For clients nearing or at retirement, advisors can suggest ways to improve the retirement bottom line, thus making income planning more feasible. This strategy is aimed to help clients reduce expenses in a way that will not reduce quality of life. Following are three steps to do this.
Reevaluate everything. How many personal expenses are there by force of habit? Before retirement, many people pay for services they are too busy to do for themselves. They drive through coffee shops or fast-food restaurants, instead of preparing coffee or sandwiches at home. They have house cleaning and lawn services.
Some people continue these services even though they now have the time to do them themselves. If budget is a concern, an advisor can now remind them that “time is money.” For instance, ask: Why continue to pay 2 to 3 times the cost of a cup of coffee for specialty coffees bought in shops? Or: Why pay a few hundred dollars a month for housecleaning, if 10-12 hours of one’s time would produce the same result?
Even those who have already cut back can find unnecessary hidden costs by evaluating every expense. For example, a client may talk almost exclusively on their cell phone and yet still own a land line. If they need a land line, ask whether they need it when they are away for several months. If not, then remind the client that phone companies often allow people to discontinue service for specified periods at a reduced monthly rate and without losing the existing phone number.
What about premium cable channels that cost tens of dollars a month? Ask: Is anybody watching them? If yes, ask whether the movies or programs could be obtained elsewhere, such as a library or a rental program. And point out that cable service can often be discontinued, just like the phone, if the person is away for a few months at a time.
Even smaller expenses are worth examining. Suggest that clients review all products used in the home or by the family to see which ones are worth continuing and which ones are not. For example, do they really need several different products to clean the kitchen, or would one or two do? What about personal care products? Does it really take shampoo, conditioner, volumizing lotion, hair gel, and hairspray to create the perfect hairstyle? Perhaps not.
Pay less. Almost all items and services can be found for less. Encourage clients to take advantage of every possible discount.
For example, members of various consumer organizations can obtain considerable savings on hotels, car rentals, insurance, computers and many other products and services. Many states and businesses offer senior discount programs for movie theaters, grocery stores on certain days, and even restaurants. Often the age minimum is 50-55. Many restaurants and stores also offer frequent user discounts via cards that are stamped or punched for each purchase (after so many purchases, the person gets a meal or an item for free).
The annual membership fee to join a wholesale club will probably pay for itself in one visit. A wholesale club brand of coffee may taste just as good and cost 75% less than coffee purchased at a well-known coffee shop. National brand basic cleaning supplies typically cost about half what they would in a grocery store. Also, point out that people tend to visit wholesale clubs less often than their local grocers; this may help reduce the impulse purchases they make.
Also urge clients to negotiate for products and services. Many service providers offer special, non-advertised discounts. It doesn’t hurt to ask for a better rate. For example, most magazines will renew a subscription for less than the amount shown on the renewal notice.
Pay nothing. The last step to help clients reduce expenses involves recommending that they use free services or trade their services.
Point out that many community organizations have volunteers who provide all sorts of professional services for free to seniors. During tax season, note that volunteer accountants at the local library prepare free tax returns for seniors. For elderly or disabled clients, locate a volunteer organization that performs home maintenance at no charge.
Also suggest trading services. A person who enjoys landscaping, for instance, may offer to do a yard project for a neighbor in exchange for getting a room in her house painted. Or, a retired hairdresser may be able to cut hair in her kitchen for friends or neighbors who will provide her with home-cooked meals or housecleaning.
As clients see their retirement bottom line improving without becoming penny-pinching scrooges, they’ll grow increasingly enthused about finding additional ways to reduce expenses. That will create even more flexibility for future income planning.