I’m not paying for child care, sports expenses or college expenses. There’s a little bit more flex in my budget, allowing me to take advantage of the empty nest and save more money.
Pay off debt. If you have little debt, you can live on far less money during retirement. Make sure you pay off the credit cards and any additional loans. If your mortgage is paid as well, you can really reduce your monthly outgo. But don’t forget, though the house may be paid for, there will still be expenditures for taxes and home insurance. Make sure you set aside money for these expenses.
Americans are happy to be living longer, but it is necessary to be financially prepared. Take positive steps to change your financial future.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201.