Retirement is an expensive time of life. Not only do you need money to travel or indulge your hobbies, but you can also expect to incur high healthcare costs.
Naturally, you want to be flush with cash as a senior so you can enjoy your golden years. And the good news is, there are some steps you can take to boost the income you'll have available to you as a retiree -- no matter how old you are right now. Here are five of them to consider.
1. Boost your savings rate
For most people, retirement income comes from two sources: Social Security and savings. Because of this, increasing your savings rate can make a huge difference in the amount of money you have as a retiree.
Say you have 25 years until you retire. If you can increase the amount you're saving by just $1,000 per year and you earn an 8% return, that $1,000 alone could give you close to $75,000 extra in your retirement account. If you follow the 4% rule -- which says you can safely withdraw 4% of your balance -- the extra $75,000 in your account would mean $3,000 more in annual income. That's enough to fund a pretty nice vacation.
The more you can increase your savings, the fatter your retirement accounts will be and the more you can enjoy your life of leisure after leaving the workforce. Check out our tips on three easy ways to boost your retirement savings to get some ideas on how to do it.
2. Choose a Roth IRA or 401(k)
When you invest in tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts, you'll have a choice of a Roth or a traditional account.
If you choose a traditional account, you get a tax break in the year in which you contribute money. Some people are therefore able to contribute more to a traditional account, because they get some of that money back in a tax refund. When you take the money out in retirement, though, you're taxed on withdrawals as ordinary income.
If you opt for a Roth, instead, you'll get your tax break as a senior. Since you contribute to your account with after-tax dollars, you don't have to pay any taxes on your withdrawals, so you'll keep more of your money for your own needs. If you make a $20,000 withdrawal, it'll provide $20,000 in income, whereas if you were taxed on it, you'd be left with less.
Choosing a Roth can also allow you to reduce or avoid taxes on Social Security benefits. These benefits are taxed only once your income hits a certain threshold. While distributions from a traditional IRA or 401(k) count as income for purposes of determining if Social Security is taxable, income from a Roth doesn't count.
3. Maximize your Social Security benefits
Social Security is the other important source of retirement income besides your savings. It's also guaranteed for life and protected against inflation, which makes it an especially valuable source of income. Because of that, it makes sense to maximize the benefits you receive .
You can do this by making sure you work at least 35 years -- and sometimes longer. That's because the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a formula to determine your benefit amount that factors in your average earnings for your 35 highest-earning years after adjusting for inflation.
If you haven't got a 35-year work history, your average will be dragged down by some years of $0 wages. And if you're earning more at the end of your career than the beginning, you could boost your average by working longer so early low-earning years are replaced by higher ones from later years.
You'll also want to understand how your age when you file affects your benefits. If you retire at full retirement age, you'll get your standard benefit. If you retire before, you'll get a smaller check. And if you wait until after, benefits increase for each month you delay up until age 70.
Filing as late as possible means larger monthly checks, but you have to live long enough to break even for the benefits you could have gotten if you'd filed earlier. Consider your health status and family health history when choosing whether filing early or late makes sense for you.
4. Cut your retirement tax bill
Some states tax your Social Security and pension while others don't. If you can eliminate or reduce state tax by moving to a more tax-friendly state for retirees, you'll keep more of your money. This is one of the best ways to boost your retirement income if you're already retired and have already claimed Social Security.
5. Get a part-time (or full-time) gig
Finally, you can increase your retirement income by earning money during retirement. If you can find part-time or full-time work, the paycheck will give you cash to live on now and allow you to draw less from your savings so you have more money later when you get too old to work.
If you've already reached full retirement age, you can work as much as you want without affecting your Social Security benefits. But if you've claimed benefits early and earn too much, your checks could get reduced if your earnings are above certain annual limits. This guide to working while on Social Security explains how the benefits reduction works if you earn too much. You do get the money back later in the form of larger benefit checks, so this could help you out in later years.
It's never too late to increase your retirement income
When you're still young and working, you have lots of options for increasing retirement income. And even if you're already in retirement, you can still take steps to have more money. Just pick which of these tips works for you and put it into practice so you can have the money you need to enjoy life as a retiree.