Social securityCould you live on less than $30 a day? If you don't have a pension or adequate personal savings, that's what the typical retiree will get in 2036, even setting aside the near-term risks facing Social Security.

As of the beginning of 2011, the average monthly Social Security check for a retired worker was about $1,177. According to its trustees, the Trust Fund that helps support those payments is on track to run dry by 2036. Once the Trust Fund runs dry, Social Security expects to be able to pay about three-quarters of its scheduled benefits.

That works out to about $882.75 per month, or around $29.02 per day.

Actually, Make That Less Than $20 a Day

For those a few decades from retirement who expect to rely solely on Social Security, the inflation-adjusted equivalent of that $29.02 a day needs to cover rent, utilities, food, health care, clothing, transportation, and all the other necessities of life.

For perspective on how quickly that cash can evaporate, the table below shows typical current Medicare out-of-pocket premiums:

Medicare Program
Typical Monthly Premium
Equivalent Daily Premium
Part A
$0.00
$0.00
Part B
$115.40
$3.79
Medigap
$165.33
$5.44
Part D
$41.05
$1.35
Total
$321.78
$10.58
Sources: Medicare, Q1 Group, Kaiser Family Foundation.

Once Medicare's premiums are paid, that leaves all of $18.44 a day, or $560.97 per month, from typical Social Security retirees' checks to cover the rest of their costs of living. That's a tough situation to be in, but it's what the average Social Security retiree can expect to see in the not-too-distant future.

3 Keys to Boosting Your Benefits

Of course, you don't necessarily have to settle for the average benefit. If the prospect of scraping by on $29.02 a day (or $18.44 after Medicare premiums) seems daunting, you can potentially increase your ultimate benefit -- even late in your career -- by adjusting three key factors:

1. Your years of work: Your Social Security payout is tied to your 35 highest-earning years, including $0 for years you didn't work. Work a few additional years to replace any goose eggs in your history, and your benefits will rise.

2. Your highest-earning years: If you're more highly skilled and better compensated later in your career than you were early on, you can replace low-value early years with high-value later ones, even if you already have 35 years of work in your record.

3. Your age when you start collecting: Social Security pays on a rising scale depending on how old you are when you start claiming benefits, with a range from age 62 to 70. The longer you wait before starting (up until age 70), the higher your benefit amount.

There's one other way to improve your retirement income: Keep working as long as possible and invest what you can, with an eye toward investments you can later tap for supplemental income.

Keep Earning During Your Golden Years

There's no law that says you need to stop working as soon as you're eligible for Social Security. In fact, once you reach what Social Security calls your "full retirement age," you can even work and collect your Social Security benefits without seeing those benefits reduced. Unless you're facing mandatory retirement or finding yourself caught in a wave of downsizing, you can even stay at your current job, as long as you still enjoy it.

If you do find yourself needing to seek employment in your golden years, you're not limited to prototypical senior jobs like being a Wal-Mart (WMT) greeter. Indeed, AARP publishes a biennial list of the best employers for workers over 50, the most recent of which includes the following:

Company
Spot on AARP's List
Industry
First Horizon National (FHN)
2
Bank
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
25
Pharmaceuticals
Pepco Holdings (POM)
29
Utilities
Avis Budget Group (CAR)
35
Rental Services
Corinthian Colleges (COCO)
39
Education
Intel (INTC)
44
Semiconductors
Source: AARP.

If any of the employers on AARP's list have job opportunities near where you live, it may be worth looking into if you'd like to supplement what little pittance Social Security will be paying. After all, when all is said and done, for your golden years to truly be golden, you not only need enough money to be comfortable -- but enough pleasure in your life to enjoy your remaining time.

At the time of publication, Motley Fool contributor Chuck Saletta owned shares of Avis Budget Group and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline, Intel, and Wal-Mart, and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Wal-Mart, Intel, and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as creating diagonal call positions on Intel and Wal-Mart.


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69 Comments

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joejoegolfn

As a young man I had the hunger to study history and government. I have worked since 1958. In 1965 President Johnson moved the Social Security trust fund into the general budget and started spending the excess. There was a lot of money there since then you had to wait until age 65 to retire. The aveage lifespan was 66. In 1936 the average lifespan was 60. So I wondered how you would draw SS at age 65. In 1969 I started a wholelife insurance policy with savings and dividend riders that I put 10 percent of my earnings into because I figured SS would go broke before I retired. I have never lost money in my savings plan and average 10 percent interest even when the stock market takes a dive as it has twice in 12 years. When Carter was president and he started giving immagrants SS at 65 I knew SS would go broke. I started watching gold go up and then go down. I started putting extra money in gold when it was 200 an once for 15 years. Today I turn 60 and still work but I could retire for the rest of my life with 10,000 a month. I wish I was allowed to invest my SS payments myself back in 1969. My last SS statement said I could draw 1200.00 a month at 62 and 1700 at 66. Big WooP! Clinton/Gore made SS benefits taxible to help them raise more money. Right now I would take what I have paid in and call it even. SS is a joke and truly a ponsi scheme.

January 22 2012 at 9:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
davidmhermes

Why is social security going broke in 2036? Why not just decuct payments to social security from wages as we have been doing since 1936 and then pay retirement benefits at age 65? I don't get it?

January 15 2012 at 1:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
boahx1

I had ahard time getting my ss, but unum payme until I got my money from ss, then i had to pay unum back , which i think is stupied, then my money went down, and had to them back 40,000 they dont tell you this until after the fact, I was on some strong meds when i sign the papers for my money, I take care of three grand children on what i get from ss and what my wife brings home.we just get bye on this. I try to sue unum but a lawer said what ever their protacal is there is nothing they can do.I have max out our credit cards,and it gos on and on. give me a a lawyer with a set brass balls to fight them,

January 13 2012 at 7:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
boahx1

I had ahard time getting my ss, but unum payme until I got my money from ss, then i had to pay unum back , which i think is stupied, then my money went down, and had to them back 40,000 they dont tell you this until after the fact, I was on some strong meds when i sign the papers for my money, I take care of three grand children on what i get from ss and what my wife brings home.we just get bye on this. I try to sue unum but a lawer said what ever their protacal is there is nothing they can do.I have max out our credit cards,and it gos on and on. give me a a lawyer with a set brass balls to fight them,

January 13 2012 at 7:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DICK CLARK

an illegal immigrant gets more on welfare than we get on soc. sec. plus they get food stamps,rent subsidies and medicaid. they call it entitlements? what have they done that entitles them to anything?

December 21 2011 at 3:26 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
David Gibson

SS is not based on your last 30 yrs of work! That is false, it is based in your last 5-10 yrs of employment and that is where many get the shaft being laid of at 45 and having to take a lower income job until retirement. Go ask someone who knows the truth about how they base your payout!

December 21 2011 at 3:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to David Gibson's comment
Nina

Article above states that the highest 35 years of compensation is what the SS benefit is based on.

December 22 2011 at 7:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Danny Joe Brand

I was duped by a sociopath. She stole all of the equity in my home and left me to pay back the equity line of credit by myself. I am a disabled veteran. The Veterans Administration gives me a case of Ensure every week; as, I cannot afford food. I sleep most of the time, because it costs so little. I only exist. I do not live life.

December 20 2011 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Danny Joe Brand's comment
Howard

Check with your state's Dept of Veterans Affairs. There might be a Veterans Home in your state (ours has an excellent one.) There are other services available through various Senior Citizens groups in most counties. Contact a FOOD BANK in your state -- you do NOT have to survive on just Ensure. In our state, e.g., all you need to do is show an ID card at a food pantry (not prove need.) Good luck!

December 21 2011 at 5:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Denny

Hahhahaahhahaahah.

How many people did Intel higher over the age of 60 in the last 5 years?

Maybe a couple of Board Members :-)

These writers must have never tried to get a job when over 60.

July 30 2011 at 12:46 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
jerrylew1s

When at the office to sign up for SS, there was one old guy like me and 4 or 5 young girls in their twenty's. They all got same paperwork and service as me! Evan one with new baby. They all were asking for money not cards. Who else do we share our SS money with?

July 29 2011 at 10:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
suec8

Interesting advice to wait until age 70 to start collecting social security. Here are a few of the reasons why many people are hanging on by their fingernails until age 62 to start collecting benefits and waiting until 70 is not realistic for many Americans:
1) Downsized and nobody wants to hire people over 60.
2) Disabled spouse or other family member makes full-time caregiving not compatible with full-time work and the family cannot afford a full-time paid caregiver. Thus, retirement cannot wait.
3) The retiree has multiple serious health problems that make full-time work impossible, but Social Security tells them they are not "Sick enough" for Social Security disability. Thus, Social Security retirement is the only option to survive (sorry that they don't have the good grace to just die).

July 29 2011 at 5:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to suec8's comment
Greg

suec8, and then there is this: what would most people rather do? 1) Be a slave to corporate America and worry about being downsized, on a daily basis, for 8 years or 2) Enjoy 8 years of life, even on a tight budget?

It's a lifestyle choice. Some people would prefer living on a budget but having free time, others would prefer working for more $$$. Neither is a bad choice, really.

August 01 2011 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply