Financial setbacks can be difficult at any point in your life, but they’re especially devastating during retirement. With no steady paycheck coming in, it can be terrifying to watch your retirement savings slowly disappear as you try to recover.
Nobody plans on things going wrong, but sometimes life just happens. You might be tempted to curl up into a ball and hope your problems just go away, but I will tell you firsthand that doing so won’t help you.
When things get tough, you need to remain positive, flexible, and determined. Following these four tips can help you recover from any financial setback you may face in retirement:
1. Assess your current situation.
Your first step is to gather as much data as possible. You want to know exactly what happened, why it occurred, and how it impacts you. Ask yourself:
- Was the setback caused by me, someone else, or some unforeseen circumstance?
- How will the setback affect me right now?
- How will it affect me in the future?
Next, gather together details about everything that makes up your present financial situation: income, expenses, savings, and investments. The objective here is to get as much information as possible in order to formulate the steps necessary for recovery.
2. Define your goals.
Once you have all of the facts, you need to set some goals. This means different things to different people, but it can be helpful to break down your goals by time and results, no matter what your situation.
For example, you may have just suffered a medical emergency that you paid for by tapping your savings or credit card. Your goal could be to have 75 percent of the debt or savings repaid within four years.
Remember, your goals need to be SMART: specific, manageable, ambitious yet achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
3. Determine your course of action.
There are several steps you have to put into action to rebuild your finances. Once you know your situation and have your goals set, make a plan or roadmap to follow.
Your plan needs to be in writing so you can refer back to it regularly and hold yourself accountable. Writing down your goals will help set you up for success.
4. Monitor and make adjustments.
No plan is foolproof or set in stone. Continue to mark your progress and, if necessary, make adjustments. You may find that you need more time to meet your goals, or something may come up that gets you off track and forces you to adjust your plan again.
Remain flexible. You may not always have control of the situation, but you can control how you react to it. If you regularly monitor your progress toward your goals and make changes when necessary, you will find that there is nothing that will keep you down forever.
Steve Repak is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, CFP® Board Ambassador, and financial literacy speaker. He is also an Army veteran and the author of Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training For Your Money. Follow him on Twitter: @SteveRepak