10 Ways to Retire on Less Money

These strategies will help your retirement savings last longer.

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Senior couple standing by For Sale sign on house lawn
Getty ImagesYour retirement savings will stretch further if you take steps to reduce housing and entertainment costs.
By Tom Sightings

Don't let the financial experts scare you. Remember, it's in their interest for you to save more than you really need and then let them handle it so they can profit from your fears and anxieties.

Retiring on 100 percent of your pre-retirement income may be an option for one percenters who leave work with golden parachutes, but it's not realistic for the rest of us. Most of us will get by on a combination of some retirement savings in addition to Social Security and a pension if you still have one. Whether your nest egg is large or small, here are 10 ways to make it last:

1. Pay off debt before you retire. The first thing to do is count up your assets and debts. Hopefully, by the time you retire you have more assets than debts. You should no longer have student loans, and your mortgage might even be paid off. Now is not the time to take on new debt. If you have to float a big loan to buy a new car, it's probably better to keep the old one and fix it up.

2. Downsize your housing. Once your kids are grown you don't need three or four bedrooms anymore. A lot of retirees hang on to the old place in case the kids want to move back in. But this is a "what if," while the expense of carrying a home is a certainty. If your budget is limited, then move to a smaller place in a less expensive neighborhood with lower taxes and smaller utility bills.

3. Get a part-time job. Many people choose to work in retirement because they need the money, a place to go in the morning or some new friends. Retirees are no longer concerned about a career, so they don't need to stress out over promotions or workplace politics. Think of your retirement job like the summer job you had as a kid -- have fun, make a few bucks and then go live your life.

4. Share your home. If you're single, consider sharing a home with a friend or relative. Many older houses feature mother-in-law suites, and some newer construction offers two master bedrooms. Two can live cheaper than one, and this setup can offer companionship as well.

5. Rely on friends. Don't be afraid to ask for a favor and then offer to reciprocate. You can save a lot of money driving each other to the airport or the store instead of calling a cab. Exchange yard work for housework or financial expertise for culinary skills. Don't think you have to pay someone to do everything for you. Help each other out.

6. Search for free entertainment. If you want to cruise the Mediterranean, you may need 100 percent of your pre-retirement income. But most people don't do that. Your community likely offers free summer concerts and fall festivals. Check out your library for free seminars, book clubs, movies and lectures. Your church, veteran's association or social club can provide rewarding activities, all at little or no cost.

7. Eat out early in the day. We all like to splurge a bit and skip a turn in the kitchen. If you're going out for a meal, go early in the day. Breakfast is cheaper than lunch. Lunch is cheaper than dinner. If you insist on dinner, go early for the senior citizen discount. Or consider trying a place that serves breakfast anytime. Eggs and sausage are definitely less expensive than steak and potatoes.

8. Stop subsidizing your kids' lifestyles. The old saying goes: Give your children roots and wings. You've already given them roots. Now it's time for wings. It doesn't really help anyone to let them settle into their old bedroom. They need to find their own apartment, prepare their own meals and learn to live on their own.

9. Take advantage of discounts. Join AARP for discounts as well as supplemental medical insurance. Take a trip to town hall and find out about real estate tax breaks and other senior citizen discounts. Check out programs for free transportation, low-cost meals and subsidized health services.

10. Go international. Some people retire to the land of their grandparents, where they enjoy the support of family members. There are retirement enclaves in Mexico, Costa Rica and other Latin American countries. And a new trend points toward Asia and countries like Malaysia and Thailand, where the cost of living is low and people respect the elderly. Retiring overseas requires a lot of research, but it's an option more budget-minded people are considering.

Tom Sightings is a former publishing executive who was eased into early retirement in his mid-50s. He lives in the New York area and blogs at Sightings at 60, where he covers health, finance, retirement and other concerns of baby boomers who realize that somehow they have grown up.


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27 Comments

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barryaclarke

Just by becoming mortgage and credit card debt free frees up between 30 and 40% of your money and this is tax free cash. Then looking at the other ways to save, I see at least an extra 10 to 15 in the examples. Another source of cash is using your credit card wisely. As an example, the American Express Blue Card gives you five percent back on gas, food, and medicine plus one percent on everything else. If you don’t carry a balance and pay it off every month, this is more money back into your pocket. Thus, you can thank the folks who love to carry a balance and pay interest………….

August 01 2014 at 12:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

#1. eat less
#2. cancel cable and get a box
#3. shop only at the Salvation Army , Goodwill and garage sales
#4. Bring your own bottle if you go to the bar and fill glass in bathroom
#5. Go Dutch on dates if you still do that and even if you are married
#6. Don't drive, walk or bike
#7. Sell everything you own on Ebay
#8. Never go out to eat
#9. Dress as a kid and eat at the local school every day or tell them you just got here from Honduras and you just look old for your age.
#10. Sell your kids to some sultan in Saudi Arabia as slaves

July 31 2014 at 7:24 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SPQR's comment
thejrd

Now that's some funny s**t!!!!!
I was actually able to retire this year at age 58 by having my 33 year old son live in his old bedroom and he pays ALL housing expenses(gas and electric, water, telephones,directv with Sunday Ticket, real estate taxes and home owners insurance). I am able to use my pension to live like I wanted when I was a teenager.

August 03 2014 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
razov

Wow, cut your debt and learn to live on less, really? Kick the kids out and mooch off your friends. Sounds like a plan, except for #10. Living in some rat-hole, dirt-poor 3rd world jungle like Costa Rica or Honduras is not my idea of retirement.

RZ in CT

July 31 2014 at 3:25 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
kolblh

Number One and most important: Do not live in Jersey!

July 31 2014 at 2:46 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rrob.smythe

Just remember America, keep paying your taxes the 20 million illegals are counting on your contributions, especially all the new 60k Mexican children abandoned by their parents. They would lie to retire here someday too.
Don't forget to press one for English.

July 31 2014 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rrob.smythe's comment
rrob.smythe

*like

July 31 2014 at 2:22 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
RMS

Get a part time job? Really? Try finding any king of employment if you are over the age of 50. Not happening. As for downsizing, many Americans have already had to do that after losing their homes and retirement accounts to the Great Recession of 2008 (which, by the way isn't over). Simply put, maximize whatever money you can have coming in every month and minimize your expenses as much as possible. Next article....

July 31 2014 at 1:58 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to RMS's comment
createidea

"10 Ways to Retire on Less Money"....

So sez the government.

July 31 2014 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gmsexton

here's an idea.... save a little more. or don't retire until you don't have to do stupid old people move like the blue plate special at 4:30. the advice is beyond obvious, here let me sum the whole thing up... move, spend less, and share expenses. ok next article....

July 31 2014 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rrob.smythe

Besides, it's no problem retiring on less, the Goons are making sure you will have less.

July 31 2014 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mexazuneben

Most of us need to save more, much more for retirement if we want to retire by 65. This spring I finally bit the bullet and reviewed my whole financial situation and actually made a plan for retirement. It wasn't fun or pretty, but I had to do it. Here are the biggest ways that I found personally to put more money away.

1. I now put away the maximum amount in my 401K (5% for me) that my employer will pay into the plan as a match. It is free money and dumb not to do it. It was basically a raise I gave myself.

2. After calculating my expenses, I found that driving was my biggest expense. I fixed that by buying a fuel efficient car thats durable (Honda Civic), finding an affordable insurance policy for it ($25/month from Insurance Panda, yay!), and using apps like Gasbudy/Waze to save money at the tank. I cut my transportation costs in half!

3.I cut way back on eating out. I am having a year of putting away money hard, and food was a huge portion of my budget. I save about an extra $100 a week now, and eat healthier and better. Ditto for others if you spend a lot of money in bars.

4. I need life insurance to protect my 2 daughters, but I ditched a $275 a month whole life policy for a policy from Life Ant and now I only spend $25 a month. I save the difference to my Roth IRA. If you are unfamiliar with this and want to learn more watch shows or read articles from Suzey Orman or Dave Ramsey sometime. They are huge proponents.

There really were no two ways about it. If I plan on having a full savings account (getting there) and a comfortable retirement (I will) I have to make good decisions with my money.

July 31 2014 at 11:29 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to mexazuneben's comment
rrob.smythe

How much does " Panda " pay you to post, is that another money making deal to support your retirement ?

July 31 2014 at 11:33 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
rrob.smythe

So, one day you woke up and found some common sense, while most people with an ounce of intelligence already did that soon after the 2008 crash, or before. Must be you have been living in LaLa land a long time. Welcome back to the real world. A lot of Americans weren't so lucky as most lost homes, jobs, 401K's and other investments.

July 31 2014 at 11:37 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply