Retirement Spending on Safety a Good Investment

Car-OlderCoupleWant to increase your independence in retirement? Save money? Live safely in your own home?

Then buy a new car.

No, this isn’t a scam or a seedy sales pitch. In certain cases, a new car can be a wise use of your retirement dollars.

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of frugality. Spending less than you earn is a crucial strategy for building wealth. Continuing this frugal lifestyle in retirement can also be a good way to be sure of having enough money to last for the rest of your life.

Some retirees, though, take it too far. Underspending can be a threat to retirement as much as overspending, especially when it affects your comfort and safety.

As more of my retired clients move into their later years, I am becoming increasingly aware of one kind of retirement spending that can actually be considered more of an investment than an expense. This, for elderly people or adult children caring for elderly parents, is spending money to make their homes and activities safer.

One immediate benefit of this kind of spending is being able to live more comfortably and with less anxiety. A second benefit is financial. Helping elderly parents stay in their homes and live independently for as long as possible can save money in the long term by reducing medical costs and long-term care expenses. It’s especially important to invest in this type of spending if you live too far away from your parents to provide regular help yourself.

Some of the ways to invest relatively small amounts to provide more comfort, safety, and independence for elderly parents are obvious. Carpet slick tile or hardwood floors to reduce the risk of falls. Upgrade older appliances to newer ones with safety features like automatic shutoffs or warning signals. Add basic safety aids like stair railings and shower bars. Repair hazards like worn carpets, uneven steps, or broken sidewalks. Provide emergency alert buttons. Install phones in several rooms.

Some less obvious ways to foster safety and extend independent living might require a bit more spending. Such expenditures can be a good use of retirement income if they extend parents’ ability to live independently. Here are a few possibilities to consider:

1. Buying that new car. Safety features like GPS navigation systems and backup cameras can allow elderly people to hold onto their drivers’ licenses longer without putting themselves or others at risk.

2. Paying for gym memberships or exercise classes. Increasing strength, balance, and flexibility can help prevent falls and possibly even help stave off dementia.

3. Taking care of ears and eyes. Hearing aids and corrective lenses may not be cheap, but good hearing and eyesight can help people drive more safely, avoid falls, and take care of themselves and their homes.

4. Remodeling. Moving the laundry room to the main floor or replacing bathtubs with walk-in showers can make homes safer and more comfortable.

4. Hiring help. Many of us equate in-home help for the elderly with home health care. Certainly, hiring aides to help with cooking, bathing, and other needs as people become frail is an important option. But well before that time, it makes sense to get help with a host of other services that become harder or even dangerous to do as we grow older. Hire a house cleaner. Find someone to do yard work, home maintenance, and heavy cleaning jobs (especially if they involve ladders) like window washing.

Spending that creates safety belongs in any retirement budget. It’s a good way to use your financial independence to help maintain your physical and mental independence.

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2 Responses to Retirement Spending on Safety a Good Investment

  1. Kelly Sullivan Noah May 5, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Another piece of fine common sense that all of our clients would do well to follow. Thanks!

  2. POP May 12, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    So after all your comments about buying “used” cars you now say it is ok for us to buy a new car. Interesting! Could it be you are in the market for our current car and looking way forward to obtaining our possible new car with all the gadgets? But the good news is, I take it by reading what isn’t written, that you are volunteering to come over and help us with some “chores”. Yep, Mom and I can really relax now and enjoy many more years in our home. Thanks, Son!