Q. I am 73 years old with a modest income consisting of a small pension and government benefits. I need a new vehicle and I’m considering leasing instead of dipping into my retirement savings to buy another car outright. Is this a good idea?
One-off expenses such as a replacement vehicle should be part of everyone’s retirement income planning. It’s understandable that drivers in their 70s and older may want to consider leasing instead of buying if they need to replace their car.
Driving a newer car that has the latest safety and convenience features that seniors want – air conditioning, backup camera, auto-braking and pre-collision warning – has its appeal, especially if you want to upgrade every few years to suit your future needs.
There are a few factors to consider when making the lease-or-buy decision.
Take a look at your cash flow to see if it can handle the monthly lease payments. Think about how much you drive and for how long.
One benefit of leasing is the vehicle is usually covered by a warranty for the duration of the lease. You don’t have to worry about repair and maintenance costs (other than routine maintenance such as oil changes).
Disadvantages of leasing a vehicle
While many seniors don’t use the full mileage allowance of their lease, you can easily underestimate your mileage if you spend time motoring across the province or country visiting relatives and friends. This additional mileage will cost you.
Many elderly drivers tend to accumulate a lot of scratches and dents to their vehicles, a fact that I can attest to from my own parents and in-laws, and their peers. With a lease, you will face a steep bill for the damages when you turn in the car. When you own the car, you can decide what repairs you want to make and which you can ignore.
Chances are fairly good that an unanticipated future medical issue may leave you unable to drive. Even if you get a doctor’s certificate, you may still be stuck with a significant cost to terminate the lease early. Some dealers allow the option of getting someone else to pick up the lease, but don’t count on it.
Ask a lot of questions to see how flexible the lease is. Negotiate the price just as you would if you were buying.
Buying a reliable car outright will give you many years of service. You have the flexibility to sell the car when you want to and may even have a little equity left if you purchase another vehicle, or if you must stop driving.
Another possibility to consider if you don’t drive much and live close to amenities, is to rent a vehicle for road trips, or use a car sharing service such as Autoshare or Car2Go if available in your area.
As part of my budgeting plan, I transfer a set amount every month into my chequing account to pay for the household bills and regular monthly spending. I have this figured out pretty accurately. This month, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had almost $700 extra – money that wasn’t spent.
I told my husband, thinking we could use the money to splurge on something, and I just about fell over backwards when he said, “You should save it.”
You see, I’m the saver in our family, and he’s a major spender. Even though we both had a frugal upbringing, we ended up with totally opposite money styles.
Mr. E always wants to buy something new, and it seems he just can’t rest until all his available funds are gone. He thinks I’m a crazy miser lady.
Spenders vs Savers
Our money philosophy is not entirely based on family upbringing. Often, even siblings who grow up in the same household – whether frugal or affluent – can have totally different perspectives when it comes to money. It’s how we view life.
Spenders have a natural propensity to acquire and consume. They may think that because they work hard they deserve to go out, take expensive vacations, and buy nice things for themselves and for their friends and loved ones. They may try to seek acceptance from their peers by being ultra-generous.
Related: Of course, but maybe.
Unfortunately, spenders also tend to be quite wasteful. Who cares if you throw away produce that’s gone bad, or if the hydro bill is a bit higher this month?
I grit my teeth when I see my husband ripping off half a roll of paper towels to wipe up a spill.
Here’s a couple of common conversations between us:
Me: Can you pry this container open?
He: Why don’t you just throw it away? It’s empty!
Me: Are you kidding? I can get at least five more uses out of it!
Me: This is a great deal on tomato sauce. We should stock up.
He: Nah! We don’t need to. We still have a can in the pantry. (My translation: He’ll buy one later when it’s at full price.)
There’s a lot of information available for spenders to help them change their ways and become more careful, reasonable and responsible with their resources, but not much is said about savers. I guess it seems to be more of a virtue, but compulsive saving can be just as damaging.
Savers pay themselves first, look for sales, research the cost of items, and consume only as necessary. These frugal activities are commendable but it is possible to analyze potential purchases too much or get mired in research. Savers can be neurotic: “I can buy this $3 coffee, but if that money was saved, with interest over 25 years, it would mean the coffee actually costs $11.85.”
Not spending any money, or doing without things that others might consider necessities, is not conducive to a full and happy life. Why don’t you think you deserve nice things or experiences?
Allowing for the occasional splurge is not going to be the end of the world.
When spending habits come into conflict
It’s great when couples are totally in sync with spending and saving – but that was just not us.
It didn’t always make for automatic marital bliss those first few years. We all know that money is ranked high on the list of topics that couples fight about, and a reason for splitting up.
But, even if you and your spouse are polar opposites when it comes to money attitudes – don’t think it’s hopeless.
Experts say the saver/spender combination in a marriage can actually complement each other. The spender makes sure that the family has nice things and does fun activities together. The saver makes sure there’s money to support the lifestyle now and in the future. Natural tendencies don’t have to rule our lives and cause problems.
It does require communication, compromise, and lots of negotiation to find a happy balance.
- Set financial goals and priorities together – for retirement, large purchases, etc.
- Maintain individual accounts as well as joint
- Agree on a spending budget – either an “approved limit” for individual purchases, or a monthly allowance.
Be honest and trust your partner. Don’t resort to blaming and name calling. You have to pick your battles. Lying or keeping secrets about what you are spending is definitely not OK.
While people hope to marry someone with a money style similar to their own, they often marry their financial opposite. It takes a bit of effort to find some common ground. With a well thought out financial plan and a realistic budget you’ll be able to make better decisions as a couple.
As for my bonus money, instead of putting it back into savings, I’ve decided to use it to fly out and visit my newest baby granddaughter.
Are you a saver or a spender? How do you manage your money as a couple?