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5 Steps You Can Take to Avoid Being Cash-Strapped in Retirement

By Maurie Backman - Jun 23, 2019 at 7:04AM

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These key moves could help you avoid money worries later in life.

Many workers worry about not having enough money in retirement, and that's certainly a valid concern. If you have a fear of struggling financially during your golden years despite making a solid effort to save, make these moves to lower those chances.

1. Don't rely too heavily on Social Security

An estimated 21% of married couples and 44% of unmarried seniors today count on Social Security to provide 90% or more of their income. The problem, however, is that Social Security was never designed to sustain seniors mostly or solely by itself.

If you were an average earner, those benefits will replace about 40% of your former income -- but you probably need roughly double that sum to live comfortably in retirement. Therefore, plan on having income sources outside of Social Security -- namely, money in an IRA or 401(k).

Senior couple reading a magazine on a sofa.


2. But boost those benefits as much as you can

Your Social Security benefits are calculated based on your 35 highest-paid years in the workforce, and once you reach full retirement age, you can claim them in full. That age is either 66, 67, or 66 and a certain number of months, depending on your year of birth.

However, you're allowed to delay those benefits past full retirement age. In doing so, you can score an annual 8% raise up until age 70, at which point that incentive runs out. Any increase you snag for your benefits will remain in effect for the rest of your life, so if you're worried about having enough money in retirement, waiting until age 70 to file is a good way to guarantee an income boost.

3. House your savings in a Roth IRA or 401(k)

Saving in any type of retirement plan is a good way to provide a stream of income to your future self. But if you want to stretch that money further in retirement, sock that money away in a Roth IRA or 401(k). Though Roth accounts don't offer an immediate tax break on contributions, once you fund one, your money gets to grow tax-free. Just as important, your money is then yours to withdraw free and clear of taxes in retirement.

Imagine you retire with a $500,000 nest egg. With a traditional IRA or 401(k), you'd lose a portion of that money to the IRS in retirement, but with a Roth account, you get to keep that balance in full.

4. Start a business or monetize a hobby

The great thing about being retired is having free time on your hands -- so why not use it to buy yourself a little financial security? If you're willing to start your own business or turn a hobby you enjoy into a money-making opportunity, you can fill your days in a meaningful way and boost your income simultaneously. Talk about a win-win.

5. Rethink your lifestyle

Many people run into financial trouble during retirement because they continue spending the way they did when they had a full-time paycheck. If you're planning to maintain your existing expenses once retirement kicks off, you may want to rethink that plan and see about cutting back.

For example, you may not need a larger home once your grown kids have moved out. And if you're married, you and your spouse might manage to get by with one car, not two, if you don't have separate jobs to drive to daily. Think about the things you can do to minimize your senior living expenses, because chances are, a few changes won't necessarily impede your quality of life.

You deserve a retirement devoid of financial stress, and these moves could be your ticket. The more thought you put into retirement, the greater your chances will be of having enough money throughout it.

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