Spending your golden years on a fixed income can make it challenging to afford life's necessities. That's why many retirees keep looking for ways to boost their incomes; even modest gains can help to create much-needed wiggle room in one's budget.
With that in mind, here's are three ways seniors can make their finances more secure.
1. Buy dividend paying stocks
In today's low-interest rate environment, it is harder than ever to generate regular income from your nest egg. That's why many retirees are warming up to the idea of owning dividend-paying stocks. However, dividend payments are never guaranteed, so it makes sense to be extremely picky about which ones you choose to buy.
One easy solution is to forgo buying individual stocks altogether and invest in exchange-traded funds instead. Because ETFs offer broad diversification, they mitigate the risk that comes with owning individual stocks.
One great ETF to consider is the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (NYSEMKT:VYM). This fund holds a diverse collection of more than 400 stocks, and it offers up a market-beating dividend yield of 3.2%. Like most Vanguard products it is dirt cheap to own, sporting an expense ratio of only 0.09%. That's a compelling combination that many retirees will likely find attractive.
2. Maximize your Social Security checks
It goes without saying that Social Security plays a huge role in providing U.S. retirees with income. That makes it imperative to know all the methods by which you can maximize your payout.
Start by making sure you fully understand how monthly benefits are calculated. Here's a quick look at how that process works:
First, the Social Security Administration looks at your lifetime earnings history, indexed annually for inflation. Next, the highest 35 years of income are used to compute your average monthly income. From there, they apply a formula that calculates a number called the "primary insurance amount" -- the monthly payment the worker would recieve assuming they file for benefits at full retirement age.
Once you understand this calculation, you'll realize that it is crucial to have at least 35 working years on record. For every year that you come up short, the government will substitute a $0, which will reduce the payout. Thus, if your work history shows a year or more of no income and you have a good paying job, then it might make sense to delay your retirement to make sure you get the biggest payout possible.
Another strategy to consider is waiting until age 70 before you to start claiming benefits. The reason is that for every year beyond your full retirement age that you wait your monthly check will grow by about 8%. That means that delaying collections until age 70 will result in monthly checks that are about 24% bigger than they would have been had you started collecting at age 67.
Of course, there are downsides to waiting that need to be considered, so make sure you do the math to figure out which strategy best fits your situation.
3. Take a part-time job
For some, the ideal retirement involves sipping margaritas on a beach or playing endless rounds of golf, so the suggestion to take on a part-time job might sound highly unappealing. However, there are so many benefits to continuing to work that I'd still urge you give this suggestion a hard look.
The most obvious benefit is that it will provide you with some income. Even taking in as little as a $1,000 a month can go a long way toward balancing your retirement budget. In addition, it will reduce the need to draw on your nest egg, allowing your money even more time to continue its compound growth.
Beyond the financial gains, research shows that working later in life can be good for your health, too. A study by the Institute of Economic Affairs found that retirees who don't work have a 40% greater chance of developing clinical depression. They also face a 60% greater risk of developing at least one physical disorder when compared to those who continue to work.
One explanation for these findings is that work provides a strong social outlet, which can help to stave off boredom. That's especially true for seniors that lack the resources to travel. Some jobs also require physical and mental strength, which can help to keep them active.
Those are compelling reasons to find a part-time job, so this is an idea that I think many retirees should seriously consider.