Q: I would love to buy Valentine's gifts for my friends, but I live on a very tight budget. How can I buy these gifts and pay the bills too? -- R.B., Millen
A: Worries about making ends meet can affect the most grand plans in our retirement. Careful planning can help alleviate some of this worry, but there will always be the element of surprise in our lives to shake things up a little.
Suze Orman, author of You've Earned It, Don't Lose It, offers several suggestions to help make your retirement years worry free while stretching your budget to allow for small surprises.
She suggests that you place all of your money in interest-earning accounts. Check with your bank about your current accounts. If your money is not currently gaining interest, look into transferring your funds to a different account.
Second, Ms. Orman suggests that you reconsider any life insurance policies you still carry. According to Ms. Orman, "life insurance is mostly intended to protect young families with few assets. As you grow older, the assets you accumulate replace the need for life insurance."
If you are continuing to pay large premiums each month, consider placing your insurance into one premium or canceling those policies you no longer need.
Another way to trim your monthly budget is to shop for a cheaper car or home insurance. With the large number of insurance providers, competition is keen. Careful shopping for a new provider may yield a rate than your current provider's. Call local providers or use the Internet to find less expensive rates.
One of the most dangerous forms of debt for seniors is credit card debt. Try to reduce your credit card balances as much as possible with the ultimate goal of eliminating the cards. High credit card payments can take a big bite out of your monthly allowance, especially you're one of those seniors who rely on a fixed monthly income.
If you are in good health, you could supplement your income with a part-time job. Senior workers provide wisdom that only years of experience can produce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are currently about 50 million seniors in the United States who are both retired and active and who could work if they chose to do so.
According to the bureau, in 1954, more than 50 percent of men 65 and older were employed. This figure has declined drastically over the years. In 1996, it had dropped to 17 percent.
This decline, according to consultants, is a result of modern retirement trends. Most retirees have worked throughout their lives and are now happy to be out of work.
One of the best ways to stretch your budget is to consult a certified financial adviser. That person can help you plan for a bright financial future - backed up with professional experience. Choose a financial planner with whom you feel comfortable and who has a proven track record.
There are many ways to stretch your budget short of selling everything but the kitchen sink. Reallocating your monthly expenses may take a while, but with the help of a family member, close friend or financial adviser, you will be able to enjoy your Golden Years without worry.
If you have a question or would like additional information, please write to Shirley McIntosh, Resource Center on Aging, 2803 Wrightsboro Road, Suite 51, Augusta, GA 30909.