Like Groundhog Day: Mistakes Retirees Make Over and Over

February 3, 2012

Yesterday was Groundhog Day--that storied time when a prognosticating animal is supposed to tell us how many more weeks of winter we have left this season. According to most reports, yesterday the nation's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow and scurried back out of the cold. Apparently this is a sign of many more weeks of winter to come. Punxsutawney Phil was made a national celebrity in the early 1990s after being spotlighted in the popular Bill Murray movie titled "Groundhog Day." The film has gained legendary status among some, as it chronicles the exploits of Murray who wakes up in Punxsutawney every single morning on February second, forced to relive Groundhog Day over and over.

Our New York estate planning lawyers know a few things about repetition. That is because when it comes to planning for one's financial future, many local families seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. Yesterday CBS News published a Groundhog Day special report listing seven money mistakes that retirees consistently make. Many of the items on the list are quite familiar to the New York retirement attorneys at our firm.

For example, the first mistake is putting off estate planning altogether. The story's author noted that "failing to create a financial or estate plan isn't just a matter of missing out on investment opportunities or tax advantages. It can get you in trouble later in retirement when you're no longer at the top of your game mentally." It is always comforting to push off thinking about potential mental challenges in the future, but failure to account for it only leads to heartache for one's family. Nearly 50% of the nation's population over eighty years old suffers from some sort of cognitive impairment. A host of challenges are created if planning is not done before the problems set in.

Another big mistake that is repeated over and over by retirees is paying too much in taxes. It is vital to learn how withdrawals from retirement accounts, volunteer work, and other issues affect one's taxes. Many seniors fail to create a plan of gradual withdrawals from retirement accounts to minimize tax burdens. In addition, many seniors who do regular volunteer work do not use tax deductions for things like mileage and out-of-pocket expenses.

Far too many seniors fail to take full advantage of the planning tools available under the law to put themselves and their family in better financial shape. All local residents should take the time to visit with a professional to ensure that they do not make the same mistakes that so many others continue to make day in and day out.

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