I’m Retired and Running Out of Money Quickly. I’m Scared, Alone and Afraid.


Dear Steve,

I am 72 years old living on S.S. $1000, and Medicare, live alone, rent $600), pay utilities-electric- car insurance-two credit cards ($7000), package deal on TV, landline, Internet $96 (thinking about going to antenna for TV since I only get limited basic now?) Had breast cancer diagnoses in 2017. Running out of my IRA which is now only about $10,000. I am desperate!!!

Is there anything I can do at all to survive. I want to stay where I live now and feel secure and have some friends. I am going to go back to cat sitting and trying to earn a little money online but it is not much. Starting jury duty soon and will get $50 a day for each case I am on, plus gas so will do that. I worked all my life in Retail. I have no family to help me.



Dear Carmen,

You are facing a situation I’m afraid more and more people are going to be dealing with. We have a terrible looming retirement disaster in America.

From what you have shared you are in a crisis. I don’t want to alarm you but now is the time to take some drastic action.

The good news is it seems you beat back the cancer scare and now we just have to find a way for you to move forward in such a way that your days can have some happiness in them. That is going to have to be through other ways other than material conveniences.

One step you can take right now is to see what public benefits you may be eligible for. Go to Benefit Finder. Each dollar in benefits is a dollar you don’t have to scramble for. It is money that you are eligible for and the programs are waiting for you to claim. Although the process to get the benefit can be a hassle sometimes. But if you look at it as a challenge that you won’t let win, it can be less of a struggle.

Your situation made me think of Eric Olsen, the Executive Director of HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm, www.helpsishere.org.

HELPS specializes in providing low-cost assistance to older people in the exact situation you are facing.

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Eric wanted me to share this necessary but hard to hear feedback with you.

He said, “The reader can’t afford to continue paying the credit card debt.

With her high rent and other expenses, she will continue to deplete her IRA until she has no other choice but to stop paying the credit card debt.

Her social security and IRA are protected by law. Collectors can’t touch her income or assets.

She can’t afford nor does she need bankruptcy. Collectors can call and send demand letters however she can send any collector what is called a “cease and desist’ letter herself but often that is difficult for seniors to undertake.

Collectors can’t call or send demand letters to persons represented by an attorney. HELPS is a national charitable nonprofit law firm that protects seniors and disabled from unwanted collector contact. We also help educate lower-income seniors on how to maintain their financial independence.

Our help is available by phone. The most common thing we hear from seniors we help is that peace came back to their life. With only $1000 in income, her rent needs to be lowered. Applying for section 8 would be one idea. The bottom line is her income is safe. If she wants to contact HELPS she can at toll-free 855-HELPS-US. We don’t turn anyone away that qualifies for our service. These things do work out. There is hope. She can certainly call us with questions.”

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

Please don’t mistake the advice from Eric Olsen as a sales message. He cares about each of the clients the law firm helps and he and the organization do so much free work to help seniors. They probably don’t want me to promote that fact.

He also appears to be saying that you should stop making credit card payments you can’t afford anymore. My concern is if you’ve been using the cards to help get by then it is even more reason to get your expenses to fit inside your limited income. Eventually, that credit will not be available to you anymore. It is not a question of if you will eventually default and stop paying, but when.

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You are making some choices on how to supplement your income with additional work and that’s awesome. There will come a time when you won’t be able to do that and now is the time to get you headed down a path to is more sustainable and filled with people who care about helping you through these difficult times.

Making the changes necessary to live day-to-day within your income is going to be emotionally difficult. I would be desperately afraid if I was in the same situation. No doubt about that. But the other thing there is no doubt about is unless you take charge to make the decisions now they will be made for you by other people, like landlords and creditors, when you hit the financial wall.

Don’t let fear, depression, and anxiousness hold you back from taking a deep breath and then taking charge of your financial life.

Contact HELPS today and start a conversation with them. I’d love for you to update me in the comments section with what you decide to do.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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