In the world of gorillas, the silverback male is the dominant, mature, most-respected member of the group, the one responsible for much of the decision-making, conflict arbitrating, and protection. In the world of homo sapiens, we have our own version of the silverback (sort of) -- senior citizens. Only rather than having their guidance imposed on us, it's usually up to us to seek it out. And if our grandparents are gone, we tend to assume that we're out of luck should we yearn for an experienced advisor to consult now and then.
Fortunately, the Internet is here to help. Many seniors these days are finding ways to offer valuable advice online.
For starters, consider the Elder Wisdom Circle, at elderwisdomcircle.org. It's a nonprofit outfit made up of "cyber-grandparents" who offer answers to questions for free. Here are a few abbreviated snippets:
- A 38-year-old wrote in asking, "What do you feel is the best way for me to find work I will love?" An elder named Toni responded with several paragraphs, including this nugget: "First, I suggest you make a grid of all the jobs you have had and then pick what you liked about each one and what you hated. You should be able to come up with some common indicators in both categories." She added, "As for me, I went through college to be a teacher. When I graduated, I didn't want to do it. But I did try for a year and loved it."
- Here is Jacobus' response to a "saver" married to "a spender" for nine years: "There are two areas where it is important for a couple to agree: how to discipline their children and how to spend their money. In my opinion, you and your husband should see a couples counselor. If he refuses to go, see one yourself. I wonder whether the two of you should rather see an accountant. You need to come up with a plan that both of you will accept."
There are lots of questions and answers to browse through on the site, as well as the option of sending in your own question. Some poignant questions include: "How can I make my husband love me?" and "How to help a lonely child." But we're here to talk money, aren't we? So read on.
Seniors on money
While that site covers just about every aspect of life, another one zeros in on finances: SeniorArk.com. As founder Bob Fassbach explains, "After years of good jobs and savings, I found myself [retiring on very little]. So, as I retired, I initiated a web site for people who are struggling to put a retirement together -- on little or nothing."
The site sports many tips and useful articles on a variety of finance-related topics, such as The Top 10 Health Care Mistakes Made By the Elderly. In the "money" section, one tip was to consider selling your blood plasma to make some extra cash, so that you won't have to choose between heating your house and buying your medications. (This was followed by a strong recommendation to check with your doctor first about this option.)
In an area devoted to tips on affording housing in retirement, on a shoestring, one contributor explained how he researched inexpensive places to live, looking for an affordable house. He ended up buying a very satisfactory home in western Pennsylvania for about $50,000 -- with three bedrooms, one and a half baths, more than 1,500 square feet of space, a full basement, a single garage, and taxes of $1,300. (His research found similar homes selling for $725,000 in Northwest Washington, D.C., $655,000 in Boston, $325,000 in Atlanta, and $175,000 in Denver.)
Fortunately, you have even more options than selling your plasma and moving far from your loved ones. Most likely, you still have some years ahead of you before you retire. If so, get cracking -- save as much as you can and invest it as effectively as you can.
One option that can save you time and trouble is the target-date mutual fund. As you can learn in this month's issue of the Rule Your Retirement newsletter, these funds are designed around specific retirement dates, with their asset allocations chosen accordingly to give you broad diversification appropriate to your age. For instance, Vanguard's 2025 target fund owns shares of domestic companies like Altria Group
We want to help
Let Rule Your Retirement help you with your retirement planning -- it's prepared by Robert Brokamp, a smart and witty guy who distills what you really need to know into a manageable volume each month. A free trial will give you full access to all past issues, allowing you to gather valuable tips and even read how some folks have retired early and well.
The following articles may also be of interest:
And here's a final suggestion -- go seek out some older people you already know and ask them for advice. You might focus on financially successful ones for financial advice, though less successful sorts might have a bunch of valuable lessons to share from the school of hard knocks. You never know where your best advice will come from, so ask around.