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Different Ways to Handle Unexpected Expenses on a Low Income

The golden years are supposed to be a time to enjoy family, relax from years of work, and find a new purpose in life. For those who plan ahead for retirement, these years can be among the most meaningful and precious. However, not everybody has the opportunity to save for retirement. As such, many seniors find themselves in positions where they are struggling to make ends meet.

Estimates suggest that 40 percent of seniors are low-income or moderate-income, defined as living on less than $600 per week. While many working people do in fact earn less, the costs of senior living can be substantial. Even with healthcare insurance, many low-income seniors find themselves spending copious amounts of time and money on healthcare treatments, prescriptions and other needs.

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As such, it can be difficult for seniors to juggle the expected costs of living when coupled with a variety of unexpected expenses. From medical issues to home and car repairs, these costs can be substantial. In the spirit of helping seniors overcome these burdens, let’s look at some different ways that low-income seniors can handle these unexpected costs.

Consider Retirement Savings as a Source

There are numerous tips and tricks that seniors can use to cover unexpected expenses. The biggest reason why so many seniors plan for retirement is to ensure they have sufficient funds to cover those unexpected costs that will inevitably emerge. As such, looking into retirement savings as one means of covering these costs isn’t unrealistic.

While your retirement accounts may be set up to ensure you have a minimum monthly or annual income, there will inevitably be situations where withdrawals may be necessary. Given that most senior citizens’ retirement accounts are structured in such a way not to result in penalties for withdrawals once over the age of 60, these withdrawals may be the safest course of action. In certain situations, it makes more sense to withdrawal directly from a retirement account than borrow money that’ll result in interest payments.

However, it is important to consult with a financial advisor before doing such. In some cases, this could result in additional taxes owed, leaving you in a situation where hundreds or even thousands more will be owed when you file taxes the following year.

Tap Into an Emergency Fund

Even if tapping into a retirement fund isn’t possible, many seniors do have some form of savings for unexpected situations. It is important for people of all ages to focus on building an emergency fund for future situations, but what does an emergency fund entail?

  • Emergency funds are designed to cover living expenses or unexpected costs, preventing individuals from falling behind on payments. Generally, and depending on your level of income and other savings, financial advisors recommend saving anywhere from three months to one year of income. For most senior citizens, the lower end of this estimate is sufficient given healthcare coverage via Medicare and Social Security payments.
  • Setting aside existing income each month or using tax refunds to establish this fund is highly recommended. While low-income seniors may not have many opportunities to save, setting aside small sums of money each month to ensure this fund exists is a must-do investment strategy.

While for some low-income seniors an emergency fund may seem like a luxury, utilizing this in lieu of borrowing money may prove to be the best course of action.

Procure One or More Short-Term Loans

Many low-income seniors don’t have access to emergency funds or retirement savings: after all, the lack of these assets is part of why they are low-income in the first place. Because of this, navigating unexpected financial struggles sometimes involves being more creative. For some, borrowing money may be the only short-term course of action.

Fortunately, there are many lenders that provide short term loans with no credit check to struggling seniors. These little loans make it possible for seniors to address critical expenses that were otherwise unexpected, helping to avoid even more calamitous outcomes such as a lack of medicine, eviction or even senior food insecurity.

Most short term loans with no credit check operate around a simple set of premises:

  • You need one or more forms of income to successfully receive a loan. For most seniors, this income will be in the form of a Social Security check or retirement benefit each month. Non-seniors typically qualify by having a source of income through standard employment – which may also be true for some seniors.
  • Short term loans with no credit check require proof of identity. In order to ensure the person requesting the loan is real, lenders will ask for one or more forms of identification. This may include Social Security cards, driver’s licenses and other forms of commonly-accepted ID. Depending on whether the application is filed in-person or online, these documents may need to be transmitted electronically.
  • Depending on the exact lender, other documentation may also be required. Each lender has variations in its process, so you may be asked to furnish other documents as well. These could include your most recent tax returns, bank statements to prove you have a consistent income or even references from people who know you. A working phone number and/or email address is also required.

In summary: as long as you have a source of income, proof of identity and a few key pieces of information, short term lenders will often provide easy loans to seniors regardless of credit. In many situations, this is a cost-effective solution when compared to potentially incurring late fees on bills or overdraft charges from banks.

Evaluate Living Situations

Many senior citizens own their own homes, providing a vital source of tangible wealth and/or assets for future generations. However, when seniors are struggling with unexpected living expenses, it may be worth considering whether downgrading living quarters is a worthwhile endeavor. This can even be true for those who currently rent.

If and when housing markets are robust, selling a home that’s been owned for years or even decades can provide a big boost of wealth to cover major costs associated with senior living. Given that (as of 2019) the average home has appreciated in value by more than 25 percent over the past 30 years after adjusting for inflation, many seniors now own homes that are worth substantially more than what they paid for them.

Seniors who no longer have children in the home may not need the extra space, choosing instead of move into a smaller home, sell their existing home, and pocket the difference to cover unexpected costs. There is also the option of renting out one or more rooms to tenants, which can bridge the gap between selling a treasured home and earning additional income to cover unexpected costs.

Even those who are currently renting may wish to consider this broader dynamic. If you currently are renting a home or apartment that is bigger or more expensive than a viable alternative, the savings over time can be meaningful. However, given increases in rents in most markets, this strategy does not provide the same level of long-term viability as liquidating a home you own outright.

Liquidate Unneeded Items

Seniors have had a lifetime to collect a variety of precious memories. They’ve also had plenty of time to collect a variety of less sentimental possessions that may no longer be of use to them. As such, seniors facing one or more unexpected expenses absolutely should consider finding ways to sell unwanted or unneeded items to those who can make use of them.

What options exist for seniors to use? In short, there are three main options:

  • Yard sales. What better and easier way to sell lots of items than by setting up in your own front yard? By advertising your yard sale in advance and even working with neighbors to create a neighborhood-wide event, you can attract people from all over who may find value in your unwanted goods.
  • Flea markets. While it does involve carrying your goods to a different location, flea markets provide access to plenty of shoppers looking for great deals on everything. Rather than having to work hard to attract people to your own house to purchase goods, you can take advantage of flea markets and sell lots of items quite easily.
  • Online sales. Connecting with people in your community – or even around the world – through the internet is easier than ever. Online platforms like Facebook provide marketplaces where anybody can list their items for sale, while websites like eBay allow users to sell products to anybody, anywhere. This can be especially helpful when selling higher-priced items.
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Return to the Workforce

Last but not least, no senior wishes to come out of retirement and re-enter the workforce. In reality, many senior citizens could never even afford to retire. However, even those who can might find re-entering the workforce – even if just part-time – is necessary to cover unexpected expenses.

A variety of clerical, entry-level and less physically-taxing part-time positions are filled by senior citizens every single year. From working two days per week at a local store to serving children in the school cafeteria, many jobs work very well for seniors who don’t need to secure full-time employment (but who nevertheless need a little extra cash).

Tough Decisions Sometimes Must Be Made

It’s never easy to juggle unexpected financial woes. Especially for low-income seniors, navigating the complexity of financial, medical and logistical challenges in life can be daunting. However, through a variety of different decisions and changes, plowing through these hurdles is possible – and with an optimistic viewpoint, perhaps even rewarding in its own way.