Have You Suffered A Pre-Retirement Money Crisis? If so, Here’s How To Recover:

Kiplinger Magazine has this near great article, written by Mike Piershale, on how to recover from a pre-retirement financial mess (click here). Don’t ever think you are immune from a financial setback or crisis. It can happen to any one of us.

Having a personal financial setback when you’re closer to retirement can be doubly stressful. You’re dealing with both the financial reversal, and the realization that you have less time to earn the money back. Perhaps you had to deal with a job loss, an expensive illness, divorce or a business failure. Or it may be that you just haven’t saved enough or you’ve racked up too much debt to retire.

Since I am NOT a financial expert, I can’t give out any advice. The only thing I can do is tell you about myself. My husband and I suffered a huge financial setback in 2009. The Great Recession was already underway and my husband’s long term employer went out of business. DH was 52 years old and it took him over 2 and a half years before he could land another job. Yes, you read that correctly. He was out of work for over 2 years! The recession was in full swing and DH couldn’t even get a job delivering pizza or pumping gas. He was a Disney executive and mostly got laughed at most jobs he applied for.

By the time my husband found steady work, the stress from our financial lives got to him. Even though we were debt free, had a mortgage-free home, paid-for cars, no consumer debt, no charge cards, the constant daily toll of scrambling to pay our bills and put food on the table was insufferable. We were constantly, constantly dipping into our savings accounts, our retirement accounts. Till finally DH suffered a heart event. In fact, he suffered several heart events. The first one was Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as Broken Heart Syndrome.

Yes, You Can Die From a Broken Heart– It Is A Real Medical Condition. The Mayo Clinic defines it as this: “Broken heart syndrome may be caused by the heart’s reaction to a surge of stress hormones.

Once he was cured of Broken Heart Syndrome the doctors discovered he had two aneurysms, one of which, Celiac Aneurysm is extremely rare. Only 200 or so people have been diagnosed with this disease in the last 100 years!

Aneurysms of the celiac artery are rare vascular lesions that represent only 3.6% to 4% of splanchnic artery aneurysms. The estimated incidence of celiac artery aneurysms ranges from 0.005% to 0.01%. Since the anomaly was first described in 1745, 178 additional cases have been reported.

So, we were hit by a double whammy. First hubby’s unexpected unemployment, then when finally offered a job, he was not well enough to take on full time work. I don’t want to delve too deeply into what my husband and I went through. Just know it was very unpleasant, the stress on our marriage was horrendous and yes, we liquidated a lot of our cash and retirement savings just to keep going.

By this time, it was 2012. I qualified for my Social Security at age 62 (reduced, since I took it early). Hubby qualified for his pension (reduced, since he took it early) and we started liquidating assets. We sold our RI vacation home (at a hefty loss), DH’s precious sailboat, I sold all my un-necessary gold jewelry, our silver coin collection, bicycles, housewares and any equipment we no longer needed or could utilize. The process was very painful.

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Stock Photo: Getty Images

If you are facing the same conundrum, here are the steps Kiplinger advises you to take. Some of them DH and I did. Some of them, we just couldn’t face. How do you turn your life around? How did we?

Take Action Now: Your First Steps

Start by facing the reality of your situation. This was the step I had the most problem with. I could not face our reality. I could not face the fact that DH and I were going to be a lot poorer than we planned. I knew we could never regain what we lost. I knew that DH and I would never be the same. We’re low income now. This was tough for me to accept.

You must create a budget. I cut everything down to the bare necessities. I was obsessed with buying and having enough food. There were a few times I was late paying our taxes. Thankfully I was creative enough to fudge our way and stay on schedule.

Go further, if necessary. We had to find ways other than cutting expenses. We had to bring some money in. DH took on odd jobs. I worked part time. But the work was always temporary and we earned just enough to keep squeezing by.

Tackle Your Debt

This is a funny one because we didn’t have any debt. We also didn’t have any FICO scores so that we could borrow some money to tide us over either. I cringe when I hear near-retirees exclaim that their mortgage is paid off and they don’t have any car loans or credit card bills so there is no need for them to save for retirement. WRONG! See above. If we didn’t have cash in the bank and retirement funds we would have lost every single thing!

Work on Bringing in More Cash

Hubby was limited on the work he could do but I was the creative one who brought in any money. I tutored seniors on how to use a computer, I earned money writing stories for other internet web sites, I worked as a reporter for two local newspapers writing about neighborhood social events, I made money blogging, I managed social media sites for start-up businesses. Since I’m a computer geek, anything that had to do with a computer, I could earn money at.

Stick to a Smart Social Security Strategy

Since I was the smaller wage earner, I took Social Security at 62 and we are delaying DH’s till he turns 65. He’ll get the bigger check. Mine is incidental. Waiting for me would only get me an extra $100 or so. DH’s waiting will get him hundreds of dollars more.

Consider a Reverse Mortgage

For us, this was a definite no-no. Taking out a mortgage would have defeated what we were trying to accomplish: be debt free. Plus we had zero (0) FICO scores. No one at that time would loan us a dime. Today, that is completely different. We now know the value of being able to borrow money. We both have FICO scores in the 800’s, we both have credit cards, lines of credit and are extremely careful with this blessing. Dave Ramsey is so wrong on this debt-free crap, it isn’t funny. Ramsey’s advice is downright dangerous IMHO.

Rebuild Your Cash Reserves

We’re currently still working on this last step. It’s been kinda hard since we both are limited on how much work we can take on. A job for me is totally out of the question. DH does some work and he’s been fortunate that he’s gotten work with bosses who understand his health problems. They hire him for his brain not his brawn. That’s been a blessing, for sure!

We live a retirement lifestyle that neither one of us could have imagined nor planned for. Who knew that things could go so horribly wrong in the blink of an eye? I will say one good thing and that is DH and I are both happy. Our marriage is different now. We’re important to each other and we don’t take ourselves for granted. I finally understand the philosophy and value of money. I respect credit. Being in debt is not the devil in disguise. I also understand the value of being debt free. I don’t think DH and I would have made it through The Great Recession if indeed we were carrying debt. So, take what you want out of that reality.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

 

 

 

 

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24 comments

  1. Just when I think I know everything about your life Cindi, I get surprised again. (I didn’t know Nick lost his job for 2 years..). I think frugality and being prepared for anything is the only way to go. I recently watched a video and am kicking myself for not doing this in the earlier years. Here it is:

    We are doing well, but like you said anything could happen. Debt can be a tool, but a not so good idea if you need it for things like food.

    A reverse mortgage allowed my mother-in-law to live in her home until her death. However, in the last 5 years we were supporting her by paying taxes and insurance. It would have been better if she sold and downsized into a condo for maintenance alone. You are smart not to utilize this option.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sharon no one would believe Nick couldn’t find another job. So I just stopped talking about it. I kept up a good front and never let on. I even stupidly bought a new car to cover up the reality. Terrible mistake. I thought things would get better.
      Live and learn.

      Like

  2. My salary was cut 39% in 2009, and in 2011 I finally lost my job. My investments tanked at the same time also, and I was living off savings to make up for the pay difference in those two years. After losing my job in 2011, I had to move a few hours away, and got another job five months later, that was about $5000 less than my original salary before the 39% pay cut. However, I couldn’t pay for rents/houses in two locations, could not find a renter for my previous house, ended up being foreclosed on, and ended up bankrupt. I noticed nobody bought the house from the mortgage company either and it sat empty until 2017. There are simply no jobs up there anymore. It has been a slow hellish climb out of this financial mess. I had basically “done everything right” and everything went wrong. Even if my house had been paid for, there were no jobs up there for me to pay basic bills, and it was too far to commute to my current job. So, yeah, I totally understand. My current little house in a sketchy neighborhood is now paid for, I have zero debt,and my retirement is now vested so I can draw at age 60, or keep working and build the amount up more. I am 59.5 and I am too scared to quit, so I will probably work until I am 65, if I am able. If not, I hope to retire at 62. Dave Ramsey is so wrong about not needing a credit score. You need one to get a house (not just through the mortgage company he recommends) and some jobs actually require a good credit rating.

    Like

    • HI Cindy. I am so sorry to hear of your plight also. You need a credit score to get insurance, car insurance and so many other things. The days of Dave Ramsey’s advice is long gone. I wish he would up his act to more modern times.
      If you can work for a bit longer, you should. These are our best earning years and we should make the best of them. Life is long. Retirement is even longer.
      Thank you for sharing your story.

      Like

  3. I completely agree with you regarding Dave Ramsey’s no credit score rants. He can live that way now because he is a multi-millionaire many times over. But for those of us who aren’t, we may need to take out a loan and without a credit score, good luck!

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    • Wendi, because I had no credit score I couldn’t qualify for a state run, low interest loan(2.5% for 7 years) when RI condemned my septic system. Instead, I had to be added to my husband $500 credit card line, wait 30 days to get a FICO score (which was really my husband’s). Once I got a FICO score the only way for the bank to loan me any money, on a fully paid-for beach house, was for us to move out and rent it. We needed to show more income. We finally got a 30 year mortgage at 5 or 6%, I don’t remember, for $100K, less the $4K in bank fees @$516 a month. Granted all the bills got paid by the rental income but what a waste of life and human resources. After 11 months, not even the full year, the tenant moved out! We couldn’t even move back into our own home, so we sold it. At a $50K loss plus the $37K to put in a new septic. All because I thought I was a genius by being debt free and NOT having a FICO score. If I ever meet Dave Ramsey, I’m kicking him in the knee caps. He ruined my life with his preposterous phony advice.
      BTW, Ramsey just built a brand new building for all his employees. Yup. He’s making gazillions off the backs of stupid people like me. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am so very, very sorry this happened to you. We started doing the Dave Ramsey plan several years ago and realized that it wasn’t going to work for us for so many reasons. In fact, we started a blog and went through all of his baby steps and our take on them because we didn’t want others to make the same mistakes we did. And reading your example makes me mad and want to make sure we cover credit scores in an upcoming blog post.

        It pisses me off that he keeps preaching that it can be done…………well, no. you can’t always purchase something without a credit score. but, people defend him until they have to take out a loan and wham! life just got even harder!
        thank you so very much for sharing this story!

        Like

      • Thanks Wendi. That’s why I think it’s good to hear and listen to the latest financial gurus. The old ways sometimes won’t work anymore in our new modern era. Listen, think, learn and glean from them what will work for you. I thought it was so smart to be debt free till I realized my savings was dwindling. At times it is better to use ‘their’ money rather than your own.
        Live and learn.
        That’s what we are all here for 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I completely agree with you Cindi………we were sending all of our money to our mortgage and then I realize, oh $hit………we are way too old for this! We need to save for retirement! We don’t even plan on staying in this home long term. Like to said, live and learn………..he does not give very good advice!

        Like

      • Wendi, one last thing. Now that I’ve been talking about what happened to us. If I had a FICO score, I would have qualified for that low-cost state financing for the new septic. The company the state preferred did the work at only $25,000. Because I had no FICO score, by the time I did, I had to hire an independent company and they charged me $37,000 for the same exact work.
        As I said, a kick to Dave’s butt if ever I meet him in person!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember your posting about your experiences in your older blogs and what a terrible time you both went through.

    I’ve been following Dave Ramsey but I’m not too crazy about a lot of his ideas, which you point out.

    My sister went through a very difficult time during the Great Recession and I remember she closed ALL of her credit cards after listening to Dave Ramsey, only to have her credit score drop to the lowest possible.
    She ended up filing for bankruptcy and was living hand to mouth for awhile.
    Lots to think about Cindi. Great post.

    Like

    • Oh dear, Teri. That’s sad news about your sister. I had forgotten what we both went through till I read that article. Then it brought it all back to me. I keep a personal diary of my life and when I referred back to those days, I was horrified to see what we went through. The biggest event was what I went through buying food. I had no idea. It’s amazing how we all put it out of our mind. And it explains to me now why I keep our pantry so stuffed! LOL!
      Well, anyway….it’s over. Lots of lessons learned.
      Thank you for your comment.

      Like

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Cindi! Handling our finances is so confusing, especially during retirement, and far too many of us don’t think about it enough. Your honest in sharing your story will help a lot of people, I believe!

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    • Thanks Ann. We’re knee deep in Medicare and medical care renewals. It’s a veritable nightmare! Retirement is a full time job! Now, where did I hear that before?
      Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  6. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas is the retirement program for public school employees in the state. We contribute solely to TRS and not to Social Security. But when we retire we are prohibited from receiving our Social Security benefits that we paid into through other jobs. I waitressed, worked for a vet clinic, a yogurt shop, and art/book store, clothing store, Department of Defense and paid in to SS. But will loose that money because later in life I became a Texas teacher and contributed to TRS. So unfair.

    Like

    • Hi Leslie. That sounds very unfair to me too! Were you able to get 35 quarters in to Social Security when working for these other companies? That’s the minimum you need in order to collect. If not, then maybe its not so bad. Just playing devils advocate here and trying to find you a ray of sunshine. If yes, then it’s very unfair! I wish there was something you could do about it?
      Thanks for your comment.

      Like

    • Dave Ramsey’s advice was for a different era and a different economy. Things are so bizarre now, you have to play by a new set of rules or fall by the wayside. Dave is currently giving out advice to the younger generations that it doesn’t matter where they get their college degrees. Really? When you go to a new doctor or hire an engineer, architect or attorney, what’s the first thing you look at? Their college degrees. Makes a big difference where people graduate from.
      Oy vey, is all I can say. That’s yiddish for OMFG!

      Liked by 1 person

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