4 Big Ways to Stretch Your Retirement Funds

They're coming. Your golden years, that is.

If you're like most Americans, you may be concerned that your retirement savings aren't on track. A poll conducted last month by Gallup revealed that 59 percent of respondents worry about not having enough money for retirement, making it the most cited worry in the survey.

Unfortunately for those nearing retirement, there may be too little time left to fully address a savings shortfall, and small lifestyle changes -- such as clipping coupons and eating out less -- may not be enough to make a real difference.

If it seems inevitable that you'll arrive at retirement with way less in savings than you should, these serious methods for stretching your dollars may help you avoid more painful changes to your lifestyle.

1. Delaying Social Security
If you're worried about your ability to meet basic expenses in retirement, the first move you should consider is delaying when you start drawing your Social Security retirement benefits.

"Hold off on claiming Social Security if you can," says Tracy Ann Miller, CEO of Portfolio Wealth Advisors in Oklahoma City. "You are eligible at age 62, but deferring your payments can boost your checks down the road. Even waiting four years to collect Social Security could make a difference of about $300 per month."

It may seem counterintuitive that not collecting Social Security can stretch your retirement money, but it's true. In your mid-60s, you are more likely to be able to continue working part-time, if needed, to sustain your lifestyle. Then, when you are ready to call it quits for good, you can start collecting Social Security and receive significantly more per month than you would have had you started at a younger age.

Some choose the approach of filing for benefits at their full retirement age and immediately suspending them, which allows their eventual monthly payments to continue to grow until age 70 while enabling their spouses to claim spouse's benefits in the meantime. But this strategy has recently come under fire from critics in Congress, so retirees who want to try it may want to hurry.

2. Downsizing your house and toys
If you want your retirement money to last as long as possible, you need to stop using it to maintain homes and items that aren't essential to your current lifestyle.

"I always force people to look at their expenses," says Nick Scheumann, a wealth advisor with Hefty Wealth Partners in Auburn, Indiana, when asked how he advises those nearing retirement age.

Homes that were perfect for a family full of kids may be extravagant and unnecessary for empty-nesters. When no one is working, two cars may no longer be needed, and if it's been years since you've gone to the lake, it could be time to sell the boat.

Scheumann recommends pre-retirees conduct a dress rehearsal of their retirement a few years before they quit their jobs. By living only on their expected retirement income, they can figure out in advance if they need to make any serious adjustments. Plus, they can put the remaining money from their paychecks into savings to beef up their cash reserves.

3. Stopping handouts to the kids
If you're approaching retirement with thin reserves, it's critical to stop acting as your adult children's personal bank.

"I see a lot of my clients underestimate the effect of giving money to their kids," says Miller. "Even $100 here or there can eat into your savings, and you may have to alter your lifestyle in retirement."

If you have adult children you know need money and you feel obligated to help, budget a specific amount. When they hit the limit, be direct and tell them you are simply out of cash to share for the month. Also, be wary of boomerang children who come home and overstay their welcome.

"If your adult children move back home, ask them to pay rent," advises Miller.

4. Getting moving and eating your veggies
The last way to stretch your retirement fund has nothing to do with money management. Instead, it's about making smart lifestyle choices that will keep you healthy -- and out of the doctor's office.

"Healthcare is one of the biggest expenses in retirement," says Miller. "It will cost the average couple about $250,000. Eating a balanced diet and exercising can help cut down on out-of-pocket medical expenses."

But if there's still time...
If you're not on the doorstep of retirement, simply increasing your savings effort may allow you to sidestep these moves and still live comfortably. Be sure to take full advantage of your employer-based retirement plan (particularly if your employer matches your contributions) and other tax-advantaged retirement accounts, and considering saving even more in additional savings accounts if possible.

Then, if you decide to make these changes anyway, those extra funds will simply be there to help you enjoy your retirement even more.

This article 4 Big Ways to Stretch Your Retirement Funds originally appeared on

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Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 18, 2014, at 9:36 AM, greyhound44 wrote:

    What BS from the financial SO CALLED ADVISER IDIOTS at MF!!!!!!!

    I sold my 1st house in Rockville, MD in 1975; sold my second in San Diego (University City) in May 1980; sold my 3rd (nearly 25 years) in Dallas in 2004; my next after 25 months here for a combined un taxed net US$1.9MM + capital gain!!!

    I live in a $US1MM 6500 sq ft house.

    Sure, I saved every tax advantaged dime and lots more - my IRA(s) were valued at just under US$2MM on 31 Dec 2013.

    My net worth is high 7's/low 8''s on any given day.

    How many of these IDIOT financial advisers can honestly say that"???

    Useless garbage!!!!!

    retired expatriate (11 years in Conde Nast's 2013 "Worlld's Best City" ) MD: NBME: ABIM: ABNM: ABR w/spec comp NR

  • Report this Comment On May 18, 2014, at 12:49 PM, msnega wrote:

    This is good advice. Especially the eating the veggies part. So many people I know have retired and carry a bag full of pills. At our retirement seminar the speaker said 65% of the retirees take seven pills a day. And don't be like greyhound44, he comments on how much he has but he is one angry bird.

  • Report this Comment On May 19, 2014, at 3:55 AM, Riggerwo wrote:

    A lot of folks take SSN early because they have no savings..period. So my # 1 and #2 are these.

    1: Live within your means

    2: Retire debt free..own your home, no credit card balances.

    Today people spend more time planning vacations than retirement. In order to cut medical bills you need to be eating right and exercising in you 30's and 40's..not when you that time the damage is done!

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