Those with little financial means can still leave a legacy

Older and disabled Americans: Financial strain does not preclude leaving a good financial legacy.

According to the Social Security Administration, there were 38 million workers collecting an average of $1,294 per month from Social Security. In addition, there were 8.8 million disabled workers collecting an average of $1,146 per month in Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits represent about 38 percent of the income of the elderly. For those elderly and disabled relying solely on Social Security benefits for income, following a spending plan may have lasting benefits.

In addition to living on a fixed income, many older Americans have the added strain of debt. There continues to be an upward trend in borrowing for those Americans over the age of 65 according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Many have turned to the equity in their homes whether by borrowing against it or by taking out reverse mortgages. (It is called a reverse mortgage because instead of making payments to a lender, you receive payments from the lender according to certain guidelines.) The need to meet day-to-day obligations may be satisfied by this additional income, but the ability to pass on your asset to your children and grandchildren may have become seriously impaired.

A desire for many older Americans is to leave an inheritance to their children or grandchildren. However, many Americans will not be able to leave money or significant assets to their heirs. Money is not the only way to leave a legacy. For some, it may be as simple as getting organized so that there are no surprises when they pass away. Will your important documents be easy to find? Do you have a will? Have you discussed your finances with those who will be left behind? Make a plan to eliminate debt, so that their loved ones will not have the burden or worry of paying off bills passed on to them. For others, it was important that they communicate with their relatives about their financial situation. Simple things like getting organized and communicating about your finances do not dig into those precious monthly dollars. The time saved through organization and the understanding gained through communication is a benefit to loved ones who may be facing the grief of their loss.

Michigan State University Extension offers a variety of money management programs in-person and online throughout the state of Michigan.

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