Over 50 and Scared? How to Protect Your Retirement

Last Updated Apr 7, 2009 4:19 PM EDT

I know it's scary to be over age 50 and in the markets. Even though things are somewhat out of control in the economy, here are three important steps you can take to gain control of your financial life:
  1. Get a Plan. Have you ever actually written down your long term financial goals? Most people never have. They think in vague terms about retiring or paying down debt, but they have no plan that identifies their goals and how to get there. With no action plan, you increase the stress in your life. You worry about things, and can't see a way to a better future.Trust me that writing down your goals is one of the best things you can do for your financial future. I have worked with lots of people who were confused about their future because they never identified where they wanted to go. They had assets and opportunties, but they didn't know how to organize their efforts. Once they identified their goals, they organized their financial decisions around those goals.
  2. Get a Partner. Too often, husbands and wives fail to agree on their financial goals. Suppose my wife wants to make extra payments on our mortgage each month, but I, for mental health reasons, determine that we need an in-home theatre system. If we can't agree on what is important, then it is unlikely we will agree on how to spend our limited resources.To be successful at achieving your goals, you and your partner need to agree on your goals. Once you agree upon common goals and get your joint energy focused on achieving them, you can make great progress. If you have serious disagreements about your financial goals and how to achieve them, consider getting some counseling to facilitate communication and compromise. Really, it is that important.
  3. Get Started. Fear can paralyze you, so get started by taking small steps to improve your financial life. Start out with small victories, such as increasing your retirement plan contribution by three percent, making an extra $100 payment on your credit card or mortgage or cutting a few unnecessary expenses. This activity also reinforces your ability to plan and meet goals.
Being successful over the long term is often a combination of being honest with yourself and making small, but consistently good decisions. You can't solve all of your problems overnight, but you can start on some of them today.