Economy puts seniors on edge


POSTED: Monday, April 13, 2009

People facing retirement or who are already there need to take a close look at all their assets and find ways to cut spending to survive the current economic crisis, financial planners advise.




Simple Ways to save

        » Cut out one restaurant meal a week: Saves $40 to $100 per month

        » Make your coffee at home: $20 to $50

        » Use coupons: $20 to $40

        » Buy generic drugs: $20 to $40

        » Rent a DVD rather than going out: $10 to $20

        » Switch from premium to basic cable: $10 to $40

        » Use public transportation or car pool: $40 to $60

        » Use a “;basic”; cell phone plan with limited minutes, or a phone with prepaid minutes: $20 to $30

        Source: AARP.org



“;People need to stress-test their lives,”; said Neil T. Rose, chief investment officer of Cadinha & Co.

Basically, they need to examine how much money they would have in different scenarios, ask questions about their investments and spend less, he said.

This could mean looking at what financial risks they are taking, getting rid of weak stocks and making more conservative investments, Rose said. They might have to work a few more years and downsize their homes and vacation plans, he added.

Since everyone's assets are different, people should consult an accountant or an independent financial planner who does not have a product to sell, he added.

Alan Matsuda, a financial planner/investment adviser, always tells his clients, “;It's better to sleep well at night than to eat well.”; That is his way of saying people should take measured investment risks. “;Be frugal at all times, not only now,”; he adds.

For people who are still working, and even retirees who can afford the risk, it is “;a marvelous time to be buying stocks; you'll never see prices this low again,”; Matsuda said.

“;People are so panicky,”; he said, but “;historically speaking, bear markets bounce back quickly.”; He predicts it will not take longer than five years for the economy to recover.

Mark Koppel, a retired college professor living in Hilo, is already taking steps to weather the financial storm and a 25 percent drop in his pension's value.

“;We're not suffering but we're definitely cutting back,”; he said.

Koppel, an AARP volunteer, is following the playbook on ways seniors can save, including eating out less, not buying new clothes, making fewer trips into town (60 miles away) and cutting back on donations, he said. Vacations and home renovations are also being trimmed. Koppel took up a part-time job a few years ago and is looking for another, he said.

Seniors who do not have retirement savings, such as Irene Du Pont, a resident of a state-subsidized senior-housing complex in Kakaako, are forced to be even more frugal.

“;I'm hoarding every penny I get. I'm just trying to figure out how to save money without starving myself,”; she said.

“;Money is still my biggest problem; I don't have savings. But I've learned to cope. I don't think our kids have ever been cold or hungry enough to know how to cope,”; said Du Pont, who raised three children.

Du Pont, 82, has about $200 for food each month after her bills are paid. Most of her Social Security check is spent on Medicare bills and medications, and she is signing up for the Humana health plan to cut costs.

She depends on four lunches a week from the Meals on Wheels program. As for the rest of her meals, she said, “;Lucky I know how to make two meals out of a can of Spam or tuna.”;

“;I haven't had a new muumuu for so long, and I don't want to depend on my kids. ... I've been independent all my life, and I'd like to stay that way.”;