By Deborah Nayrocker
Dear Deborah: I’m a single person in my mid-fifties. I have a lot of credit card debt. Even though I have a good income as a Registered Nurse, I’m finding it hard to pay down on the balances. I live in a high-tax state and the cost-of-living is higher here. I am not a homeowner.
An even bigger concern is that my employer has announced the closing of our workplace and all our jobs will be terminated later this year. I have some money in a deferred compensation account, but if I access it now there is a penalty. When my employer makes the employee cutbacks, I will qualify for a modest pension. I’m looking at possible options. What are some things I need to consider as I plan for this new chapter in my life? — Ann
Answer: Although we generally don’t like to think of having to make changes in our lives, this can be a time of new beginnings.
This time of unknowns in your future likely comes with some apprehension about finances. Consider that the phasing out of your job can be a springboard for new and positive changes for you. Since you still have financial obligations, you’ll probably need some form of regular income.
Here are some factors to consider:
- How can you reduce your expenses? Since you’ll be losing your regular paycheck, (and receiving a modest pension) think of how you can reduce expenses. Consider what costs to cut back on, such as food, clothing, gas, extras.
Decide what expenses, in general, tend to be the most costly in your overall budget. Narrow these down to three spending areas that tend to be most troublesome. What are some ways you can cut back in these categories of spending?
Remember that cutting expenses increases income.
- Can you move to another area that is more affordable? Since your job will be phasing out, you’re free to live wherever you want now. Have you thought of moving to another part of the country where the cost of living isn’t so high?
Having lower cost-of-living expenses can help you redirect money that was going to high-cost housing, commuting, etc. to paying off your financial obligations. With less money going towards living expenses, this frees up more funds to pay off credit card balances. It is possible to live a more affordable lifestyle.
One of the best Internet sites to compare cost-of-living data around the United States is www.BestPlaces.net. Enter your current city, where you’re interested in living, and your current salary (or your projected income). This will show you a cost-of-living comparison between the two cities.
For instance, if you live in another city, your fixed monthly expenses could be half the cost of residing in the city you currently live in.
To get a good idea of the taxes around the country by state, a good site is www.RetirementLiving.com. This is a useful tool for comparing taxes by state. Note that property taxes and local taxes can vary widely within each state.
Also, some states that have no income tax may look like inexpensive places to live, but they may have high sales taxes or property taxes.
Remember that your money can go farther and last longer when you’re living in a more affordable area.
- What areas of employment are possibilities for you? There are still many productive years of employment remaining. You could get a good income that supplements your pension.
It’s likely that your background and experience as an RN will prove beneficial in finding future employment in the near future. Some communities have shortages of Registered Nurses.
- What is your plan to eliminate your credit card debt? To make real progress in paying off your credit card debt, there needs to be a workable plan and consistent follow-through.
Once you have an adequate emergency fund set aside in a liquid account, pay as much as you possibly can toward the debt.
As you continue to make minimum payments, focus completely on paying extra on the credit card with the smallest balance. When that card balance is paid off, continue on to the next card, and the next one, until they are all paid off.
Remember that reducing debt increases income.
Once you get rid of your credit card obligations, you’ll have more lifestyle options. I wish you well as you plan for another stage in your life.
Deborah Nayrocker is an author and columnist. She is the award-winning author of The Art of Debt-Free Living and Living a Balanced Financial Life.
Copyright by Deborah J. Nayrocker. All rights reserved.