Updated: 8/2/2011 3:40 AM ET|
Money in your 50s: 8 moves to make
Accelerate debt repayment
If you're behind on retirement savings, every extra dollar should go there. If you're in good shape, though, you might want to consider getting your debt, including your mortgage, paid off by the time you retire. That will allow you to live on less (or spend more doing fun stuff, such as travel).
That credit card debt should be the first to go. Once you've paid off higher-rate, nondeductible debt, you can start adding a few bucks to every mortgage payment.
Get your kids off the dole
If they're out of school and not disabled, they should be economically independent. If they're still relying on you for sustenance, you're putting their financial future at risk as well as your own.
Some of the saddest letters I get are from elderly parents whose adult children are still hitting them up for cash.
Review your life insurance needs
If you've got minor children or other financial dependents, make sure they'd be adequately covered if you died prematurely.
If the kids are out of college, the mortgage is paid off and your spouse doesn't need your income to survive, you may no longer need insurance. The exception: If you've got a large estate (more than $2 million) and want coverage to help pay future estate taxes. If that's the case, hire an objective professional, such as a fee-only financial planner, to evaluate your options.
Review your other insurance
Your earning power is still one of your greatest assets, and you'll want to protect it with disability insurance if you can. See if your employer offers long-term-disability coverage; if not, check out individual policies.
Also, make sure you have adequate liability insurance. Raise the liability limits on your homeowners and auto insurance policies to the maximum, and consider adding a personal liability policy (also called an umbrella policy). As a rule of thumb, you should have liability coverage that's equal to one to two times your net worth.
Long-term-care insurance is the final piece of the puzzle. There's no consensus about the best time to buy. Insurance agents will insist you should have gotten it in your 40s, while Consumer Reports says most people should wait until they're 65. You should at least begin learning about the options in your 50s, however, and start investigating companies that offer it. You'll want an insurance company with extremely sound ratings, of course; check Weiss Ratings before signing up. You don't want to shovel tens of thousands of dollars into a company that won't be around when you need it.
Schedule all those checkups
Now that you've reached 50, you should be having physicals every year (guys, that means you, too). Women need mammograms every one or two years and should ask about bone-density screenings. Men need prostate exams, and both sexes need to start screening (if they haven't already) for colorectal cancers, which may include sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
This isn't optional anymore, folks. Your risk for cancer and other serious conditions rises as you age; you don't want to hear that you waited too long and that it's too late for treatment.
Join the AARP
Actually, you probably won't need to pay your first year's dues -- because some wag probably will buy you your premiere membership as a gag gift.
Laugh along, then start taking advantage of your AARP discounts on insurance, travel, entertainment, shopping and more.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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