impoverished retirement

sable_caJanuary 30, 2006

I am new to this forum and have a sad tale to tell, and hope that you experienced people can help. I had a long conversation tonight with one of my dearest friends. She is in retirement and is having a terrible time managing financially. She always feared the stock market, so most of her pension investments went into fixed funds. She also never came near to maxing out her allowed investment. Now she doesn't have enough. She's on SS, plus a bit from a part time job which has just ended. She is not the picture of health, and lives with her permanently disabled sister, who is on SSI. To cover her period of unemployment, until a new job comes up, she's going to have to take out several thousand dollars in cash from savings.

She has her retirement money in a TIA CREF annuity, which she hasn't touched (about $300,000). She is nearing the point where, for reasons I don't understand, she will have to begin removing money from the annuity by one-ninth of the total. She spoke to her TC advisor last week and was told to take the first ninth and put it into other TC instruments, 1/3 to stocks, 1/3 to real estate (not a REIT), and 1/3 to inflation-adjusted bonds. Does this sound good? Ir sounds like a lot of real estate to me. Her advisor told her that we are about to enter an inflationary period and that both the bond and real estate funds will benefit.

She is terrified of the stock market. She told me that she checks her stock fund every day and if it loses $100 she can't sleep. I've tried to explain over the years that it is not the amount, it's the percentage that matters, and that ultimately the market comes back. But now, at age 67, she is only beginning to understand that.

I have two questions.

1. Does her advisor's advice sound sensible for a person who is ultra-conservative about investing, but needs some growth plus stability?

2. Can anyone recommend a good book written in plain English about managing a very modest retirement? I've suggested magazines such as Money, but she said that she doesn't really understand or like them. I know, very hard-headed, lol!

Thank you for any advice.

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I assume that "ca" in your name refers to that long thin state along the Pacific seaboard, rather prone to earthquakes ... rather than Canada.

Has your friend checked out the library? They have a wide variety of books, of varying complexity, some newer than others, but she could very well find some there that would be helpful.

I wrote a thread here (or on "Money Saving Tips") a while ago asking which type of investor benefits from inflation - and which type loses - that she might like to read, with regard to investing in "safe" stuff.

Many people are afraid of money management, but it's sort of like eating a loaf of bread - trying to eat even a slice at a time gets one all bogged down.

But a bite now and another later - will get one through the whole loaf, after while.

Similar concept with learning about how to deal with money effectively.

Keep in mind - it's what's left after taxes and inflation that counts.

Learning how money works is an interesting hobby - THAT PAYS WELL!

Good wishes to her as she deals with the issue.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 6:29PM
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In the US when you reach 70 you must, by law, start getting funds from your annuity, all at once or over a period of time. With $300,000 somewhere I think your frined is far from living impoverishly. If she took $10,000 out each year that is 30 years to use it- if my math is not faulty. I think ole joyful will have some good ideas.she is probably getting a social security check each month also

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 11:43PM
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Joyful - yes, I live in that state, and we have occasional shakers. The big one in 1989 was an experience I could have done without. I agree with you that learning about how money works is a great 'hobby'. I had to give myself a crash course in it when I became my mother's conservator and it opened up a whole fascinating world! I tried to communicate this to my friend - and yes, it's a friend and not myself that I'm writing about - but nothing "took". I will suggest that she go to the library. She is suddenly depending on me for information and I don't want to mislead her. E.g., I would like to tell her to move from TIAA CREF to Fidelity, but she couldn't manage the self-directed nature of Fido's intruments.

Minnie - You are right, she's getting SS, but just around $900 a month. If she removed $10,000 per year from her annuity, that would be below $2000 a month. In a big East Coast city, that's not much. Among other things she carries very costly health, dental and life insurance. But I'll ask her about your idea.

I really appreciate any ideas here. It is terribly difficult to see a friend in such trouble.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 4:07AM
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sable ca,

We have a "Sable" up our way, as well - a sandy island quite a few kilometres off Halifax, on our east coast, that has caused quite a few ships to founder, over the years.

Your friend has life insurance??

Who is dependent on her economically?

I'm an old fart.

My ex- died a couple of years ago (and she'd scarcely spoken to me in over 30 years).

My kids are in their 40s.

No grandkids.

So - what do I need life insurance for? No one would go hungry or homeless were I to die tomorrow leaving no assets or insurance.

I have very little life insurance - and don't feel the need of it.

The only reason would be to pay the income taxes that'll be levied subsequent to my death.

Which would result in my offspring receiving a larger estate.

Since they would be the ones to benefit - they should pay the premiums, no?

And then I'd need to be careful that they didn't poison me.

Enjoy your week.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 4:25PM
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I think the TIAA-CREF plan is a good one. That is the advice they are handing out to most people who are at or near retirement. I have half of our money in their annuity and the other half in their social choice account because it is a balanced fund of stocks and bonds. It is one of the least volatile of their funds and would be least likely to drive your friend nuts. I hope 2k a month isn't too little to retire on. That is about what I am expecting for my husband and I. Our house is paid for which helps a bunch.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 7:27PM
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I don't get 2K month and am doing ok. I think it is how you want to live too and how your budget and all the other stuff. It can be done. Does she own her own home? (mtge).I was able to get a mtge 5 years ago making less than now. I'm not worried about paying it off. It's better than paying rent to someone.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 2:19AM
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"And then I'd need to be careful that they didn't poison me.

Enjoy your week.

ole joyful" I knew a gal whose husband felt the same way!!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 2:21AM
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Joyfulguy - you live in Nova Scotia? I was there when I was a little girl. I recall my mother taking my dad and me to the Bay of Fundy at high tide and giving us a lecture about how that occurred (she was a school teacher, lol). Would love to see the Maritime Provinces again. A favorite movie of mine is The Shipping News, though I'm not sure if Newfoundland is part of the MPs.

As to the life insurance. She supports her sister, who is 15 years younger. She wants to leave enough so that sis will have substantially more than SSI, which sis will lose when she inherits. Sis will need an assisted living facility when my friend passes, may that not be for a long time. When my mother died in 1993, I was paying $3500 a month for complete nursing home care. I can't imagine what A.L. would cost today in a large city. That's also the reason why she doesn't want to annuitize (sp?), but instead is trying to figure out how to make the money last. There's also a brother who may or may not be able to help, but I'll spare you the details; he's an odd duck, and old f*rt without the charm.

Devorah - that is my Hebrew name, although I usually use my English one! Thanks for the thumbs up for TIAA CREF. Are you pleased with the social fund's returns? Of course, returns aren't everything; it's also important to be able to sleep. As they say, sell until you can sleep through the night.

Minnie - I wish you could call her and explain to her how you manage! But it also depends on where you live and whom else you have to support. Again, sparing the details, she owns her home free and clear, but not exactly, as she has an enormous home equity loan on which she's managing only the interest plus a bit more. Neither of these ladies is healthy and the costs are not completely covered by insurance. And there is no DIY-ing for the house, either.

Thanks, everyone. This is a nice place to visit and to learn!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 4:19AM
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Hi again sable,

No - I don't live in the Maritimes, just visited there once with my kids when they were in their teens, about 30 years ago.

Newfie joined Canada in 1947 (and some inhabitants still think that was a bad deal).

It's one of the Atlantic Provinces, but there are just three actual Maritime Provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and (tiny) Prince Edward Island.

Things in life are often not as simple as it may appear on the surface. It appears that your friend does have need of the insurance that she carries.

One can scarcely say that she owns her home "free and clear", though - when there's a substantial loan using it as collateral.

Though, if one sought a loan without using collateral, it would be much more difficult to obtain.

And the interest rate would be higher.

Are there social service agencies in yur area who deal with impoverished people who might be able to give her some advice about how to stretch her dollars?

Perhaps there are seminars where they teach people such ideas in groups.

If they don't have them now - perhaps they should arrange some.

Or possibly a local religious organization would work one up, if there are a number of economically disadvantaged people in the area. And publicize it.

Does her local municipality recycle various materials?

Few of them pay their way - but aluminum cans do.

Perhaps she could encourage a number of local people to collect empty pop cans for her. They produce about 50 cents per lb. at scrap metal dealers in this area and it takes about 32 to make a pound. I don't like travelling far out of my way to deliver them, though - as substantial travel eats up much of the money that they pay me for the cans.

Other aluminum and copper, are also valuable at the scrap metal dealers' - but not so easy to find in quantity.

I sometimes take son to provide entertainment at ribfests, carnivals, festivals, fall fairs, etc. and sometimes collected soda pop cans from the garbage at such places, if they were not recycling (few were).

We get a bonus here - for when I find a beer bottle or can, can turn that in to the liquor store for 10 cents each.

Does she have internet capability/skill/interest?

Does she have a skill which would enable her to offer it to others in such a medium, for an (even modest) fee?

It may be harder to convince people that they should part with their precious money for someone's ideas over the internet, rather than buying something thatthey can hold in their hand. But peddling stuff requires money to purchase, have shipped, pick up and store, then re-ship - and hope that the client pays.

If one provided advice over the internet and the recipient doesn't pay, there may be loss of time, plus emotional dislocation - but no money out of pocket (apart from paying for equipment, service provider for internet and possibly a fee for someone to build a website). But the person was involved with most of that, anyway.

Sometimes it's helpful if someone can think outside the box, i.e., pursue unusual channels.

It's great if one can find a service that people want, but no one else has thought about.

The problem then is to develop methods to get information about one's service distributed to thousands, even millions, of potential purchasers.

Hope she and her loved ones have a carefree weekend.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 3:40PM
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I think the Social Choice fund has done just fine. It is easy to log onto TIAA-CREF and check the 1 year, 5 year and 10 year returns for each fund.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 10:13PM
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Joyfulguy - thinking outside the box is not something that this lady will ever do. "Set in her ways" would be a good description, bless her heart.

Devorah - I appreciate the thumbs up for your TIAA CREF program.

She emailed me today and said that she was rolling part of the annuity into a TIAA IRA that would guarantee a 4% return. That won't keep up with inflation, but she sounded so relieved that I just said oh good, without any comments. I'd never want to steer someone in a direction that they might not be comfortable with.

Thank you all for your time and suggestions. Adding required money management courses in high school and college would certainly help prevent some of these disasters!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 4:55AM
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The 4% is the minimum she will earn. She will probably do much better then that - and I think you were very wise to withhold your comments.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 1:26PM
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This is an interesting conversation, as I just met with a financial advisor last night. I'm 55 and would like to retire at 62.

Minnie, you mentioned that you "don't get 2000/month" and do OK. Sounds wonderful to me, but here in NJ some of us pay $18,000 a year in property tax alone. If we decide to stay here after retirement (to be near family, etc.), we will need close to $80,000 after taxes just be comfortable. Sounds scarey to some, but the average cost of a home in my neighborhood is $600,000.

We've considered the fact that we may have to move south within 10 years if we can't collect $80-100,000 per year.

Thanks for all your insightfulness on this forum. I'll be sure to check in from time to time if you don't mind.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 11:07AM
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I can't imagine how anybody pays that much property tax. I do know someone who pays 15k, but she is on prime waterfront and she is getting ready to sell to finance her retirement. We expect to move from Washington to Arizona to retire, but there won't be any tax saving as near as I can tell. We will need at least 60k to manage if we are to pay for medical/dental and not severely change our lifestyle and we are really pretty frugal. I hate saying that because I know a number of people who are managing on social security alone. Most of them are getting some help from adult children. I read "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich today and am freshly realizing just how lucky I am.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 7:24PM
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devorah, it's hard for US to imagine paying so much (!)which is why many people find that they cannot retire and stay in NJ. It's going to get much worse with Gov. Corzine...we aren't even talking about more than an acre or two of property at those prices!!!

While on a cruise, I once met a woman from Virginia who told me I would not want to retire down there. "Why?" I asked. She said "our property taxes are up to 24"! Amazed, I asked her "$24,000?". She stared at me and said "No, $2400"!!! I had to apologize for laughing so hard. All of us at the dinner table were begging her to save us some land! LOL

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 8:59AM
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Just so that people don't get the wrong idea about New Jersey. We live in a very desireable area in Morris County on an acre, in an 8 room, 2.5 bath,3 garage ranch, and our taxes are $8,000. Obviously, if one lives in something larger, with a bigger piece of property, it will be more. As for our new governor, he has inherited a can of worms, and now we will start to feel the pain of what was thought to be a free ride. Can't be, folks; if you dance, you've got to pay the piper.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 12:05PM
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In Michigan if you live on a fixed income you can go down to city hall and get your taxes reduced... I'm not exactly sure how it works, I only know your income has to be below a certain amount to get it...


    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 12:28AM
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I knew there were several reasons not to live in California... and this thread not only reinforces my convictions, but gives me more reasons not to retire there. YIKES !!! If we had $300,000 set aside even under the mattress, we could live (what we would consider) high off the hog for the rest of our days. Our income is less than $2000 per month fixed and we have a tiny nest egg set aside. We also have a small mortgage on our home.. and our taxes just went up to nearly $700 per year. We live in a modest home on 7 acres out in the country... (built 8 years ago) and we are extemely comfortable. We love our lifestyle and are constantly doing something.. volunteer work, church activities, gardening, wood crafting, even a bit of traveling from time to time.. and we are extremely satisfied with all the our Lord has blessed us with.

Living like you have described for this woman hardly sounds impoverished to my mind.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 10:31PM
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Kitt, I think you have the secret for a happy life!!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 11:41PM
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Kittenn - I am the OP and I haven't been back to this thread for awhile. I hope that you didn't really intend for your post to be as lacking in compassion as it sounded. You certainly seem to have every reason to be as satisfied with your life as you say you are. All those activities indicate that your health is pretty good. You have a partner who can help you and share with you. You live in a lovely rural area which is probably crime-free. All reasons to count one's blessings.

My friend is 67 and in poor health, with advanced diabetes and its attendant neuropathies, severe arthritis, and uncorrectable vision problems. She cares for her sister. Her sister suffers from a rare and complex form of fibromyalgia which has turned her, over the past 30 years, into a near bed-ridden invalid. Her pain is so severe and intractable that she's now talking about going overseas for legal euthanization. Medicaid does not begin to cover all her bills, which are astronomical. SSI does not allow her to use anything but Medicaid. She recently had experimental surgeries by docs at one of the best medical facilities on the East Coast. Those surgeries failed and, in fact, did nerve damage and made her pain worse. She can barely use her upper body - can't use a computer, can't cook, can't fold her own laundry, make a bed, nor even hold a book or magazine. Her only pleasures are watching TV and talking, when she isn't crying, to my friend. These are two women in dire straits. Their money is eaten up by medical bills, house taxes, payment on the home equity loan, and my friend's monthly costs for carrying insurance. They cannot do their own house work or repairs. Not only do they not DIY, they don't have the physical ability that most of us take for granted.

When I posted it was to ask for financial advice, not to have judgement passed on how to manage on $2000 or so a month in a huge East Coast city, in light of horrible medical problems. My friend's mistake was not to pay attention to the realities of investing when she was much younger, and I was looking for a solution.

And BTW. When my friend dies, her sister will be left with one of two things. Either the SSI, which alone will in no way cover all her needs, but nevertheless does not permit her to inherit a penny. Or she can abandon SSI and inherit what my friend and her useless brother have managed to save. She will need at the very least assisted living. $300,000, annuitized, will not generate enough for that, given a normal life span, let alone the possible nursing home requirements down the road. Or she can go into a Medicaid facility. I've seen those and frankly, I'd rather be dead. Thus her talk of euthanasia.

I am grateful to the posters who gave me useful information about TIAA CREF and other financial possibilities. Sometimes all you can do in situations like this is provide suggestions, and pray. The reason I came here rather than to the Caregivers Forum is because money is the main issue with this problem.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 6:29AM
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The Medicaid facility might not seem so awful if you/she were really at that point...My Mother-in-law happens to be in a facility where they take lots of Medicaid and it certainly isn't what you are trying to tell people it is...And generally speaking many nursing centers take Medicaid...

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 12:39PM
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I am sorry that your friend has the various difficult situations to deal with that you speak of.

I am sorry as well that I was not able to offer better advice.

I am entirely unfamiliar with what kinds of services may be accessed by U.S. citizens, of whatever state.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 6:29PM
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While she posted the advice as she did here in other threads (or forums), as I recall, she only posted it once on this thread, didn't she?

And she spoke of certain financial advisors (I'm not sure how many) recommending a portfolio with 70% exposure to stocks ... which may be of interest to some, but isn't of much real use here, in the light of what the OP told us of her friend's financial concerns ... and fears.

Good wishes for wise use of money. It sure can help ease other major concerns in one's life.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 5:49AM
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