Tip No. 4: Save for retirement
If you're trying to make the mortgage payment, retirement savings might seem like an unattainable goal. "At least put something in," Ten Haagen says. "Maybe it's $10 a month."
Also consider that if your spouse has died, he or she may have retirement funds that should come to you. In a divorce, spouses are entitled to share retirement assets. Be sure not to overlook these when assets are divided.
Ten Haagen recommends considering whether you really need to retire at 65 -- and to think about what you want to do in your retirement long before you get there. What will keep you active and engaged? Maybe you'll continue working part-time. Factor that into your planning.
"A big mistake people make, especially women who go in and out of the workforce, is they accumulate a few thousand dollars in retirement savings, then leave the job and just take the money out and spend it. After all, it isn't that much money," says Ten Haagen. "But it's the most expensive money you can find. Taxes and penalties (for withdrawing the money) can add up to 50 percent."
Once you have money in a retirement plan, he says, "Don't take it out. Let it grow tax-deferred."