Retirement can be a polarizing thought for millions of Americans. On one hand, it represents the freedom to sleep late, travel, enjoy time with family and basically choose how to spend your time. On the other, it poses the ever-so-important question, “How will I pay for it?” If this is how you’re feeling, you aren’t alone in your trepidations. According to a 2015 analysis by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 29% of households age 55 and older had no retirement savings or Defined Benefit (DB) plan.
Whether you are a young professional with plenty of time to save or a seasoned employee approaching the next phase of life, every retirement dollar counts. Consider the following cost-cutting measures as you begin to plan.
1. Overhaul your budget
Your monthly expenses are likely to change once you leave the workforce so you may need to adjust your budget so you can avoid going into debt and potentially damaging your credit. (Yes, bad credit can be a problem in retirement, too.) For example, while you may cut commuting costs between home and the office, you might spend more money on travel or a new hobby. Consider making a list of expenses you expect to dwindle and compare them to the new costs you’ll take on during retirement. This may not help you know right away what your exact expenses will be, but it will help you get a better picture. (As far as your credit goes, you can keep an eye on that now and through retirement by getting your free annual credit reports. You can also review two of your credit scores for free every 14 days on Credit.com.)
2. Consider health care
Even if you qualify for Medicare upon retirement, it might be a good idea to take advantage of your employer-sponsored benefits before leaving the workforce. An analysis by Fidelity Investments found that a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2016 will need approximately $260,000 to cover health care costs, a 6% increase from the previous year. The analysis listed rising drug costs, annual inflation and circumstantial Medicare coverage as concerning for retirees on a budget. In the years leading up to retirement, it might be a good idea to schedule doctor appointments to address any health issues that could become costly as you age.
3. Stagger your benefits
Multiple streams of retirement income are especially helpful if you can afford to stagger them over time. When it comes to Social Security, waiting can actually help you collect more per month. For example, if you plan to retire before age 66, (the full retirement age for Americans born between 1943 and 1954), you won’t receive the full amount possible. The reason comes down to timing. According to the Social Security Administration, early disbursal of benefits reduces the permanent monthly amount paid. A 62-year-old would only receive 75% of their monthly benefit because they are collecting for 48 months before full retirement age. Similarly, a 65-year-old would only receive 93.3% of their monthly benefit to account for an additional 12 months of coverage. Because of this, it’s a good idea to talk with a financial planner about how to make the most of your investments and federal benefits.
4. Improve your quality of life
According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average life expectancy in the U.S. between 2013 and 2014 was 78.8 years, a 1.4 year increase from 2003. In addition to taxes, it’s important to consider how a longer life expectancy will affect your post-retirement income. By improving how you live — like healthy eating, regular exercise and addressing any health concerns early — you will likely see financial benefits down the road.
5. Plan for supplemental income
A Reuters Ipsos survey found that 30% of retirees were willing to return to workforce if given the opportunity, which is something many do as a way to supplement their income and stay active in their community.
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