I?m 60 and have NO Retirement Savings – Can I Get Back on Track?

Last week on the post Over 50 – No Pension, No 401(k) – What Now?, Ted left a comment that got to the heart of what that post is all about:

“I am 60. Lost my primary home through foreclosure . Just filed bankruptcy. Have been a full time realtor for 20 years . Crash of 2008 took me down. Now starting over. I do have college degree, health is good.

I still have an income property with no equity and it needs work. I do hustle with side jobs, real estate is coming up. Don?t really want to retire.

Can I still get back on track? Thank you . God bless everyone. Ted”

I started writing a response to Ted?s question, but quickly realized that it was morphing into a full-blown post. I?ve also been aware for a very long time that Ted is hardly in this boat alone. There are quite literally millions of people in this situation, and for more reasons than we can imagine. With Ted?s permission, I?m providing my response through this post (Thank you for giving me this opportunity Ted!).

I claim no status as a retirement expert (if there even is such a person) but here is a multi-step action plan that I believe will help Ted and others facing similar circumstances.

Attitude and outlook

You?re going to be around people who will be living the full retirement life, so you?ll need to adopt the right attitude and outlook. I?d start here:

  • Let go of the idea of full-retirement. From where you stand right now, it?s a burden you can?t afford to carry.
  • Assume you will be working for the rest of your life.
  • Embrace that you are not alone – millions of others are in the same situation.
  • Never be bitter toward those who can or have retired; bitterness is another burden you can?t afford to carry.
  • Recognize that you – and your life – have value and meaning apart from your financial circumstances, and vow to live your life to the fullest.

Adjust your retirement expectations

60 and have NO Retirement Savings
60 and have NO Retirement Savings
People in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s plan for – and fully expect – retirement at age 65. That is the retirement convention in our society, but there?s nothing about it in holy writ.

In your own life, retirement won?t happen at 65, and probably not at 70 either. But 75 or 80 will hardly be out of the question. That gives you 15-20 years to prepare from where you are now! Let that be your time horizon, and pursue it actively.

At a minimum, there may come a time when you will be forced to stop working by physical limitations, and preparing for that eventuality should be your goal.

Lean into your strengths

You have your health, and that?s a solid foundation to build your life on. It?s better to have good health and poor finances than the opposite at just about any age.

Also, your recent foreclosure and bankruptcy – ironically – probably mean that you have no debt. If so, that?s a major advantage. Lot?s of people are going into retirement with substantial debt – that?s one problem you don?t have.

You?ve also been working in real estate for 20 years – real estate sales I presume – and even if the market never bounces back, that background gives you one gigantic advantage. As a real estate agent, you have learned to be an entrepreneur. You?ve learned to go out into the world and get business that you can convert into a paycheck. That is the most basic training for starting your own business of any kind. That also means you won?t be job dependent, which is very important at your age.

You also do side jobs, which demonstrates flexibility. This will be an essential quality since you probably won?t land a career type position at this point in your life.

A more tangible strength is your income property. You don?t give a whole lot of detail, but can you move into the property? My thought is that you occupy it, both as a place to live and as an opportunity to be ?on site? to fix it up.

I?d make a plan to pay off the mortgage on the property in no more than 15 years. If you can, you?ll have either a) a debt free residence to live in, or b) a major asset to sell to raise retirement capital by age 75. Either outcome is a major positive.

Earning a living

So far, we?ve made two points on the work side: that you will have to plan to work the rest of your life, and that your 20 year real estate career has trained you for self-employment.

I?d try to start some sort of business – one with more stability than real estate sales – then either use your real estate business as a side venture, or your willingness to work side jobs as an additional source of revenue. Unless you can get a full-time job with decent pay and full benefits, you may need to rely on two or more income sources. You?re already well suited to that.

As to the business venture, I?d recommend that you gravitate toward some kind of work that you really like doing. If you have to work in your 60s and 70s, it will help tremendously if you do work that you like.

Start building retirement savings – YES – even now!

Lot?s of people would throw up their hands and give up on the idea of saving for retirement as a lost cause. Don?t let that be you! This is no time for fatalism! If you begin saving now, you?ll at least have something in 15-20 years.

Let?s say you start an IRA right now. If you max it out at $6,000 a year for the next ten years, you?ll have $60,000, plus accrued investment income, by the time you?re 70. If you?re married and both you and your spouse make the maximum contributions, you?ll have $120,000, plus accrued investment income, by 70. That may not be enough to fully retire, but at will give you a very large emergency fund that you can tap when extra funds are needed.

If you can build a successful business, you can save even more through self-employed retirement plans such as a SEP-IRA. That will allow you to effectively contribute up to 20% of your business income to the plan. (This is another point in favor of you having some sort of business of your own.)

You won?t be able to continue funding your retirement plans past 70 ? in most cases, but you can continue to contribute $6,000 ($12,000 if you are married) into a Roth IRA. That will allow you to build your retirement savings for as long as you have earned income.

Social Security and Medicare

You can go on Medicare at age 65, and you should do so by all means. There are different schools of thought on Social Security however. One is that you should delay taking benefits until age 70, that way your monthly payment will be at the maximum level for your eligibility (it can be up to 32% higher at best).

The other is that you begin taking benefits as soon as you are able, which will provide more cash up front. Since your financial situation is uncertain, I?d take the benefits as soon as possible. There are two basic reasons:

  1. If you begin taking Medicare at age 65, but not Social Security, you will have to pay the Medicare premiums (about $100 per month per individual) out of pocket.
  2. Even if you don?t need the income immediately, you can use the Social Security benefits to help fund your retirement plan.

Your plan contributions cannot be based on your Social Security benefits, but the extra income will free up earned income for contributions. For example, you can make a full IRA contribution of $6,000 as long as you have at least that much in earned income for the year. Taking Social Security at 65 rather than waiting until 70 will give you extra cash flow for retirement contributions for another five years.

Back to the question: I’m 60 and have no retirement savings…

Your situation is far from hopeless. With a combination of a paid off income property, a solid cushion in a retirement plan, Social Security and Medicare, and even a small income from a side job or side business, you may find yourself living in a very comfortable semi-retirement by the time you are 70.

Not perfect, but not bad either. And one other thing that you probably already know better than most of us?stay out of debt! That?s yet another burden you can no longer afford to carry.

Do you have any advice you can offer Ted and others in the same situation? Do you disagree with any recommendations I?ve made? (Please note: if your comments are critical, judgmental or condemning of Ted, they WILL be deleted.)

( Photo from Flickr by Tax Credits )

70 Responses to I?m 60 and have NO Retirement Savings – Can I Get Back on Track?

  1. Hi Kevin,

    Another idea is to relocate to a foreign country where the cost of living is significantly lower. Many baby boomers are finding their dollars go further in places such as Ecuador,Uruguay Panama, Chile, Belize, etc. This solution isn’t for everyone, due to family considerations, but the idea of working beyond 65 isn’t for everyone either.

    In Ted’s case, as a real estate agent, he could use his already well developed skills to find foreign real estate for prospective American buyers who are desiring to relocate. He could establish a website catering to American clients and conduct group real estate tours. He could write articles for publications such as International Living.

    Just our thoughts and we wish Ted the best.

  2. Hi Steven and Debra–As usual your thoughts are constructive and out of the box. And I think that out of the box is becoming more important for regular people. I don’t know if Ted is in a position to make an overseas move, but if he could that sounds like a real niche.

    He would benefit from learning Spanish, and from making some trips to the country of choice before making the actual plunge.

    One caveat though is that some countries have required asset minimums and some stiff health insurance qualifications. They don’t want Americans coming down and using national resources freely.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    As an addendum to our previous post, we just received an email link from International Living (IL). They are sponsoring a contest in which the winner and their spouse will enjoy a paid vacation to Granada, Nicaragua. The ideal applicant will be retired, or near retirement age, and from the United States or Canada. IL pays for air fare, accommodations, and provides $1500 for expenses. Applicants need to upload a youtube presentation on why they would like to retire overseas and avail themselves of this opportunity to explore Granada. They ask the winner to write of their experiences while there and if the work is published the winners will be compensated for their efforts in addition to the other perks. Full details of this offer may be found in the following link:


  4. There is some pretty motivational information in this article, especially in the begining and I liked that. It is not always to late for anything and you really have to know where you are, what your strenghts are and act accordingly. I also cannot stress this enough, you should stay out of debt, regardless of age or circumstances.

  5. Hi Dan–You’re right on the money with the debt problem. With no debt, you’re free to do what you need to do to go forward. Debt keeps you tied up with old obligations, and you can’t move forward. I’ve often thought that getting out of debt is 30-40% of retirement planning, for reasons too numerous to list here.

  6. Another thought to free up income is to own a vehicle in retirement that consumes low to no gas. A conventional engine may get 25MPG, whereas a hybrid may get 50MPG. If you go 5000 miles per year, that is significant. The cost for the conventional car (based on $4/gal gas) is $800/yr. The cost for the hybrid is $400/yr.

    This is but one example of cutting costs wherever possible.

  7. Hi Tim – Excellent, excellent point. If you are on a low or fixed income, a doubling of gas prices would hit you harder than it would other people. Minimizing living expenses is the under-appreciated other half of retirement planning.

  8. I have no idea how old this thread is, so I don’t expect a response. I am in the same position, being 64 with no retirement savings, owing to a bankruptcy and some bad decisions. I have worked for myself for most of my career.

    It IS possible to begin receiving social security retirement funds as early as 62.

    If you do that, however, you cannot — as seems to be suggested here — simply take the money and save it, while you continue to work. There is a fairly substantial limit on how much you can earn and still draw full retirement funds. Meanwhile, you have cut the amount of social security you will receive over the long run substantially. (After hitting the “official” age of 66, there is no limit on what you can earn.)

    So, if you expect to earn a respectable amount of money, it might be best to do what you can to delay retirement, rather than taking it as soon as possible, as Mr. Mercadante suggests. Medicare may cost $100 a month, but, considering that I am paying almost $800 monthly for health insurance now, the $700 reduction is a huge savings itself!

    I have still not completely unraveled this incredibly complicated matter. Some sites I’ve visited suggest that these rules don’t apply, or apply differently, to self-employed people. Ugh.

    I’ve made an appointment to meet with someone at the SS administration. (I’m packing a lunch and carrying two books.) Friends tell me this is just about the only way to get any clarity. And don’t go thinking I’m an idiot. I have a PhD! Actually getting that — the project of my middle-age crisis — is another reason I’m out of money. So, maybe I am an idiot.

  9. You’re correct about Social Security being reduced by earned income. I think two dollars of earned income cancels one dollar of social security income, so if you get $1,000 a month at 62, but earn $2,000, you won’t get your benefits.

    However, that ends when you reach your age of “normal retirement”. If you’re 64, your normal retirement age will be close to 66 (It maxes out at 67 for those born after 1960). In the post I suggested saving your Social Security benefits for retirement savings, but should have pointed out the age factor.

    Delaying Social Security is an excellent idea, especially if you are in good health and able to earn a living without it. You can increase your benefit by waiting to age 70.

    One other thing I do want to suggest…don’t make Social Security your only game. I realize it’s more important with no pension and retirement savings, but you should also be concentrating heavily on ways to earn more money. Not just for survival, but also for saving for later.

  10. Anyone starting a business in their 60s is not likely to earn enough from it in their sixties to make it worth losing the social security bonus by using early benefits as income to replace higher savings from the business earnings. I would urge everyone in Ted’s situation to be very cautious and to make waiting until age 70 for social security their highest priority. The ideas in this article will help, but social security is certain to be the only reliable and significant source of regular income for anyone who has reached age 60 with no retirement savings, despite their best efforts in earlier years, so it must be maximized. If a small business eventually takes off, the higher income from it will not arrive until one’s late sixties or early seventies, and it may not last into one’s eighties and nineties, due to failing health in later years, or competition, or a general economic downturn that requires customers or clients to cut back on their purchases of goods and services. If failing health causes one to want to sell a business as a going concern, the timing may be perfect or it may be unfavorable, selling into a booming economy or a depression. It is one thing for a 30-year-old to plan to retire on business income after 30 years, with time to make adjustments if the business fails, but quite another thing for a 60-year-old to plan on retiring at age 80 or 85 from the income or sale of a business that is only getting off the ground at age 60.

  11. Hi Michael – If you don’t mind me saying this, that’s a pretty dim view of life. You’re not offering much in the way of hope or a roadmap to the many people who are in this situation. And I disagree with your conclusions, not the least of which because I’ve seen too many people thrive in their 60s and 70s.

    There are a few factors I think you’re overlooking:

    1) Attitude is huge – if you think you can, then you can.
    2) Necessity can force you to make things happen, and to make them work.
    3) Most businesses are service related today, they don’t require physical strength, and you can often get them up and running in a year or two.
    4) It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it.
    5) Though there are always obstacles, there are also unexpected windfalls and opportunities once you start moving forward.

    Think about it – if you have no other choice, what do you do? Do you roll over and quit, or do you come out swinging? I think you do what you have to do, and that’s pretty powerful by itself.

  12. you are so right Kevin… I am 60 years old and feel very young and full of energy… I divorced in 2008, we were both real estate agents, I worked for our family business before that, so never any retirement, but my x husband worked for a company that went bankrupt so his retirement was taken over by the fed govt and I draw 1/2 of that every month 327.(started in 2012) which will end when my x dies.. he is now 64..I work for an atty in OKC and a lot of the ladies in that office work into their late 60’s and recently a woman who was 78 was working there.. left that job and went to another one… so it really does depend on your attitude and the people you surround yourself with … shut out the negative thoughts and go for it …I don’t own a home but live in a very nice 4 plex in a small community in the middle of OKC.. my rent is $360 per mo and I have told my landlord I will probably be here forever…its working class people and college students mostly ..I paid off my car.. and try to keep my credit card debt very low..I would like to invest monthly because my income is fairly high to have such low monthly expenses sometimes my monthly commission checks are large, plus base salary.. my problem is taxes are taking so much of the income because I dont own property …I didnt participate in 401-k at work because a lot of people were saying its not a good investment because of the low value of the dollar and a stock market crash would take it ..? anyway as you can see I know very little about investing but I’m very excited to learn.. I just don’t trust many people when it comes to investments because my credit union referred me to their investment advisor who wasn’t good at all..however I’m not afraid to take a higher risk investment because of the time frame any advice would be appreciated …

  13. Hi Gigi – I like your idea of “so it really does depend on your attitude and the people you surround yourself with ? shut out the negative thoughts and go for it” – that really is the truth.

    As to your tax problem, maybe you can look into starting a Solo-401(k). You can deduct up to $23,000 from your income to fund the plan. You don’t have to invest the money just yet, but just accumulate it for later but taking advantage of the tax benefit now. I agree with you on the dollar and the stock market. But if the market takes a big slide, like 50% or more, you might jump into index funds then ride the market up later. It’s not a guaranteed return, but the current market is looking too rich and wobbly at this point. If you do get into the market in the future, make sure that you keep a generous amount in fixed value/income investments, like CDs, Treasure Bills and money market funds too. You can’t afford to 100% in stocks.

    Be sure to do some reading up on investing between now and then. You should always be comfortable with where you’re putting your money.

  14. Hi, I just read all the posts and the entire question and answer. I will say I am 60 and no savings or retirement. My health is excellent. I went back to school at 59 and got certified in Property management. Put on my big boy pants and hit the ground smiling, positive clean and ready to take on the job market. Everyone said I was crazy. “No one will hire you at 59. Well, I landed a great job and make descent money. I “did exactly what one of the responded suggested. I cut my expenses to the bare minimum. I do pay a monthly court payment and have a 5k equity loan on my 40k condominium. I try to save as much as can. I do coupons etc. I’ll be back baby. Everyone please read Joshua 1:9. God Bless all and have a great day.

  15. Hi Barrie – Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.? I find that to be more true with each passing year of my life. Non-believers can scoff all they want, but God is real, and He’s with us always – if we choose to believe in Him. It’s been born out too many times in my life – and in the lives of other believers I know – for me to believe otherwise.

    I’ve learned to “have faith and go forward” no matter what the obstacles. Another favorite passage is “For we live by faith, not by sight,” – 2 Corinthians 5:7. We don’t have to “do it all”, we just have to be willing to take the leap of faith. The “impossible” details always seem to work themselves out along the way, and from directions we never anticipate. There’s entirely too much fear in the world, and it’s immobilizing millions of people. As FDR said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Some of the wisest words ever spoken!

    Barrie, I can’t add anything to what you’ve written, because you’re doing all the right things. Keep going forward and you’ll be OK. That doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles along the way, but even people with a lot of money hit obstacles, it’s just the nature of life. Life is what we do everyday with the time, talents and resources that we have, and far less about grandiose accomplishments. Keep doing what you’re doing my friend, and you’ll be a blessing to every life you touch.

  16. I agree with Michael. The motivation behind this post may be a genuine desire to help, but it’s not realistic. The truth is that Social Security, Medicare and (maybe) Medicaid will be all that this person can count on, unless Congress finds a way to eff that up too (entirely likely). I am 55 with no savings because I have had low-paid jobs or no jobs nearly all my life, despite all my best efforts. I did manage to get on the waiting list for a Section 8 voucher so maybe in 5 years I’ll be able to find an apartment that I can afford. In the meantime I’m stuck in transitional housing staring at the four walls. This country sucks for poor people, period.

  17. Hi Lorianne – I completely agree with your comment that “this country sucks for poor people”. That’s a situation that has only gotten worse in the past 20 or 30 years. That said, I completely disagree that my proposals in the post are in anyway unrealistic. Ted has certain strengths/advantages that I strongly suggested he play into. Your situation is never hopeless until you give up. In the opposite direction, I’d never advocate that anyone ever simply give up and “accept fate”. I don’t believe in fate.

    I don’t know what your faith is, but I do believe in the God of the Bible. In Lamentations 3:22-23 it says “Because of the Lord?s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” I always prefer to make my best effort, then to rely on such assurances. In my own life, this has been proven over and over.

    I don’t know if you’ve read any of the articles on this site that describe my personal situation, but I could have easily landed in the ditch called hopelessness just a few years ago. But God had other plans for me. We should never give up on that hope. I’m not wealthy by any definition of the term, but I’m happier than I’ve been at any other time in my life, because I’ve learned to go forward in faith and to believe that God has my back. And I have to add that that realization has been a complete relief in my life.

    Please, don’t ever give up trying, don’t ever give up hoping. You’re finished when you do.

  18. Kevin is right. I am a believer in God and not of the world’s ways. I am starting a new business and am amazed how it is growing in two months. I get two retirement checks but I want more money, I have dreams and I know that God has my back. I was in sales for many years (real estate) and loved it. Im just expecting a lot more in my life, i am 64 years old, and keep on going. I am making homemade healthy dog treats and it is fun, who would have thought that? I am a creative person and am using this talent along with my sales ability. People are starting to call me the dog treat lady. How fun is that? I asked God to show me if I was on the right path, and it is so amazing how He did. Just be positive and keep on going.

  19. Hi Sherry – That is a beautiful and inspiring story! I’ve long disagreed with the whole idea that we’re somehow supposed to spend the last years of our lives sitting around collecting pensions. I think that God put us here to live our lives to the fullest, and to be productive and relevant for as long as we’re physically and mentally able. All of that is a blessing of the highest order!

    Preparing for retirement should mostly be about building income supplements so that you won’t have to work so hard as you get older. It shouldn’t be so that you can make idle time into a lifestyle. I can think of nothing more deadening to the spirit than a life of nothingness. The people I know who continue to work in the retirement years seem happy on all fronts. The ones who sit home and collect seem to mostly complain about how unfair life is. I could never make that a goal in my life.

    I’m not at retirement, but I love what I’m doing on the web, and have no plans to ever stop. I figure that if I’m healthy enough to work, I’m also healthy enough to enjoy my life and to be in a position to help others. Many years ago I had an older friend who was in his retirement years, who also had no intention of retiring. He used to say “What am I going to do, retire to play golf and shuffleboard?” Now that I’m getting close to retirement I fully appreciate his point. And as you’re showing, there’s always another adventure waiting for us over the next hill. That’s where I’ll cast my lots!

  20. I find this exchange very interesting and helpful… Though I’m not sure how old this thread is either. I’m 54 with less than 50 thousand saved for retirement. And with not a great income…. So continuing to invest monthly and to the $6000+ maximum a year allowed by law I s difficult, if not impossible.

    However- I do invest something in my IRA every month! It’s as important an any other bill or expense. Something saved is better than nothing. So if you are under 59 use the remaining years to save something in an IRA. Pick up a part-time job just for this purpose if you can.

    I also resonate to the notion of multiple income streams… I started a side line 9 years ago with very little overhead and now earn enough in this capacity to pay my household bills. This frees up my other income for savings, not just retirement.

    Years ago I met quite an elderly lady who wanted to retire so she sold her car and bought a mobile home. I would see her riding around town on her bicycle – stopping at the farmers’ market, taking books, CDs and DVDs out of the library – for free of course. She had two saddlebags on either side of her bike where she carried stuff everywhere. She lived with such gusto and seemed free.

    She had the right idea. Live simple. Find joy wherever you are. Stop renting the movies and buying the lattes… I’ve had her in my mind all these years later as a lodestar.

    Good luck everyone … Try to bloom wherever you are planted and don’t despair.

  21. Hi Carolyn – Thank you for your thoughts – they actually serve as a road map for people who, by conventional retirement planning standards, “aren’t where they need to be”. But so much of retirement planning, and our attitudes toward money in general, are emotional/philosophical. That means that how we view our circumstances, and how we work with what we have available, are at least as important as the dollars and cents.

    If you won’t have the big retirement portfolio, then focus on lowering your cost of living and developing alternative income streams. It’s possible, because other people are doing it. I’ve known plenty of people who weren’t able to retire by conventional standards, but somehow they managed to slow down into a comfortable mix of semi-retirement. Your quality of life is so much more important than how much money you have, and it needs to always be the ultimate goal.

  22. This is a great site ! Thank God i stumbled upon it! It has give me confidence and strength when i felt all was lost! I am 59 and like many others i have nothing, i am a substitute teacher and make very little. Now i am looking at warehouse work which start at 11.00 per hour. This does not appeal to me but i have no choice. Love all the comments!

  23. Hi Steve – It might be a steppingstone to the next “thing” in your life. Maybe not the job itself, but what it inspires you to do, or a contact that you meet while you are there. Try to keep a positive attitude and to always move forward, if only in small steps.

  24. Great site and articles of encouragement. 55 less then couple of hundred dollars to my name as 3/17/17. Ten years ago 1.9 million in cash, cd’s, stocks & land. No it didn’t go to drugs or alcohol. Nor mid life. Bad business investments, 08 stock market crash, living off savings too long,marriage partner not hearing we are going broke cut spending business partner passes no will to help with loans. Now 55 passed broke, homeless “if not for a really special person” divorced with child support “1 child at 15 ” . $1400.00 Monthly income at 40hrs a week plus I work on average 25hrs per week to pay my way in housing. I need twice the income to climb out of this dark pit. Weak job market , so picking up extra job is very questionable. If I moved to a better job market then I would need to include housing cost. So it’s either $ 25.00 & up per hr job or stay where I’m at ??? Need help appreciate any suggestions. Thanks

  25. Hi Anthony – You’re in a tight spot, no doubt. But I’d advise re-reading this article as well as the comments for suggestions and inspiration. Right off the top of my head I’m thinking that you have the benefit of having been successful early in life – $1.9 million in assets puts you in the elite class nationally. Unless the business and the money were inherited, you should spend a lot of time thinking about what it was that brought you all that prosperity. Use those lessons and experiences for the next push. You’re too young to quit!

  26. Hi Anthony – my heart goes out to you. I am your age and netting only a little over $ 1700 a month as a part-time college teacher. Our age makes it difficult to get hired at meaningful work that is commensurate with our skills, experience and education.

    Have you considered enrolling in some courses online or at a local community college for a credential? In my state – in 6 months you can get credentialed as a veterinary tech; a drug counselor; an LPN; dog groomer – or as a real estate salesperson.

    I think your best shot is starting a small business – just a one person operation. All you need is an idea and a website! (I have a side line that helps me pay the bills… Can bring in monthly as much as I earn as s teacher.) I just heard on NPR about a business that does errands for busy people! Some lside-lines thst don’t require a lot of overhead and you can start tomorrow – pet-sitting; handy-man ( everybody needs one!). I don’t know what your skills are – but take a few moments to write a list of them. I’m sure two or three items on that list have value to someone who lacks them. Find a free website building site, order some business cards and just get started. It doesn’t matter if you love it! It will morph and grow into something you do love. Best of luck to you!!!

  27. Excellent suggestions Carolyn. Along the same line, I’d also like to point anyone who’s interested in building a new career or business, or just making more money, to my recent mini-series posts, The Gig Economy ? Why It Might Be the Key to Your Future and How to Find Gig Work in the Gig Economy. The gig economy is seriously under-estimated, in addition to the fact that it isn’t age-limited, and you can work it on your own terms. Works well as a sideline to save and invest money or get out of debt, or as a retirement income supplement. I also believe it’s fast becoming the work-style of the future.

  28. Thank you Kevin, this information has helped me tremendously not only for the financial sense that it makes but because of your positive message. I really, really needed that today. I am a 60 year old female with no savings but I am healthy and I am a landscape gardener which I love doing. I have just started my own company and I work for a private lodge as well. It is hard not to be afraid so I am so glad I found your site. Many blessings, Wendy

  29. Hi Wendy – I’ve been afraid off and on all my life. I’ve made peace with it. As humans we’re emotional creations, and we can never escape their impact. But we can decide how to manage them. I have a problem with anxiety, but I’ve found that the solution is to be productive. Most of our insecurities are magnified when we focus on them. You have to change direction to overcome them. You have the benefit of doing work that you love and that counts for plenty. I genuinely feel that when we’re doing what we love, we’re on the right path. Even if its tough now, it can and will get better if you keep moving forward. I love that you’re doing the “slash worker” thing – landscape gardner/work for a private lodge. That’s becoming more common as the national economic noose tightens. But it shows that you haven’t given up, that you’re continuing to build a future for yourself. And it means you’re emotionally healthy, and fully capable of overcoming your limitations.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, I have little sympathy for people who collect Social Security as soon as they’re able, then “retire”, only to find that they live at the poverty level. Then they spend the rest of their lives moaning and groaning to anyone who will listen, or try to make others miserable. That just seems like living in a prison of your own making. Count yourself blessed if that’s not you.

  30. Hi Wendy – I read your comment with a great deal of empathy, as I too have struggled with deep fears about my future – and continue to, at times. Please know you are not alone. There are many people in our age range who are unemployed, underemployed and/or struggling financially, and as this blog shows, not prepared for retirement. The way I deal with fear is to try to ground myself in the moment. You can’t live in the future. Do the best you can every day, and, if you find yourself veering into that place of darkness, will yourself to “change the channel.”

    I know it seems cliche, but try to be aware of and focused on the good things going for you: you are employed and you have your health- which are huge pluses. I hope you also have family and friends. If you don’t, look around in your area for support groups and organizations – perhaps geared towards people over 50. They can offer you moral support and ideas to stimulate your income, and, yes, friendship. Check out what your local Small Business Association (SBA) offers. In my state (CT), the SBA often holds free workshops for women over 50 who are trying to start their own businesses, or start a second career. AARP also offers programs to help older people continue to find ways to earn income.

    Kevin’s wonderful and thoughtful posts about the new “gig economy” are right on! There is a lot of money to be made in this free-lance economy. For example, one of my nieces, who is a good artist, started drawing tattoos in high school and created a web-site. Five years later she makes nearly six figures by posting her images on various tattoo web-sites that sell them. Every time one of her images is purchased, she gets a percentage of the fee. So the same image can generate many thousands of dollars.

    Not all of us are artists, but it sounds like you are creative. I don’t know if you do floral designs, but the wedding business is booming and there are many niche markets associated with that industry. Have you ever thought about becoming an officiant? The rules are different in each state, but it’s worth checking into. In CT, you need to become a Justice of the Peace through your town in order to be licensed to marry people. Or, you can become an ordained minister (online Universalist Church offers ordination for $40) , without having to have a congregation or church.

    Forgive yet another cliche – but knowledge is power. When I started my own business, I knew nothing about creating websites, blogs or social media. I took free on-line courses on a website called “alison.com’ and developed a knowledge base that helped me market my business. Clearly, you are computer literate, so anything available online is available to you.

    Obviously I don’t know your living situation – whether you rent or own outright, or have a mortgaged property. However, if there is any way to reduce your living expenses – even in ways you’d rather not do – like getting rid of cable, I suggest you do it [at least for awhile] to enable you to create a savings account. [ I did this for a couple of years.] Also, consider selling anything you can live without to help fund that account. You still have almost 10 years to put some money aside to help you in later years. Whatever you can save now, you will be grateful for later. You can open IRAs easily online these days at any of the discount brokerage firms [ Fidelity; Vanguard, etc.] Or if you are more comfortable with bank CDs, check out the top interest rates online.

    If investing and money management is new or foreign to you, seek out free workshops to help you gain the necessary information to get started. [ I suggest you avoid those promoted by specific investment advisors who want your business. Instead, call your senior center in town or a non-profit group interested in educating the public on how to save for retirement.]

    My strategy for staying sane and focused is to have reasonable goals that don’t overwhelm me. Don’t compare yourself to others. Your goals must derive from your circumstances. You may only be able to afford to save $1000 a year; that’s okay. As long as you are trying to save. Next year, maybe your circumstances will improve and you can do better. All you can do is plan from where you are now. My favorite saying: bloom where you are planted.

    Not knowing you at all, I suspect much of what I have said you have heard before or know about, but I hope a random idea or two might help you. I commiserate with you very much, and wish you great success in your efforts to develop your business and achieve future goals. Don’t despair. I’m praying for you.

  31. Hi Carolyn – A thousand thanks for that thoughtful and insightful post. Many more people in addition to Wendy will benefit from your advice. It’s all very actionable and right on point.

    When I think of the quandry that so many people in their 50s and 60s are in right now, I often think back to my own grandparents. Born in the early part of the 1900s, they didn’t have the benefit of the vast knowledge base that we have today, nor did they have a grasp of technology. They came up in the days before public assistance and raised their (very large) families through the Great Depression and World War II. But when “retirement” came along, they transitioned easily. But they were different people, living at a different time, and with different values. They didn’t have the expectation of a golden retirement – only a desire to live comfortably, just as they had all of their lives.

    Their “recipe” was simple – collect Social Security, keep on working, live frugally, stay out of debt and always save some money for a rainy day. It was the same strategy they used throughout their lives, in young adulthood, and the child rearing years. So simple, yet so effective. None descended into poverty in old age, they were comfortable to the very end. My one grandmother lived to be 91 and lived just fine.

    We look back on such simplicity today and think it unsophisticated. But it worked for people for hundreds of years, at least those committed to applying the principles in their lives. I know because I saw it done.

    Today, we live in fear – largely because we’ve been trained to live that way. Fear motivates us to comply with the “rules” handed down from on high, and to consume accordingly. Those fears paralyze us and keep us operating in perpetual state of anxiety. Even if things are going fairly well, our minds are plagued with some aspect of life that’s unsettled, or at least subject to heavy uncertainty. But the reality is that uncertainty is part of life, and it’s with us from birth to death. The secret is to come to a place of peace with it. Life isn’t perfect, it never was, it never will be, and it wasn’t meant to be. And we’re not perfect people – let’s all toss that burden quickly.

    I think that if we can discipline ourselves to think in more simple terms – and get a lot of the socially induced crap out of our heads – we could see through to celebrate this day and time. Even millionaires live with a lot less security and certainty than we ever imagine. It’s all part of being human.

    Read this list:

    • Bob Ross, artist
    • Dan Fogelberg, singer
    • Glenn Frey, singer (the Eagles)
    • Princess Diana
    • Whitney Houston, singer
    • Carrie Fisher, actress
    • David Bowie, singer
    • Prince, singer
    • Michael Jackson, singer
    • Elvis Presley, singer

    All these people are dead, despite being considered ?larger than life?. None made it to 70, and most didn?t make it to 60. The point is, there are no guarantees in life, no matter who you are, and how great and powerful you seem to be.

    All we can do is to be the best we can be with the resources available to us ? ?bloom where you are planted?, as Carolyn and others have pointed out.

    So from now on, commit to collecting Social Security when it becomes available, keep on working, live frugally, stay out of debt and always save some money for a rainy day. And let’s add take advantage of opportunities that come across our paths – we’re never useless until we decide that we are. Nothing fancy, but it?s worked for millions of people for hundreds of years. Then do your best to clear the rest of the clutter out of your mind, and focus on what?s good in your life here and now.

    I didn’t mean to steal your thunder Carolyn, but this is such an important topic that we all need to weigh in and support each other.

    And I can see that we need a lot more articles on this topic…

  32. Kevin – You did not steal my thunder! I read your posts avidly. They are full of wisdom, good, sensible, calming advice and they help so many people. You write beautifully. I especially appreciate your perspective on how fear plays such a dramatic role in our present culture. Thank you.

  33. Keep going saving what you can, striving to be debt-free and don’t get discouraged and stay away from the negative people. They’ll always have 101 comments as to why something won’t work. I am a 51-year-old female who has an 8th grade education. I got my GED, went to college at night and got my degree but before that worked as a waitress for many years, and have held down full-time work since I was 16 years old. Through hard work, determination, and my faith in God, I made it through some very tough times which damn near killed me. It’s true what they say: “What doesn’t killl ya makes ya stronger.” LOL!!! I happened to get lucky buying fixer uppers in So Cal before the housing boom but honestly it was never about the money. It was about enjoying the opportunity, stepping out into the unknown and pushing myself to see if I really could do it. You take care.

  34. Hi Sami – Thanks for sharing your story. I think that the problem is that too many people DON’T do what you did. Instead, they either convince themselves that the can’t, or they wallow in self-pity. There’s no substitute for applied effort. And you have to be prepared to fail and to have hard times. But the payoff is a better life and more self-respect.

    I didn’t have as tough a road as you, but I’ve had to reinvent myself a few times. When it happens, there’s no choice – you have to do it, and hard is never an excuse. You just have to plunge forward and never quit.

    I think it’s called “survival”! Not to make light of it, but too many people think that survival should be easy. It isn’t. Only on TV is it easy. Even when you think “you’ve made it” you haven’t made it, because something can always come along and throw you backward. Expectation and attitude are SO important.

  35. I am a single never married 55 year old woman with no living family or inheritance coming. I made the mistake of being self employed from the age of 26 to currently as an artist. I have watched my business dwindle to nothing, but, on a good year I only made about $25k (but that was OK back in the 80s, 90s). And, no I am not a terrible artist go look at my site http://www.beverlycaputo.com OK? I did not succeed in life due to programing, being told I was rotten, no good, would never make it, etc. OK? And don’t clap back saying I am blaming. I had two parents who did their best, kept food on the table and shelter overhead, but, had their own rough childhoods and horrible health issues that drained them and angered them. I don’t think I could have done much better. I love and forgive them…but, it lead to me not believing in myself or setting goals or planning. So now this battle axe is 55 with zero savings and will collect $1k a month social security at 70 years old! The advice given here…gee, I didn’t even have to read the advice as I knew what it would be…work the rest of your life, cut out any unnecessary expenses, maybe have half a dozen roommates. I am laughing because the truth is what is described as the advice is at best a way “TO EXIST TILL YOU DIE”. The reality is the real only solution is to kill yourself. Yes, sorry everyone, but it will lead to that for many. Crap we would have to be super healthy to work in to our 70s, 80s, 90s,. Lets hope these people are…otherwise…look…we are all going to die anyway. Gee people wake up. Oh, light and love to all struggling. I know the path and I know as I age it may not be…umm…pretty?

  36. Hi Beverly – I’m sorry for your circumstances. But I do ask that you not give up. Your comment conveys a definite tone of hopelessness – please don’t let that control you. You may need to get counseling or join a support group. Facing your situation alone isn’t healthy. Millions of people are in similar places in life so you’re not alone. Of course, the cultural norm in America is to hide our problems and suffer in silence. I don’t agree with that at all. We need to reach out to others for help. Join a church and see what kind of help they can provide. It’s amazing what can happen when you connect with people.

    You refer to yourself as a “battle axe (at) 55”; please let go of that label – it won’t serve you well. Take chances, try new things – you literally have nothing to lose. It’s your life, and you need to make the best of it that you can. But PLEASE get help. Your comment hints that your challenges aren’t all financial. And it really is true, every day is a chance to start over. Set some goals, and then map strategies to get you there. But please find people who will help get you there. And if you’re not a person of faith, it’s never too late to find it.

    We can reinvent ourselves, but only if we’re willing to try. A good friend often reminded me that “you can if you think you can.” In my experience, that’s proven true. But if you don’t think you can, then you really need to reach out for help.

    I apologize if I’ve missed the mark with my response, but I’m not a counselor.

  37. Beverly – you are a fantastic (!!) artist, the opposite of a failure! Seems to me you need some help marketing your work. I can see calendars, greeting cards, tattoos – all sorts of ways you can turn your art into more money! Check out tatto websites. If you can turn your art talent to customizing tattoos – you could make a very good living. My 35-year-old niece does! I’m a 56 year old “battle ax” – without much more in the bank than you! Don’t give up! You have a lot going for you. Please check out marketing courses at your local community college – or online. I think there’s huge potential here you don’t see. (I’d buy one of your calendars.) It’s easy to despair, but please don’t give into those impulses. I know it’s cliche – but you can only live your life today, and today, and today. 70 is a long way off.

  38. Hello Carolyn, What you are talking about designing tattoos…are you saying your niece is a tattoo artist? She has to be because they don’t hire artist to design tattoos. The tattoo artist does. So, first. I have looked in to that before….number one you have to apprentice with an established tattoo artist for at least a year and the fee for that ranges on the low end from $5000 up. And that is if an established tattoo artist will allow you to mentor with them. As far as marketing…um, lets see…I have a Facebook business page and personal page, an Instagram page, a Pinterest page, a Twitter page, a Tumblr page, A Google Plus page, a Linkedin page, My own website and blog that backlinks to all these pages,. I run ads weekly in the Facebook Market Place, Craigslist in 4 cities, and just did a direct mail that cost a few hundred to a million dollar neighborhood. I also have a selling page on EBay, Etsy, and the Bonaznza Selling site. I mean I am sure there is always more that can be done but I am one person trying to do all of this herself. I lived in my single cab truck out here in NV last year for 4 months and I am facing that come January and it gets below freezing here! So…do tell what marketing could I do that is not being done?

  39. Oops also forgot to say…I also had several storefronts that sell all that you mentioned…greeting cards, calanders, mugs, totes, prints, etc. The names Redbubble, Society 6, Caf? Press, and Am. Fine Arts…all duds…the only winner is the company who uses your art.Do you know how much you have to sell to make even $25? The artist only gets like a 5% royalty and you might sell a dozen cards for say $20…so I make a $1. The sales were so nil I closed those shops. You see people think like you are thinking which is wow that is pretty it can be used on this and that and that. Well, you have to then find buyers and compete with millions of artist who are just as good, some better, many worse. You have to sell like Thomas Kinkaide to make a living with those types of products. I have two weeks to come up with January’s rent and its all holidays for the next month…so, I am packing up now.

  40. Hi Beverly – I use a good bit of direct emailing to a very specific audience and it works well for my writing. Maybe you can email art galleries to pitch your work for sale? Maybe you can make connections with some people who can help market your work (the networking thing). It’s free to do, and you can build a database from the web (every website has a contact page and/or email address, and most are privately owned). Heck there must be at least 10 art galleries in tiny Kennebunkport, Maine alone. My guess is that there are hundreds of Kennebunkports across the country.

  41. Hi Beverly –

    Let me clarify a couple of things: my last message was sent from an I-Phone in a rushed manner because I was feeling your desperation and I wanted to reach out to you. I was unable to edit errors in my post afterwards.

    My niece is 24-years-old {not 35 – which was an error]. She is an artist in that she has always drawn and is talented, but never went to art school. She began drawing “tattoos” for friends in high school. Then, at the age of 17, she established her own website and began to get “commissions” from all of the world; not enough to live on, obviously at her age, but a chunk of change. When she graduated from high school, she began selling images on various websites devoted exclusively to tattoo art. In this way, she is able to resell the same image over and over again and make 1000’s of dollars on her most popular images. No, she did not “apprentice” anywhere. No, she did not fork out any money in training herself to be a tattoo artist. She’s clever and makes sure she stays current on all the popular trends in tattooing, but that’s it. I can only assure you that she earns upwards of $65,000 a year and does not do any other work to support herself at present.

    By no means am I judging you and it seems you have done all the right things in terms of utilizing on-line platforms to sell your products. Good for you! You don’t mention whether you solicit client reviews. While my business is service-oriented, I make sure I promote myself through good ole fashioned “word of mouth” and I seek out client reviews.

    It seems to me there are always “people better than you” in any field, but you are extraordinarily talented and so the fact that there is competition in your field, should not lead you to despair. An old colleague of mine had a daughter who, as a sideline, painted pictures for local people – specializing in their pets. She developed quite a following and was no more talented than you. It’s my sense that freelance artists tend to develop a local following; that a lot of it is about relationships. As Kevin mentioned: local art shows and galleries; country and craft fairs, etc. are ways to meet people and spread your business cards around.

    Here’s my last point: You are clearly in dire straits if you are contemplating living out of your vehicle and you seem very sad and scared, and I can’t blame you. It’s very easy for other people to give you “advice” – as if you haven’t been busting your hump all these years…right? But understand that you reached out to this forum and we are just trying to help; as imperfect as that help may seem to you. Perhaps right now you need to focus on your emotional and practical needs. I don’t know your part of the country but surely you qualify for some sort of help? If not, please try to find some peer-support through Churches or other non-profit organizations in your area.

    I wish you all good things. My mother used to say, “you never know what’s around the next corner.” And while I appreciate that you will be inclined to be cynical in interpreting that comment, my mother – a person who struggled her entire life – meant only that good things might await you – if you hold on and keep trying. Please forgive me if my remarks are not helpful to you; but they are the best I can offer.

  42. Carolyn, I think you’ve given excellent advice for anyone. I can certainly endorse it all based on my own experience. I’ve known a lot of people who led difficult lives, but they never gave up (though I’m sure there were moments when they contemplated it). There a lot of people who have little in the way of talent, skills and education, but they succeed by pure human grit. They sometimes outperform more talented and financially endowed people. I have them in my family, and I’ve known dozens of others.

    I have a close friend who’s from Mexico. He’s opened my eyes to a very different people and culture. While Americans live and die by credentials and financial resources, Mexicans develop talent for surviving in any environment. With all the crap about building a border wall, I’ve come to admire the Mexican people intensely. They show what can be done with little – little education, money, privilege or opportunity. In my worst times, I’ve reflected on this, and it’s inspired me to go forward. They develop a portfolio of hands-on skills, flexible workstyles and lifestyles, an uncanny ability to manage money, and deep connections within their families and communities. They also work their tails off no matter what. I’ve also found them to be incredibly generous, particularly considering the obstacles they face this side of the proposed border wall.

    There are other immigrant groups who conduct themselves in similar fashion. My own grandparents, as Italian immigrants or children of immigrants, followed the same pattern. No education, no specific skills, no money – only a desire to survive and thrive no matter what. We “Americans” can and should take in that lesson carefully. We come into this word with nothing, and leave it with nothing. What happens in between is largely up to us. But I always feel that if immigrants can make it work, we can do the same.

    Another friend of mine used to say “As soon as you think you’re established, you’re finished.” I always try to maintain the mindset of a student. And an immigrant. It’s enabled me to take some of those detours that have led to pleasant outcomes.

    Thanks for your advice Carolyn.

  43. Hi Kevin,

    I don’t know how old this website is, but I was certainly glad to find it. The advice and uplifting spirit of hope given by you, and others who have written, is priceless to read. It has given me some hope to my future, which I have been feeling pretty low about. However, thanks to this column, I am feeling better than I have in a long time. I am almost 61, work for the state, so I do have a job with ok income, which I have held for almost 22 years so far. I do have a condo, that will be paid off probably in my early 70’s, and I will have a pension and social security (subject to the windfall provision because I will draw a state pension). I have zilch (!) in the bank, and not much more than Zilch in my 401K. But, I’m coming away with the attitude now, that I just need to learn to be a super saver between now and my retirement, and look at my 401K and Roth IRA to be just a nice emergency fund for myself, and of course stay out of debt! So, that’s how I am going to approach my remaining working years of saving, which so far, I have not done well. Thanks for your encouragement and kind empathy for people like us who share those same situations. It’s nice to finally realize I’m not the only one! Until you actually find there are others who share your struggles, it’s easy to think you are all alone!


  44. Kevin,

    I forgot to mention that I turn 61 TOMORROW (june 2)–so this column has provided a nice birthday gift to me of HOPE!!


  45. Happy Birthday Bonnie! We should always celebrate life, no matter what’s happening. But thank you for your heartwarming comments. One of the goals I aim for on this site is to write articles targeted to the average person, not to the top 10%. In fact, what I often find is that the top 10% can’t relate to the other 90%, and don’t appreciate what they’re up against. So this is a site for the 90%.

    In reading your comment, I see plenty of hope for you. You have a secure job and a condo, which gives you a foundation to build on. Try to delay collecting Social Security until you turn 67 so you’ll get the full benefit. In the meantime, save like your life depended on it! Emergency savings and 401(k), you’ll need both. The emergency fund in the short run, and the 401(k) to be the emergency fund when you finally stop working. But you may also want to look into creating a post-retirement career or business, maybe just part-time, to supplement your retirement income. Please click on the “Retirement Planning” link in the righthand column, and read some of the articles there.

    You’re hardly alone in your situation, in fact I’d say you’re in the solid majority, so don’t beat yourself up. Enjoy what you do have and will have, and realize that you’ll survive, just as you always have. But do what you can to thrive along the way, it matters.

  46. Same boat. 59 years old, no real retirement to speak of.

    My biggest fear has always been not having a roof over my head. My mortgage is not going to be paid off until I’m 78 (haha). Currently, I owe $68K on said mortgage.

    My question is this. I can either pay $5000 towards my principal EACH year which would give me $40K towards my principal paid by age 67 OR would it be better for me to put that $5K in an IRA or something and then whatever is there at age 67, put towards my mortgage? I’m in a good position right now that I’m pretty sure the $5K a year is doable. The only other debt I have is a small car loan, no credit cards or other loans.

    Thank you,

  47. Hi Dee – You’ll get different opinions on this, but I say go with the IRA or some other form of savings. If you have no savings then that’s an acute need. It’s tough enough to go through life with no savings, but you don’t want to enter your senior years broke. If nothing else, whatever you save will act as an emergency fund for those times when income is tight or expenses are high. Also, savings create liquidity, and open up options that don’t exist when you have no money.

    As to the house, I realize that on an emotional level a lot of people fear being homeless. Personally, that one’s not on my radar scope. I’ve lived in enough places and in different arrangements to know that there’s always a place to go. As long as you can make the payments on your house, savings should be the priority. And maybe when your savings get big enough, you can think about paying off the mortgage in one lump. That’s one of those options I was talking about that savings create.

    My thinking is if you can save $40,000 or so by 67, you can also begin collecting Social Security, and maybe work part-time. You should be OK with that arrangement. And as far as the house, who knows? Maybe you’ll be ready to sell it and move elsewhere. And in the process, maybe you’ll get more cash from the sale of the house, and you’ll be quite comfortable wherever you live.

    Like I say, you’ll get different answers from other people, but I believe that the liquidity and options cash creates in your life makes savings the priority. I hope this advice helps.

  48. Hi Kevin,

    I’m 53 yo I have 20k in savings and two retirement accounts with 27k (401K and IRA). I My husband passed away last year and I used the insurance money to pay off my mortgage. I have two car payments some cc debt. I have one kid in college and another in HS. do not want to work until i’m 70 or fulltime until i’m 67. I’m would like to retire between 62-65 and work part time to help with monthly expenses. My husband made about 25% more then I earn now. Is this feasible with current monies? I could draw on my husband to start with and then take my social security with full benefits at age 67. Should I take out a home equity loan to pay off cars and CC debt which equals combines debt of about 50k? I really don’t like the though of an equity loan. It would place my home in jeopardy if lost my job. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated

  49. Hi KD – I’m sorry for the loss of your husband. You’re really going to have to crunch some numbers to see if you can live off Social Security alone, particularly at 62-65, which will result in a a reduced benefit. Personally, I don’t like the idea of taking a home equity line to pay off consumer debt. If it takes you 10-15 years to pay off the HELOC, you’ll probably need a new car between now and then, which might mean another loan. As far as retiring, I think you need to sit down with a financial person you trust and crunch the numbers.

    I don’t think you’ll get both yours and your husbands Social Security. Based on what I understand, you’ll get the higher of his or yours, but not both. And I hope you’re planning to continue funding your 401k between now and then. Working part-time is an excellent strategy.

  50. To my understanding I can draw widow benefits on my husband and let mine continue to receive credits until i’m 67 yo and then I can switch to mine and I can draw full benefits from my social security. My mom was able to switch to my dad’s after he passed and she drew a little more each month. Is that not a possibility now? Yes, I’m planning on continuing to save money in 401k and IRA.

    I want to be able to retire and work part time to supplement my savings and SS.


  51. Supplement to last comment…

    I could take mart of my savings and pay off my car loan and this would free up several 100 dollars a month, but this would only leave me 10k in savings.

  52. to my understanding I can draw window benefits from my husband at 62 work part time I could let my build and then I could switch to mine at 67. My mom was able to switch from hers to my dad’s after he passed and she was able to get a little extra money each month

  53. I hope that’s right because it would benefit a lot of people if true. But might you be better off paying off the credit cards first? They usually have higher rates and have a way of not going away on their own.

  54. Hi KD – I recommend paying off your credit cards by using any zero (or very low) interest credit cards to pay off the others. You can usually find some 6 mos or year-long promotions offering very low interest if you use them to pay off the balances of other cards. At present, I am virtually debt-free: no mortgage, car payment or credit card bills that I carry from one month to the next. However, 10 or more years ago, I was in a financial crisis. I owed over 16-K to credit cards. By following this tactic -transferring higher interest debts to 0 interest cards over and over again – I was able to pay off my debt in less than a year. They key is paying very close attention to interest rates. As soon as a zero interest card promotion was due to expire, I would leap frog my balance to the next promotion. I don’t think I paid a cent in interest on that 16 K – though occasionally there was a small fee for transferring the balance (which I calculated was much less than paying the exorbitant interest rate). Of course this strategy is not useful if it doesn’t go hand-in-hand with an aggressive pay-down plan. Very importantly, I picked up a part-time job and used all that extra income to pay down my credit cards – which I accomplished in 8 months. Before anything else, I’d focus on getting out of debt. Then think about your next steps.

  55. That’s an excellent strategy Carolyn. The last thing anyone needs it to carry debt into retirement. It raises the cost of living and takes away your peace of mind. The 0% balance transfer strategy is an excellent one. But they do charge a balance transfer fee of 3% or 5% of the amount transferred so you have to be ready for that as well. It’s still better than paying double digit interest though.

    All things become more possible when debt is gone.

  56. Beverly is right. This plan is how to exist until you die, and hopefully, when you die you will drop dead and not waste money on medical treatment. Amazing, the Republicans can drive the country into financial crisis and never have to answer to anyone.

  57. Hi Cleo – I’d be more general in that assessment and say it’s the American Way with healthcare. The monster that is US healthcare can’t be assigned to any one party or candidate. It’s been slowly evolving (or more accurately, devolving) over the past few decades. During that time, both parties have controlled the White House and Congress, so there’s plenty of blame to go around. One of the things that worries me is the tendency of people to want to assign simple causes to complex problems, because it’s never that easy. Our healthcare system is the best example. It’s a quagmire with no easy solutions. If only it were as easy as electing the “right person”, it would have been fixed long ago. But the fact that it hasn’t proves my point, and speaks volumes about how big a problem this is.

  58. Kevin Thanks for the encouraging article and positive thoughts in the tread. I’m 64 and working hard to get out of debt and continue to save. I have a little in a IRA (about $20k) but no other savings for retirement. I currently have a great job and hope to squeeze a couple more years out of it before I physically can’t do it anymore. I get severely depressed over the regrets I have for never saving and investing for my future out of my fear, ignorance and impulsive spending. I see a very bleak future for myself and my wife. I find it hard to share this with anyone because the basic response is “boy you are screwed”. I’m now subscribing to your site and appreciate the good, positive advice.

  59. Hi RM – Thanks for your kind words! No one will promise you the road ahead will be an easy one, but it doesn’t have to be bleak ? certainly nothing like the dark picture others will paint. You have a good job, some money in an IRA, and you’re working to get out of debt. Take each day as it comes, do a little something each day to move yourself forward, and have faith in yourself and in the future.

    And maybe bookmark this article for future reference. We all need encouragement on the road of life, and entering retirement with slim resources unfortunately isn’t one of those areas where it’s easily found. But I’ve seen too many people who entered the retirement years with very little money, and still thrived.

    You’re on the right path by saving for retirement ? whatever it is you can ? and getting out of debt. Just building a cash cushion and eliminating debt are big steps by themselves. But I’d also suggest you look to create a postretirement career, that will blend well with the lifestyle you want, starting with a reduced workload.

    Semi retirement is a lot better than no retirement, and can make you perfectly happy. We were just doing some touring of the New England coast this week, and had an opportunity to listen to some retirees. Their lives seem empty, because they don’t have a daily purpose. That’s not a life I aspire to and I’ll avoid it like the plague.

    When you start thinking of your life as a journey rather than a destination, you become liberated from the traditional thinking about retirement. So focus on creating a purpose for your life, one that will least give you a comfortable life as well as meaning. Even if you never fully retire, that will be more than enough.

  60. Thank you Kevin – I honestly never considered just doing nothing in retirement, even if I had all the resources in the world. Obviously money gives you more freedom in your choices, but I have a passion for photo and video and love documenting people’s stories and the beauty of California and beyond. My life has been incredibly blessed and I hope some opportunities open for income for someone in advanced age.

  61. I would think you’d be able to find a way to monetize those passions in some way that will provide you with a decent income when combined with Social Security. And it will keep you moving and active while others kind of stagnate. Do some research on the possibilities, then begin developing it as a side gig. Once you start moving forward magical things start to happen. That’s not just happy talk either, I’ve found it to be true in my life and in those of others. Throughout life, inertia is our worst enemy!

  62. Wonderful page! I greatly appreciate Kevin’s, and everyone else’s, comments! I’ve struggled with maintaining ‘pos?i?tiv?i?ty’ most of my life and as I’ve aged it’s NOT surprisingly gotten worse. In reality though I’ve always kinda had this blind mentality that things will work out… but again w/ age that mentality has sort of spiraled like a Cessna at 5,000 ASL, w/o fuel. So on a ‘positive note’ my situation (57, near broke (5k in bank), family-less, skill-less, education-less, zero in savings, no retirement funds of any sort, close to homeless, dead vehicle, 8k in high interest credit card debt, jobless for over a year (finally forced into accepting that I must take a minimum waged job that I foresee hating (makes suicidal thoughts jump in and out of the self talk) has lead me to thinking about God / Jesus… although the fight to believe is difficult because ‘he’ does not answer my requests (pathetic I know!!!). So with all the whining out of the way I continue fighting the desire to give up and find a painless way to bail out of life while continuing the fight to keep going no matter what.

  63. Hi Dan – Don’t give up on God. I’ve been in more dark places than I care to remember, and I’m more certain than ever that it’s only by the Grace of God that I’ve gotten out of them. What people call coincidences I now know to be miracles. Keep believing, sometimes God keeps us in a dark place for a time, I believe to move us closer to Him. But better times will come – seriously.

    Looking at your situation I’d say the one thing you have going for you – and it’s not minor – is that you have nothing to lose. If you go into a “holding pattern” you’ll remain right where you are right now. Instead, take some chances. Try new ventures, including jobs you never thought to do before. Meet some new people. Go to some new places. There really is opportunity all around, but we have a natural tendency to disqualify ourselves based on prior (bad) experience. But each day truly is a new day. One of my favorite Bible verses is Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord?s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning…” That’s a verse I’ve come to trust because I’ve experienced it many times – often literally every day. My motto is “have faith and keep moving forward”.

    I’d recommend the same for you. I know it’s easier said than done if you’ve never adopted that life strategy, but as I said, you have nothing to lose. Sometimes you need to find the best way to exit your circumstances. I say that because if what you’re doing right now isn’t working, you may have to take some radical action. You’ll fail along the way, but with each success you’ll gain confidence. That seems to be the secret sauce in life. As a good friend of mine always said, “You can, if you think you can”, and I’ve found that to be true. I’m always challenging myself, and it seems to get easier the more I do it.

    As to tactics, try some or all of these: Join a men’s group at a local church, and let them all know from the start what your situation is. They may be able to get you connected with the right people. Take a job that will get you into a new business, or give you an opportunity to learn new skills. Don’t worry about the pay, focus on the training/exposure/contacts it will provide. Find groups online to network with. Once you learn how many others there are out there in a similar situation, you’ll gain better perspective, as well as an opportunity to share strategies. Circulate around town, and talk to strangers – it’s counter-intuitive in this day and time, but you never know who you might meet. Put together a list of any and all skills you have, that way you’ll be ready to pitch yourself to anyone you might meet who might be able to give you an opportunity.

    Those are just a few strategies that might help you move forward. The idea is to always be doing something that has the potential to move you forward. Conversely, doing nothing and feeling bad for yourself accomplishes nothing. Worse, it reinforces your negative circumstances. You’ll feel bad of course, but we never need to feed negative thoughts. In my experience, action is the best antidote to feeling helpless. We’re never helpless until we quit.

    I hope this helps Dan. I’m not a miracle worker, but I can share what’s worked for me.

  64. 60; 55K credit card debt, 18K debt consolidation loan, 60K student loan, 7K tax debt with potentially about 20K more. Was without work for 2 or 3 years in 2009 and I lived on my 401K which produced the tax debt. Now in situation where to just pay minimum payments, utilities, etc., I have withdrawn ~80% of current 401K, leaving only the non-vested portion. Paying 50-200/mo in overdraft fees. Job is salaried (~60K) and required me to be at work about 50-60+ hrs/ wk so a 2nd job near impossible (required to have at least some availability for Sat/Sun).. We DON”T live frugally but not extravagently either. One of the few things we like to do in our somewhat troubled relationship, is to eat out 1 or 2x/week (eg. Applebee’s). I contribute (barely) 50% of living expenses, but am accurring no equity.

  65. Hi Paul – Under the circumstances, it looks like bankruptcy needs to be considered, and you should consult with a BK attorney to discuss the ramifications. Yes, you’re credit will be ruined for the next 7-10 years, but that’ll happen anyway if you can’t pay your bills. The advantage is that you’ll be able to wipe the slate clean, at least of the credit card debt and debt consolidation loan. The tax debt and student loans are another story, they probably can’t be discharged. But with the other debts gone you’ll at least have a fighting chance.

    Your story is all too common, and not well publicized since many in that situation are too embarrassed to open up about it. But the reality is that if you hit on a career crisis in your 50s,it’s tough to recover from. If you can file for bankruptcy, cut your living expenses as much as you can. You said you don’t live frugally, but that’s what you may have to do until you get a handle on your situation. Also, discuss with the attorney what you can do about the student loans and tax debt. He/she may be able to arrange an “offer in compromise” with the IRS on the tax debt, and you may be able to discharge the student loans if they’re not federal loans.

    Longer-term, come to peace with the reality you probably won’t be able to retire. Plan to work full-time until you reach your full-retirement age, then at least part-time thereafter. I hope you can find some comfort in this, but I’ve known a lot of people who semi-retired, collecting Social Security and working at least part-time (or running a post-retirement business), and living very comfortable lives. There’s nothing in holy writ that says we must retire, and not retiring doesn’t mean you’ll never be happy. I like the saying “bloom where you’re planted”, which to me also means making the best of the circumstances you find yourself in.

    And if I can offer an experience I’ve had personally, you really find out about yourself when you overcome difficult circumstances. I’ve found it to be downright empowering. No matter how dark your situation looks right now, it can get better in the future. But you’ll have to take concrete steps to make it happen, and not just settle in to the bad situation and “learn to live with it”. As the saying goes, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Now is an outstanding time to be tougher than you’ve ever been. Be thankful that at least you have a job with a decent income. A lot of people in similar circumstances don’t have that much.

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