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Chapter 20. And Now It's Time to Retire > Can You Afford to Retire Yet? - Pg. 196

And Now It's Time to Retire 196 If you are having problems with credit cards, there is help available. The National Foundation for Consumer Credit's 200-member organizations, in more than 1,500 offices nationwide, offer counseling services for credit card users. Services are sponsored by the credit card companies; nominal fees are charged. Counselors will help you set up a budget as well as a payment plan. Just call 1-800-388-2227 for a referral to an office near you, or go to the Web site at If you have only a few years left on your mortgage, check your annual statement: You may have paid off most of the interest because you pay off the bulk of your interest up front and pay off the principal gradually. Remember those big deductions you got when you bought the house? That's why. So, if you've already paid off most of your interest and all that remains are principal payments, look for other ways to pare down your debts. A great place to start is with your credit card debts. Oops! Did we just hit a sore spot? More than one million Americans declared bankruptcy last year, and most of it was due to credit card debt. This may call for some drastic measures, like plastic surgery. That's right--cut up all but one of them. (Be sure you cancel them as well.) Then pay more than the minimum each month. Remember, you want a stress-free retirement. You don't want to be worrying about how to pay the piper each month. Decide Where You Want to Retire Within 10 years of your planned retirement age, you should begin to check out where you might want to live when you retire. (Notice how we're covering those three Ws.) Plan vacations around your search for your Shangri-La. If it's someplace warm like Florida, spend some time there in the summer to make sure you can take the heat. Check out the cost of living there. Is it cheaper or more expensive than where you're living now? Retirement communities with the amenities they offer are often more expensive than a mixed-demographic community.