One scary part of retirement is knowing you could have 30 more years in front of you but only a limited amount of cash available to finance them. How do you make sure your retirement account doesn’t run dry before saying your final goodbye?
Well, there are no guarantees, but following are numerous smart strategies you can use to stretch your money — however little or much you have — over the decades to come.
1. Budget, budget, budget
Ugh. This is no fun, right?
You may not want to spend your free time working on a budget, but there is no better way to make your money last than to be intentional about its use. Without a spending plan, you could find yourself running through cash in no time.
The good news is that the digital age has made it easier than ever to keep track of money. One of our favorite tools for doing this is a program called YNAB (aka You Need a Budget), which helps you track spending, and create and live within a budget.
2. Embrace senior discounts
Senior discounts are one of the best parts of getting older. Once you hit a certain age — often 55 or 60 — you can start getting discounted meals, travel, tickets and more. Use these reduced prices to make money last longer in retirement.
To get started, check out our stories on senior discounts from:
3. Move to a smaller house
Once the kids are gone, you might not need so much space. Consider downsizing to a smaller home. You could find maintenance, utilities and tax bills all get smaller as well.
Alternatively, to defray the costs of a large home, consider renting out extra space to visitors through an online marketplace such as Airbnb.
4. Relocate to a less-expensive area
Moving to new states — or even countries — can cut costs.
Some states, such as Florida, are known for being tax-friendly. Others, such as Midwestern states, are known for their low cost of living. Either way, such locations help you stretch your money in retirement.
Some retirees leave the United States completely. They opt for places like Mexico or Panama, where even small retirement savings can translate into a comfortable life thanks to lower costs of living or a favorable exchange rate.
5. Sell what you don’t need
Add to your retirement war chest by selling the items you no longer use. Maybe camping days are done, or you decide woodworking is a hobby that will never take off. And all those Disney movies? Probably not essential in this phase of your life. Keep a couple for when the grandkids visit and make some money off the rest.
Garage sales, Craigslist classifieds and sites like Decluttr (which buys your old tech tools and devices) are all places to sell your excess for cash. For more ideas, read “Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them.”
6. Get the things you do need for cheap
When you do need to buy things, you’ve got the advantage of having more free time to search for a deal. Scour garage sales, classified ads and secondhand stores for steals on what you want.
If you’d rather buy new, see “15 Golden Rules for Saving on Every Purchase.”
7. Become a one-car household
Speaking of things you no longer need, is it really essential to have two cars after you retire?
Sure, it’s nice to have the freedom to go to one place while your spouse goes to another. But is the convenience worth the extra car payment, insurance, maintenance and registration fees?
Your money will stretch further in retirement if you’re not using it on a vehicle you drive only occasionally.
8. Refinance or consolidate your debts
In a perfect world, you’d have debts paid off before retirement. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in the real world.
If you have debt, you can save money by lowering your interest rates. For example, you may be able to move balances from high-interest credit cards to one with a low introductory rate.
If you need professional help with your debt, consider contacting a reputable credit counselor.
9. Travel wisely
When you don’t have to plan vacations around work or school schedules, a whole world of travel savings opens for you. Travel in the off-season to get great deals and avoid the crowds. Or be spontaneous and go wherever the latest deals take you.
10. Manage your sequence of returns risk
Sequence of returns risk, also known as sequence risk, essentially means that if the stock market tanks when you start taking withdrawals from retirement accounts, your balance may never fully rebound even if the market does.
In other words, you want to avoid having to withdraw money from your accounts when the market is down. There are several ways to do this, such as keeping enough money in a cash account to ride out a bear market or investing conservatively to minimize losses in a crash.
Since this can be a complex topic, working with a financial professional to structure withdrawals is always a good idea. Wealthramp is a free service that can connect you with fee-only fiduciary financial advisers in your area.
11. Stay active
Medical expenses can be a major drain on a retiree’s finances. However, you may be able to minimize your expenses by staying active for as long as possible.
Physical activity is key to preventing and managing chronic diseases and lowers your risk of developing dementia, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
To learn more about the benefits of physical activity, see “7 Surprising Benefits of Staying in Shape After Age 50.”
12. Understand your health care benefits
When you need health care, understand the benefits and caveats provided by your plan. For most seniors 65 and older, that plan is Medicare.
For instance, if you’ve signed up for a Medicare Advantage plan, one of the two main types of the national health insurance for seniors, you may have to go to in-network providers and pharmacies or else pay more. If you opt instead for the other type, known as Original Medicare, and you travel internationally, your care at a foreign hospital may not be covered.
In addition to knowing how your coverage can cost you, you should know how it can save you cash. There are nearly two dozen health care services that you get free with Medicare, so use them to the fullest.
13. Get ready for long-term care costs
In addition to regular health care expenses, you may have to pay for long-term care. This type of care doesn’t come cheap, and is not covered by Medicare except in very limited situations and for short periods.
Without a plan for how to pay for long-term care costs, you could find retirement money gone in a flash.
If you’re young enough, you could buy long-term care insurance. Otherwise, consider whether you could use a reverse mortgage, a long-term care annuity or living benefits from a life insurance policy to preserve assets.
14. Set boundaries with the kids
A 2018 Merrill Lynch study revealed that parents in the U.S. collectively spend about $500 billion per year helping their adult children cover everyday expenses from housing to cellphones. That’s twice as much as those parents save for retirement.
Moms and dads, this has got to stop. If you want your money to last through retirement, you’ve got to stop giving it to kids who are old enough to support themselves.
Set clear boundaries on when and how much you expect to spend on grown kids and then stick to your guns. For pointers, check out “6 Ways to Help Adult Children Without Going Broke.”
15. Work longer
If you’re hitting your golden years with little savings in the bank, the best way to stretch those dollars is to avoid using them at all. Working full time or even part time not only pads your bank account but may also let you delay claiming Social Security benefits.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.