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I'm 65, mortgage paid off, $370,000 in savings: So why am I worried?

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 6 days ago Quentin Fottrell

Dear Moneyist:

Why do I worry so much about money? I’m not a wealthy guy, but I am pretty blessed. I have my military pension of $45,000 annually, savings of $370,000, I own my home valued by Zillow at $300,000, and it’s mortgage-free. I have little to no health care costs because I am 65, I have Medicare and Tricare for Life, and I have a long-term-care policy in place. Oh, I also have zero debt because I rarely use my one credit card and pay off the balance each month. 

That said, I can’t help but worry about money. I don’t consider myself a spendthrift and have charitable donations between 10% and 15% each year. Most people would laugh to be in my position, I know, but I constantly worry about running out of money. My brother says it’s because our parents had the “Depression mentality.” I do know that mom and dad always taught us to save something from each paycheck and to plan for the rainy day.

Now here I am at 65 and ready to finally retire and I’m scared that I will become penniless. Please, any thoughts to help ease my mind?

Scared of Being Penniless

Dear Scared:

You’ve been on red alert your whole life. It’s served you well. But there’s no point in paying off your mortgage and saving a healthy six-figure sum, retiring and having medical coverage, if you can’t sit back and enjoy it at the age of 65. Sometimes, it’s good to write things down. Buy a little black book or set up a special folder on your computer so you can see all of your achievements, goals, income and expenditure in black and white. That may also provide a place for you to store your anxieties or, even better, exorcise them. Writing is cathartic and being able to clearly access and mull over your finances should help you relax. 

Enlist a financial adviser or, better yet, a financial therapist. The Financial Therapy Association takes a holistic approach to managing personal finances, including your history, anxieties, relationships past and present, and your emotional life. Financial therapists understand that most good and bad financial decisions are also emotional ones. One obvious example: Fear and uncertainty can cause stocks to fall and, during the Great Recession, many people bought high and sold low. With hindsight, after a 10-year bull market, that didn’t make a lot of sense. 

Related video: I'm 40 and I haven't started saving for retirement (provided by NBC News)

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UP NEXT

Nearly one quarter (23%) of people say a lack of emergency savings is the one financial issue that keeps them up at night. You don’t have that problem. Some 22% say they don’t have enough retirement savings. You don’t have that issue either. Another 20% fear they’ll be the victim of some kind of fraud. Forewarned is forearmed. Approximately 19% worry about losing their job. You’re retired. Finally, 9% fret about losing their health insurance and 7% say poor credit keep them awake. You’ve planned ahead regarding your health insurance and you’ve no need to take out any loans.

Here are some suggestions from the Moneyist Facebook Group, some of whom said they shared the same feelings of financial anxiety with you. “Transitioning into retirement and from a savings-based financial mind set to spending is difficult and may take several years to get comfortable,” one member wrote. He also said you should list your fears and face them head on. They often add up to a phantom menace. Another suggested focusing on a hobby, sport or even hill-walking, something that gets you outside and looking up at the sky. Exercise has proven to be good for anxiety. Other readers suggest a part-time job to keep your busy. 

Here are some ways to use the money you have earned for your retirement to buy happiness. Yes, really. They involve adopting a pet or a senior pet who needs a home, if you don’t already have a dog or cat, enriching your life with cultural experiences and travel, and doing what you do already, contributing to charity. Money gives us freedom to make choices, but time is the only really valuable resource we have, so use your time wisely and don’t waste your retirement by being eaten alive by anxieties. Wake up every morning and tell God or the Universe that you are grateful for one thing in your life. Or thank one of these celestial or cosmic entities for giving you the day.

Failing that, one trusty member of the Moneyist group has this sobering thought: “Trade places with me. Then your worrying will be justified.”

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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