Getting By on Social Security
Not everyone has a safe and secure nest egg when they reach their retirement years. In fact, many people lost a good chunk, if not all, of their retirement savings during the great recession. That could mean they are facing a reality of living solely on Social Security income or working, at least part-time, throughout their retirement.
If you are in this boat, you are not alone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that nearly 21 percent of married couples and 43 percent of single people receive 90 percent or more of their income from Social Security. That could mean a substantial drop in earnings for people who are at their most vulnerable with failing health, dying friends and partners, and reduced ability to take care of things that once came easily.
What can you do to get by on a meager Social Security income if you’re approaching retirement or already retired?
Tips Before You Retire
There are things you can do before you retire that will help to maximize your Social Security income – even if your retirement is approaching soon. These tips will help you boost your income during retirement and improve your lifestyle expectations during retirement.
- Delay retirement. If you continue to work past your full retirement age, you can enjoy an increase in your retirement income of eight percent per year until you reach age 70. There are no additional benefits for working beyond age 70. However, retiring before your official retirement age can cut your benefits by as much as 30 percent so avoid that, at all costs, if possible.
- Maximize survivor’s benefits. That is another area where working until the age of 70 can prove beneficial. As long as you are healthy enough to continue working, there is no reason not to take advantage of the additional income it will provide you during retirement and your surviving spouse if something should happen to you.
- Relocate to an area with a lower cost of living. That is a step you can take before or after retirement. The goal is to reduce your expenses so consider the overall expense picture and not just property values. Things you want to look for are tax benefits, commuting expenses (surprisingly one of the largest expenses retirees must contend with), and prices for necessities and entertainment. Another factor to consider is the climate where you choose to live out your retirement. A temperate climate can mean lower costs for heating and cooling.
Another option you have available to consider is to continue working, at least part-time, after you retire. You may not want to earn a full-time income. However, receiving a part-time income can help you fight off boredom, remain active, and supplement your Social Security income.
Tips After You Retire
Once you retire, it may not take long to realize that your Social Security income isn’t going to do the trick unless you make some massive lifestyle and spending changes. You do have a few options available to you that might help you supplement your income and get more living from your Social Security check each month.
- Consider a roommate. You may even consider several. Depending on the size, condition, and costs of operating your home, bringing in roommates can help you reduce your expenses, greatly supplementing your Social Security check each month. More importantly, it might provide some companionship during your golden years.
- Simplify your lifestyle. Cut costs wherever you can. Switch to low-cost wireless plans. Ask for senior discounts. Shop wisely to take advantage of special shopping days or hours (in stores and restaurants) and senior discounts. Eliminate expenses you no longer need. For instance, go down to one vehicle instead of two or get rid of cars altogether and rely on public transportation or ride-sharing service.
- Consider downsizing. Consider selling your home and moving to a smaller place. That will help reduce your monthly utility costs and give you a smaller space to keep up and clean. Plus, the money from the sale may allow you to have some cash left over after you buy a smaller residence. That can help to supplement your Social Security income.
Getting by solely on a Social Security income is possible. For most people, though, it will require some lifestyle and spending adjustments that may be a little painful at first, but doable.