There are times when a life situation may tempt you to throw your retirement plan out the window. Yet making financial choices based on your emotions could have long-term negative impacts on your bank account, especially if you’re approaching retirement.
Young adults who make emotionally-based money mistakes have many years for their finances to recover. Older adults coming to the end of their higher-income earning years, however, have a much shorter window of recovery.
Money and emotions can be a dangerous combination. Thus, if you’re facing any of these five emotion-laden situations, think twice before making a decision that could devastate your finances as you move into your retirement years.
1. Helping Your Adult Children Financially
For parents, it’s hard to see children struggling. For many, the natural reaction is to want to help. But gifting your 10-year-old the last $10 they need to buy a new bicycle is a far cry from regularly giving your 30-year-old money to help them make ends meet. Yet according to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of parents with adult children admit to helping them financially.
Your own parental emotions (worry, guilt, wanting to protect your offspring) can not only get in the way of your adult child learning financial independence, but can take a significant bite out of your budget now and in the future. Money gifted to your kids won’t be there to support you in your retirement, pay for your nursing home, your support worker, or extended medical care.
Providing extended financial help to your adult children today could end up putting you in the situation you most want to avoid years down the road: becoming a financial burden for your children.
Before opening your wallet for junior, try to minimize your emotions by imagining the situation as if it were happening to another family. Consider the circumstances carefully.
Perhaps your adult child has generally been a responsible money manager, but has recently experienced a legitimate unexpected financial setback, such as an accident, family medical issue or unexpected job loss. They need money immediately, and may even need the opportunity to move back home. If a financial gift or loan will help them without having a significant impact on your retirement lifestyle, go for it.
If, however, helping your adult child financially is a recurring, long-term issue due to your kid’s own action (or inaction), it may be time to close the bank of mom and dad.
2. Spending Your Retirement Savings on a New Business
Although increasing numbers of near and new retirees launch businesses, dipping into your retirement savings to do so is a risky idea. Yes, starting a business after retiring from your career is a great way to keep busy, fulfill a dream and potentially make money, but not if you impulsively invest in a business that risks your savings.
If becoming a business owner in retirement appeals to you, think honestly about your reasons for becoming an entrepreneur—and the financial impact of doing so. If you withdraw retirement savings to get started but your business fails, you may run into difficulties covering your typical retirement living expenses as you becoming more elderly and less willing and/or able to work.
Look for ways to finance your retirement business venture without tapping into your retirement savings. For example, if you’re retiring from an executive position in the food industry, setting yourself up as a restaurant launch consultant would require little more than marketing and advertising costs, a website, a business phone line and a home office.
However, buying a franchise of a popular fast food restaurant would require significantly more capital to launch, and may tempt you to withdraw money earmarked for retirement.
3. Investing in a Loved One’s Business
Picture this: Your young nephew comes to you for a lump-sum “loan” to start his own plumbing business. He doesn’t qualify to borrow from a financial institution, and no other family member can help him financially. Should you give him the money?
Though you may feel it’s important to help a family member in need, and believe that your nephew is a responsible young man who will pay back the loan (plus interest, of course), ask yourself these questions before writing a check:
- How will investing in this business impact your impending retirement savings?
- Will you have less money to contribute to your 401(k) or other retirement accounts?
- If your nephew can’t pay you back, will it impact your lifestyle in retirement?
Whether your own scenario involves lending money to a nephew, sibling, adult child or even a friend, if your reasons for doing so are emotionally-based but don’t make good financial sense, it may be wise to say no.
4. Living Lavishly Because You’ve “Earned It”
You’ve had a long career and worked hard for many years. Maybe you rose in the early morning darkness to face a long commute to work day after day. Perhaps you took on extra projects and clocked in many hours of overtime. As you come to the end of your career, you’re ready to live large to reward yourself for all your hard work, especially while you’re still technically “on the payroll.”
Before splurging on that luxury cruise, expensive golf club membership, spiffy sports car or extended Caribbean vacation, think hard about how lavish spending today could impact your looming retirement. Could impulsive spending lead to additional credit card debt and interest to pay off? Could it reduce your retirement savings contributions? Or could it even push your retirement date off by a couple years?
Sometimes overspending “because I’ve earned it” sneaks up on us through increasingly regular extra expenses. More frequent dinners out, weekly spa visits and attending costly theater, concert and sporting events may not come with individual bills big enough to impact your retirement.
Repeatedly splurging on these tempting “little extras,” though, could reduce your regular retirement savings contributions. It could, therefore, affect your future retirement lifestyle—and not in a good way. It’s time to get your emotions under control and cut back on costly activities that could lead to retirement lifestyle struggles.
5. Ignoring Your Financial Future
Doing nothing about your money situation is a choice, and choosing to ignore your financial future is a bad choice. The longer you wait to face the reality of your retirement savings, the less time you’ll have to do something about it.
If dealing with your money situation makes you feel anxious and emotional, you’re not alone. Money is a top source of stress, according to a 2015 American Psychological Association (APA) survey, and may stem from the following fears:
- The short-term volatility of the stock market
- Making the wrong investment choices
- Waiting too long to start saving
- Not having saved enough
Another emotion that may prevent you from making sound money decisions is pride. You may be the kind of person that doesn’t like to ask for help, is determined to be self-sufficient or doesn’t want to feel pitied or judged for what you haven’t been doing right financially.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to take a deep breath and face your emotions. Do your future self a favor and seek professional financial help now. A financial expert can help evaluate your income sources for retirement and how well they’ll meet your needs. You’ll then have a starting point from which to create a plan that will get you from where you are now to where you need to be. Don’t let the emotions of fear and pride prevent you from getting advice about money.
Trying to keep your emotions in check when making personal finance decisions can be tough. Yet as you approach retirement, finding ways to make level-headed money management and investment choices could mean the difference between enjoying your golden years and constantly worrying about money.