Retirement Savings: 6 Sources of Income Retirees Often Forget About

By definition, when you retire, you lose your primary source of income. Without a job, you’ll have to cobble together sufficient income to fund your retirement from a variety of sources.

Typically, retirees live off some combination of their former employer’s 401(k) plan and their Social Security payments. But there are a number of common sources of income that get overlooked by retirees, and in some cases, these can add up to big money that might otherwise be simply left on the table. To avoid coming up short in your retirement, don’t overlook these sources of income that retirees often forget about. 

Orphaned 401(k) Plans

While you may be relying on your primary 401(k) plan to provide a significant amount of your retirement income, don’t forget to consider any orphaned 401(k) plans that may have your name on them.

Oftentimes, 401(k) plans get forgotten by workers who leave one job for another, particularly if the account balance is relatively small. While standard operating procedure is to transfer a 401(k) from an old employer to a new one, sometimes these balances are simply forgotten about. If your employer maintained your balances and a significant amount of time has passed since you switched jobs, you might be surprised to find that this “orphaned” money has grown into a fairly substantial sum.

Are You Retirement Ready?

Social Security Spousal or Survivor Benefits

Most retirees look forward to enjoying Social Security retirement benefits after they stop working. But there’s a chance you may be entitled to even larger benefits than you qualified for on your own work record.

For example, if you are married to a spouse who earns significantly more than you do, you might be entitled to Social Security spousal benefits that pay you even more. The same is true if your spouse dies, in which case you might earn Social Security survivor benefits. Even if you are divorced, you may still be entitled to these benefits, as long as you were married for at least 10 years.

Old Pensions

Pensions, to a large degree, have gone the way of the dodo. Only a handful of large corporations still run pension programs, with most having switched to defined contribution plans like 401(k)s.

However, if you used to work for a company with a pension plan — or even an employer that ultimately switched from a pension to a 401(k) plan — you may still have some pension benefits just waiting for you to claim.


For some investors, the stock market is all they have ever known. Some may be unfamiliar with the idea that a retirement account can hold a wide range of investments, not just growth stocks.

Rather than riding the ups and downs of the stock market and trying to capture capital gains in your retirement account, you can switch that money into bonds or other income-generating investments. If you don’t want to totally abandon your stocks, you can buy dividend-paying stocks, which carry the double benefit of providing income for retirees while carrying less volatility.

Are You Retirement Ready?

Real Estate

If you own your own home, you may not be accustomed to thinking of it as a potential source of income. But many retirees don’t need all the space they have in their homes, and renting out a room or two can generate a significant amount of cash flow.

If you don’t feel like sharing part of your home with others, you may be able to pull equity out of your home in the form of a home equity loan, a reverse mortgage, or a cash-out refinancing. It’s important to understand the tax and liability concerns of all of these options, however, so be sure to speak with a financial advisor and a real estate expert before you make any moves. 


While you certainly can’t rely on an inheritance to fund your retirement, it’s also important to not overlook any money someone decides to leave to you. Whether your parents, a good friend or a distant relative, you may receive some money in the form of a bequest that you can tuck away and use for your retirement expenses.

Even a “small” inheritance in the form of a few thousand dollars can be a helpful boost to your nest egg. If you’re fortunate enough to receive an inheritance worth six figures or more, it’s time to call a financial advisor for assistance.

More From GOBankingRates

Are You Retirement Ready?


See Today's Best
Banking Offers