See also: Making retirement plans?
Financial priorities and personal needs change during each stage of life, but the retirement years frequently present the biggest challenge. When a leave-no-stone-unturned approach to trimming expenses is necessary, adult children may be able to help their parents do the detective work.
Depending on income level, retirees need 77 percent to 88 percent of their preretirement income to sustain their lifestyle, according to a 2008 study by Aon Consulting and Georgia State University.
Sally Herigstad, a certified public accountant who helped her father through his last years of life, says eliminating small expenses can result in big savings and help you meet retirement income goals.
"Go through credit card statements with a fine-tooth comb," advises Herigstad, author of Help! I Can't Pay My Bills! People "can have all these little dribbles coming out of their credit card accounts every month. It all adds up." Look for recurring charges such as magazine renewals, credit score monitoring or online services that no longer are being used.
Eco-entrepreneur Lynn Colwell says that money-saving answers are all around us, if we take the time to look.
"The biggest problem we have is we don't stop to think about how we can save money," says Colwell, coauthor of Celebrate Green! "We fight the impulse to realize there are solutions."
Signing up with your local utility company for a free home energy audit, for example, is an easy step toward cutting energy bills, Colwell says.
1. Stop doing what you've always done. Do not automatically renew memberships in professional and civic organizations in which you're no longer active.
2. Review charitable giving. Curb the amount of charitable giving or budget for it. After 40 or more years supporting charities, it may be time to let the next generation take the lead. Before making any donation, review the charity's rating and the impact of a donation on your budget.
3. Rethink your cellphone. If you rarely use it, consider canceling your service and carrying the phone just as an emergency link. In the United States and Canada, wireless carriers are required to connect all calls to 911, whether the cellphone account is active, past due or canceled.
4. Reevaluate insurance needs. Review your life and auto coverage to ensure that policy details match your needs. Do you have kids at home? How many miles do your drive a year? Do you still commute? Consider adding roadside assistance to your auto policy rather than maintaining membership in an auto club.
5. Mine the Internet. Use the Web to find senior discounts, early bird dinner specials or other dollar-stretching deals. Sign up for email alerts to get discounts at your favorite restaurants.
6. Buy only what you need. Try to stop misplacing bills or inadvertently stockpiling household items like cleaning or personal hygiene products. Get a system in place that helps you know what you've got in the house and where to find it.
Marcie Lovett of Organized By Marcie, a suburban Washington firm that help clients manage their households, says "shopping your home" before heading to a store is key to ensuring you don't buy duplicates of things already on your shelves.
"Otherwise," says Lovett, "you're spending money you don't necessarily have on products you don't necessarily need."
Andrea Downing Peck writes about family issues. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Wash.
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