The Caregiver’s Guide to Planning for Retirement

The Caregiver’s Guide to Planning for Retirement

As a nurse, you spend most of your life taking care of others — but who’s going to take care of you when it’s time to retire? A Fidelity Investments Money FIT Nurses Study revealed that 56 percent of working nurses don’t feel confident when it comes to financial planning. The same study found that 41 percent of nurses who don’t have confidence about financial planning cite lack of time to focus on financial goals as the reason. Cultural differences and language barriers can further stand in the way of working nurses as they strive to save for the future.

It’s tough being a nurse because you’re pulled in different directions every day, but taking the time to put your financial ducks in a row for retirement will pay off big when it’s time to hang up your scrubs for good. Here’s how to get started or bolster your savings efforts while there’s still time.

Know the Lingo

There are several programs that can help you save for retirement. These include 401(k)s or 403(b)s in the case of tax-exempt workplaces, like hospitals; IRAs; and Flexible Spending Accounts. If you don’t know the difference, now’s the time to learn the language of personal financial planning.

IRAs, which stands for individual retirement accounts, are funded solely by you whereas 401(k)s are funded partially by you. Employers typically offer matching 401(k) plans. For example, if you elect to contribute 5 percent of your earnings to a 401(k), your employer may match that rate, netting you an extra 5 percent in savings for retirement. In 2017, you can contribute up to $18,000 to a 401(k) account if you’re under age 50. You get an extra $6,000 if you’re older than 50.

On a related note, think carefully about your health care needs in retirement, especially if you’re not quite ready for Medicare, which starts at age 65. A high-deductible health plan paired with a health savings account may help you keep monthly premiums low while allowing you to save for unexpected medical emergencies. Understanding the different benefits and drawbacks to retirement saving options can be confusing, so it’s wise to talk to a financial adviser about your choices before committing to just one plan.

Start Right Now

You don’t need to set aside thousands of dollars right away. Make small changes, and focus on simple, achievable steps so that you can reach big milestones later. Here are a few simple ways to improve your saving habits:

  • Start planning – today! Writing down your savings goals is the first step to implementing them.
  • Focus on eliminating debt – you can aim to get each credit card paid off individually, try transferring your balances to one card, or negotiate lower interest rates.
  • Cut back on unnecessary expenses – can you eliminate some small charges here and there, like a Netflix or Spotify subscription? Are you sure you’re getting the best deal on your cell phone bill? There’s more than one way to whittle down your monthly discretionary spending, so it can pay to get creative!

Nurses may tend to think less about their own future and more about the immediate needs of their families, such as paying tuition for adult children or taking care of elderly parents. However, you can’t take care of your loved ones if you don’t have any funds after you retire. Estimate how much you’ll need to live on comfortably once you stop working, and build a plan based on that figure.

Find a Support System

It’s critical to find a financial adviser who can guide you through this process. There’s no need to settle either. Seek out recommendations, do some digging and interview prospective advisers with the same scrutiny that you’d use to find a lawyer or doctor. A good financial planner will help you sort through your current finances, identify areas that need improvement, set up a solid retirement plan and answer your questions as you go. Look for advisers with the right credentials too, such as those certified by the Financial Planning Association.

Don’t let unfamiliarity about financial planning keep you from living the retirement life that you’ve earned. As a working nurse, it’s important to find a financial adviser who understands your unique needs and can get you on the right track. Start early, do your homework and be diligent about saving. Your post-retirement life will thank you!

Save Money in the Right Places

Save Money in the Right Places

Lots of people want to save money and they are cutting back, taking on extra work, and sticking to budgets to meet their goals.

But once you start building your nest egg, do you know the best way to take care of it?

There are many savings and retirement vehicles that will help your money grow and might even give you tax breaks. But they definitely aren’t all the same and shouldn’t all be used for the same goals. Here are a few options and the best uses for them.

Short-Term Investments

Savings Accounts

An old-fashioned savings account gives you easy access to your money but won’t do much to help it grow. With minimum interest rates on most accounts, whatever money you put it will likely stay almost level year to year. These accounts are good for money you might need right away.

Money Market Accounts

These accounts pay a little higher interest return than a savings account and still allow you flexibility in case you need to access your money with a little advance notice. These are slightly different from Money Market Funds which are a type of mutual fund and not administered by local banks, but can still often be combined with conveniences like check-writing privileges.

Long-Term Investments

If you’re looking to build up your money to help pay for future education costs, a down payment on a home, or a dream vacation upon your retirement in 10 years, then start looking at ways to invest that will help your money grow. Before you look into any kind of market fund, consider the risk you are willing to take. More conservative funds generally yield a lower return but with less risk (but certainly not no risk) of huge fluctuations. More aggressive funds are more likely to return larger yields, but with more risk, because large fluctuations in prices and value are more likely (but not always certain – that’s the risk).

Certificates of Deposit (CD)

A CD generally gives a larger interest return than a savings account, but you should consider your money as inaccessible because you will pay penalties and fees if you take money out before the CD term is over. Put funds you won’t need for at least 6 to 12 months in a CD, but pay close attention to the term length so you know how long your money will be largely untouchable without paying a fee.


Lots of people like to invest in stocks because of the potential for a big return. It’s best to invest in a mix of stocks because of the fluctuations in the market. Anyone who has seen the recent highs and lows on Wall Street can relate to how much of a rollercoaster stock investments can feel like. If you look at stock investments as a long road, and not a short roller coaster of ups and downs, you’ll be more in tune for the investment return they can yield. Put money in stocks that you want to grow over the long term.

Retirement Funds

A 401(k), 403(b), Roth IRA, or traditional IRA are all generally great investment ideas because they will help your money grow, but you’ll also save money on taxes as the money you put into them is either pretax or tax deferred, meaning you don’t have to pay taxes on the funds until they are taken out or you pay taxes now and not when you withdraw the money (which by the time you withdraw will be a larger amount).


What about gold bars, life insurance, and second homes? As with everything else, these need to be weighed carefully. Generally, most financial experts don’t consider life insurance as a good savings vehicle. Gold bars might seem like a good way to put some money aside, but it’s like putting all your eggs in one basket and hoping for the best. Gold prices fluctuate as much as anything else. The same goes for real estate – you might flip a house and hit the jackpot or you might find you’ve bought a money pit.

Flexible Spending Accounts

If your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account option, it might be worth your while to look into it. An FSA is not a savings account at all – rather it is an account that you can put money into pre-tax and then use it during the year for health care related costs. You have to be careful as you won’t get the money back at the end of the year if you put too much in. But if you have similar annual health care costs and think you can estimate an accurate amount, an FSA can save you money on taxes.