When you've left the workforce and are living on a fixed income as a retiree, you need to be careful about what you do with your dollars.
Unfortunately, far too many seniors make money mistakes that put their financial security at risk. These bad money habits could lead to running out of savings too soon and struggling in your later years -- so avoiding them should be a top priority.
What are these bad habits that you need to eschew? Here are three of the most toxic money behaviors to kick before you enter retirement.
1. Living without an emergency fund
Emergency funds aren't just for young people dependent on paychecks. Emergencies can and do happen to seniors, too. In fact, unexpected health-related emergencies are even more likely once you're a retiree than while you're still in the working world.
Your retirement savings accounts are not an emergency fund. These accounts are intended to provide you with income to live on for the rest of your life. If you have no dedicated emergency fund, you may have to drain your savings balance too quickly, which could reduce your investment returns and increase the chances you'll run out of cash in your later years.
To make sure an unexpected expense doesn't derail your retirement, you need a hefty emergency fund. The standard recommendation of saving three to six months of living expenses is still a good one because this could cover most major emergencies, including health issues and expensive home or car repairs.
Keep your emergency fund in a high-yield savings account where it's accessible, and draw from it only when you really need to. If you spend it, save up money in the account again out of your Social Security checks and regularly scheduled withdrawals from your investment accounts so that you're prepared for the next emergency.
2. Spending without a budget
As a senior who wants to enjoy retirement, you may be tempted to spend money without watching your dollars. Unfortunately, if you do this, your Social Security benefits could quickly disappear and you could end up withdrawing too much from your savings.
To make sure this doesn't happen, you need a detailed budget. Start by figuring out how much income you have available if you withdraw a safe amount from your retirement investment accounts over the course of the year. Then make sure your total spending -- including saving for emergencies -- doesn't exceed the amount of income you can safely spend.
If you find your income doesn't stretch far enough, you may need to make lifestyle changes such as downsizing or finding part-time work. But you won't know you need to take these actions if you just spend without considering the long-term consequences -- so be sure to make a detailed budget.
3. Prioritizing spending on your kids over your own needs
Far too many parents feel pressured to provide financial support for their grown children. Whether this comes in the form of covering college tuition, providing assistance in buying a home, or making large cash gifts, generosity often comes at the cost of your own financial security.
If you want to help your children, make sure you work those financial contributions into your budget and that you can afford them without drawing down your savings accounts too quickly. If your budget doesn't stretch far enough, you'll need to learn to say no.
While it may be tough to cut off kids who are struggling or to burden your children with student loans, it won't help anyone in your family if you end up broke later in retirement because you're giving your children too much money today.
Don't let these habits ruin your golden years
Making money mistakes when you're young can make accomplishing financial goals harder, but you still have the chance to work and save more so you can end up as a financially secure senior.
When you're actually retired, if you spend money too quickly because you're too generous with your kids or you don't have a budget or an emergency fund, it can be difficult or even impossible to recover. You don't want to spend the final part of your retirement scrimping and you definitely don't want to be forced to go back to work in your 70s or 80s. So be sure to avoid these three bad money habits so you can have the retirement you deserve.