There are only two paths to extra money — earn more or spend less. Since it’s harder to increase your income in retirement than it is during your working years, retirees on a budget usually want to cut costs without hampering their lifestyles.
The good news is, there are plenty of paths toward that goal — especially if you’re willing to get creative.
For millions of Americans, retirement is synonymous with travel — but by visiting the right places at the right time of year, you can satisfy your wanderlust for less.
“If travel is on your retirement agenda, book flights and accommodations during off-peak seasons to save money and avoid crowds,” said Roberto Liccardo, financial analytics professional and founder of Best Stocks.
For North America, the Caribbean and Europe, fall and spring are the shoulder seasons — that’s when crowds are thinner, prices are lower and rooms and bookings are more available. It varies by region in much of Asia, and in Australia, New Zealand and the rest of Oceania, the seasons are reversed. Do your research or consult a travel agent, but always expect to pay more for peak-season travel. Industry publications agree that savvy vacationers can save up to 50% by embracing shoulder season travel.
You probably bought life insurance with your heirs in mind, but if your financial or social situation has changed, you can lower your monthly bills and collect a windfall by selling your policy — just make sure to mull over the pros and cons.
“You have to keep in mind that it means you won’t be able to leave that policy to your estate and beneficiaries,” said Melanie Musson, an insurance planning expert with Clearsurance. “The price you sell it for will benefit you in the short term, but in the long term, you won’t receive the benefit that you planned when you bought your policy.”
Also, selling could result in a tax bill and you might not be able to qualify for another policy in the future, but on the bright side, you’ll ditch your monthly premiums and collect a significant cash payout.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to stay active, keep busy, experience personal fulfillment, connect with your community and build a social network — but it can also give you free access to museums, parks, theaters, nonprofits and other activities that the general public pays for.
“Look for volunteer opportunities that offer perks in return,” Liccardo said. “Some organizations provide volunteers with free or discounted access to events, classes or services, allowing you to enjoy experiences without the associated costs.”
Housing is the average retiree’s biggest expense. If you’re willing to get creative, take some chances and think outside the box, you’ll likely be able to free up more cash in this category than any other.
The retirement site Rethinking65 recently outlined how “house hacking” can help retirees dramatically reduce their monthly expenses and, therefore, the size of the nest egg they need to live comfortably.
“Consider renting out a portion of your home or property to generate additional income,” said Roger Fishel, an independent financial advisor with 22 years of experience who focuses on retirement distribution planning. “You could rent out a spare room, a basement apartment, or even a parking space. This can help offset housing costs and provide extra cash flow.”
Renting out a spare room or space is one option. Another is taking on a roommate to split the bills or becoming someone else’s, typically a relative.
“Explore the concept of co-housing, where individuals or families live together in a shared space,” Fishel said. “This arrangement allows for cost-sharing of expenses such as housing, utilities, and even groceries. Co-housing communities often emphasize communal living, shared responsibilities, and a sense of community.”
While the dynamic has fallen out of vogue in modern times, it was traditionally commonplace for seniors to move in with adult children in America — and still is in much of the world.
“Moving in with your children when you retire is an option that some families decide is best for them,” Musson said. “It’s not standard in American culture, but in other countries, moving in with children is expected.”
Some retirees stay active and socially connected while slashing their expenses by becoming their own grocery store.
“Embrace a self-sufficient lifestyle by growing your own food, raising chickens or other livestock, and implementing energy-efficient practices,” Fishel said. “By reducing reliance on commercial goods and services, you can significantly cut down on expenses.”
In reality, most retirees don’t have the time, space, zoning permission or inclination to start a farm — but a green thumb can go a long way, even on a smaller scale.
“Cultivating a home garden can lead to substantial savings on grocery bills,” Liccardo said. “Focus on crops that are easy to store or preserve, like potatoes, onions and winter squash. Additionally, to extend their shelf life, consider freezing or canning produce such as beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, and sweet corn.”
In fact, growing your own vegetables is such a cost-effective way to procure nutritious food that the USDA allows SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase seeds and edible plants for their home gardens.
Finally, some homeowners can leverage their houses for income while still remaining in their homes for the rest of their lives.
“Reverse mortgages provide an opportunity for homeowners ages 62 and older to convert a portion of their home equity into tax-free funds, providing financial flexibility and security in retirement without the need to sell or move,” Fishel said.
Just like selling an insurance policy, there are benefits and drawbacks. While you can stay in your home, avoid a tax bill, pay off your loan and secure your retirement, your heirs could inherit less, you still have to pay property taxes and HOA fees, and reverse mortgages can be complicated and expensive.
“A reverse mortgage is one avenue that allows seniors to live in their house when they wouldn’t be able to afford it another way,” Musson said. “It’s an excellent resource for some individuals, but the reverse mortgage terms aren’t generous.”
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