Smart Money Moves: Navigating Finance in Your 50s 

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The US macroeconomic landscape has been through a sequence of downturns and rebounds in the last twenty years. It hit rock bottom during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and remained sluggish a few years later. 

In 2020, it was again tested as it experienced another storm brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. And in 2022, the supposed economic rebound was cut short by hyperinflation and interest rate hikes. 

Amidst all these unfortunate events, one thing has become clear—retirees and employees in their golden years have always been the most vulnerable to economic crises. Worse, the impact had lingered for a long time. 

In 2017, 33% of Americans said they hadn’t recovered yet from the Great Recession. In 2019, about a quarter of Americans said their finances were worse off than before the GFC.

Meanwhile, the past four years have been difficult for many, exacerbated by the 2020 pandemic and the 2022 hyperinflation. There were some improvements, though, as financial literacy in the US substantially improved. The unexpected events highlighted the essence of having enough funds and wealth protection. 

Indeed, pandemic-era savings, investments, and insurance helped keep the US economy afloat. 

With that in mind, you may wonder how to ensure adequate liquidity in another crisis. It is essential to ask if you are in your fifties or approaching your retirement years. You may have already established your plans, goals, and strategies. Still, you must rethink them to make them timelier and more realistic.    

Hence, these are some personal finance tips in your 50s. 

Do the 50-30-20 Allocation 

The 80-20 allocation is a financial allocation strategy overused and misused by many individuals. 

While it aims to separate monthly income between 80% consumption and 20% savings,  overspending on non-essential products and activities remains a considerable challenge. 

This method often leads to overlapping expenditures, which affects the monthly budget for utility bills, groceries, and savings. Some people remain strict by saving 20% of their income immediately before spending 80%. 

However, problems arise if you don’t correctly allocate your consumption budget. It may even cause indebtedness, which can be crucial today. Although the Fed’s policy tightening to quell inflation has ended, interest rates remain elevated, making borrowing costs expensive. 

These factors make the 50-30-20 allocation strategy much better than the former. The two strategies are similar: you must save 20% of your income first. 

The difference lies in the remaining 80%. This strategy is more specific since it divides between 50% in monthly bills and necessities and 30% in clothes and entertainment. This approach prevents overlapping of spending between needs and wants.  

The 50-30-20 allocation makes your monthly budget more accurate and realistic. Even better, saving can become more sustainable, preventing you from borrowing from banks or predatory lenders. 

Know What You Need and What You Want 

Needs and wants are one of the central aspects of basic economics. This distinction helps policymakers make decisions to optimize resource allocation amid endless scarcity. It also applies to every household in connection to monthly budget allocation. 

Your monthly bills sometimes fall under the needs categories. Electricity, water, and internet bills are part of your staples. 

However, your monthly subscriptions to Spotify and Netflix are not. The same applies to your monthly groceries since only some things you shop are household staples. 

Most of your office needs are necessary, including your new uniform, computer, and mobile phones. However, knowing that brands do not always matter can help you make prudent financial decisions. 

For instance, instead of buying office clothes every month, you can make them quarterly instead. 

Also, instead of buying iPhones because they are cool, you may consider switching to Android phones for sale. They have similar features, and you can access essential apps on both phone types. 

If you know your intention, you will understand your budgeting goals better. This knowledge is a powerful tool to achieve financial freedom. 

Establish an Emergency Fund 

Saving a portion of your income is a pretty straightforward thing. However, we should also ensure that our savings are adequately allocated.   

Having a separate emergency fund helps manage your finances during unexpected situations. You will not have to withdraw money from your retirement savings during emergencies. Instead, you can use the emergency fund to cover hospital and legal expenses. 

The problem is that we are only familiar with it as a concept rather than an actual application. There are several ways to do so. 

First, you can pull out an amount from the 30% of your 50-30-20 monthly allocation. That is why using this strategy and identifying your needs and wants is critical. 

To ensure financial protection, you may have to forego some of your spending on entertainment and luxuries. It may be challenging at first. But whoever said it is always easy the first time? It takes a lot of courage to multiply your funds. 

Second, you can allocate your 20% savings into main savings: 50% for retirement and 50% for emergency funds. 

Suppose you earn $5,000 monthly, and 20% or $1,000 goes to your savings. You can divide it equally between the two or $500 each. 

Enter the World of Financial Markets 

At this point, you may have already practiced and improved your monthly spending and saving habits. You may also have increased your retirement and emergency savings. 

Despite this, you must realize that keeping your retirement savings in a bank may not be enough. Your money may derive earnings through interest rates. 

However, their long-term value may be eroded by inflation, especially if it outpaces deposit yields. With that, you must identify ways to help your savings keep up with inflation. 

One effective way is by investing a portion of your retirement savings. But before choosing an investment type, you must first evaluate your risk tolerance, financial capacity, and retirement goals. 

You must also familiarize yourself with their nature and behavior relative to various market and macroeconomic forces. As you reach the age of 50, you must start to find stable investment sources. 

You may consider bonds due to their relatively low levels of risk. Their yields and maturities are fixed, making volatility low. Also, they are secure and reliable since they come from the government and large corporations. 

However, expect much lower earnings than stocks and other volatile investments. 

Stocks can be an optimal choice for newcomers despite being more volatile than bonds. Investors can buy dividend-paying stocks for stability in the long run. The stock market has always been sensitive to macroeconomic changes. 

Even so, it has proven its resilience after rebounding and bouncing back from many historical crises. An example is the events after the Global Financial Crisis. The table below shows how the two primary stock indices have changed over the past decade. 

Stocks Market Indices
Seventeen-Year Returns 270.25% 550.44%
Average Annual Returns  14.12% 16.92%
Risk-Free Rate 4.00% 4.00%
Standard Deviation 18.27% 24.76%
Sharpe Ratio 0.55 0.52

Despite the GFC and the pandemic recession, the stock market has regained its footing over the years. Its high seventeen-year returns can show its resilience to macroeconomic crises. Also, the positive Sharpe Ratio indicates positive returns relative to price volatility. 

A balanced fund or a combination of stocks and bonds can be an excellent choice for investors who wish to remain a little conservative while generating higher returns. 

Consider Having Annuities or Insurance 

Annuities and insurance are an extra mantle of safety for your finances. They ensure that your funds will remain untouched during unexpected hospitalizations. 

Annuities and insurance have a similar purpose, but they work differently. The latter pays the policyholder or their beneficiaries when they die, get sick, or get into an accident. The former pays the policyholder on fixed schedules as long as they live. 

Look for Other Income Sources 

Your current job may not cover your financial goals and monthly needs and wants. That is why you must be more resourceful, especially now that you are approaching retirement. 

Do not get stuck in a paycheck-to-paycheck job. Consider seeking jobs in companies offering a better compensation package. It is never too late to start your future. But be patient and trust the process since it may take time to get hired. Filing an immediate resignation is out of the question. 

Taking on part-time or freelance jobs can also be ideal today. Online jobs are almost everywhere, so you can accept projects anytime and anywhere you want. You can do it while riding the bus or train to your office or watching your favorite series at home. You can even do it even if you have already retired. 

Having freelance jobs will give you extra income sources and help you achieve your goals. 

Know That Health Is Wealth 

All your efforts will go down the drain if you spend all your time hustling and stressing about your job and finances. Life is not as easy as you expected when you are younger, but you must savor it. 

Staying healthy shows self-love. Taking a break from work, getting adequate sleep, eating on time, and consistently working out are ways to improve your well-being. 

Plus, staying fit can help you live longer and lessen the chance of hospitalization when you retire. Hence, you can enjoy the product of your labor and avoid money burdens on your family. 

Key Takeaways 

Navigating finances in your 50s may not be as easy when you were younger. But with preparation, self-discipline, and dedication, it stays doable. Slowly but surely, you will see and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Achieving financial freedom and building financial fences is possible. 

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The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.