Retirement is probably the most expensive financial goal you'll ever have. Even if you expect a quiet life at home, you could easily spend over $500,000 in a few decades. As people live longer, it's not unreasonable to think that retirement could cost more than $2 million for some.
That's enough to get most people's stress levels up. It is a lot of money, and it's not always easy to save for, even if you have 20 or 30 years. When you don't think you can save enough for your retirement, you have two choices: You can either run out of money prematurely and live the remainder of your life dependent on the kindness of others, or you can take steps to make your retirement more affordable. Here are a few ways to do that.
1. Delay retirement
Delaying retirement is one of the best things you can do if you're concerned about running out of money in retirement. It gives you more time to save while simultaneously reducing the amount of money you need.
Say you make about $50,000 per year, and you contribute about 10% of that to your retirement. You estimate that you'll spend about the same amount annually in retirement, and you estimate that you'll need about $1 million in personal savings to cover your whole retirement. By working one extra year, you'll now only need to save $945,000 on your own. You'll need $50,000 less because you shortened your retirement by one year. During that time, you were also able to stash away an extra $5,000, ultimately reducing your retirement savings goal by $55,000.
2. Downsize or move to a more affordable city
Housing is most people's biggest expense at every stage of life. Downsizing to a smaller, more affordable home or moving to a more affordable city can bring these costs down significantly. It's not the right move in every situation, though. You may not want to move if you're really attached to your home, or if it may not turn out to be that much more affordable than staying where you are if housing costs have risen significantly in your area since you bought your current home. But if it could save you money, it's worth considering.
Downsizing or moving before you retire could help you even further because it will free up more cash that you can put toward retirement before you get there while also reducing your costs in retirement.
3. Delay Social Security
The most common age to start Social Securityis still 62, the age you first become eligible. But starting that early has serious long-term consequences for your benefits. You must wait until your full retirement age (FRA) -- 66 or 67, depending on birth year -- to get your full scheduled benefit per check. Every month you claim benefits before this reduces your checks permanently. You'll only get 70% of your scheduled benefit per check if you start at 62 and have a FRA of 67, or 75% if your FRA is 66. If you live into your mid-80s or beyond, starting early will probably reduce your lifetime benefit compared to starting at your FRA or later -- possibly by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Delaying your retirement benefits will increase your checks by two-thirds of 1% per month until you reach the maximum benefit at 70. This is 124% of your scheduled benefit per check if your FRA is 67, or 132% if your FRA is 66. You'll get fewer of these checks, but the larger amounts will help you cover more of your living expenses later on in your retirement so you don't have to rely on your personal savings as much.
4. Take care of your health
Healthcare costs typically go up as you age, and a single major expense can take a huge bite out of your retirement savings. You can't protect against every possible health emergency, but you can prioritize your health at every age to reduce your risk of illness. Exercise regularly, eat nutritiously, and develop healthy ways of managing your stress levels.
You should also make sure you have adequate health insurance in case a medical situation does arise. Medicare will cover some of your expenses, but there are others it doesn't cover at all, and some it only covers partially. A Medicare supplement insurance policy can help fill in some of these gaps, though it's another monthly expense you'll have to pay for. But it may still be cheaper than paying for large medical expenses entirely on your own.
5. Take advantage of senior discounts and government benefits
Senior discounts can help you save on everyday expenses, like utilities, clothing, dining out, and more. It doesn't hurt to ask companies or check their policies to see if they offer discounts to seniors. It might only save you a few dollars, but every little bit counts.
Low-income seniors may also qualify for government assistance programs to help with housing, food, healthcare, and other basic living expenses. It's best to check into these programs early if you're worried about running out of retirement savings. If you qualify, you can use these sources first and draw down your retirement savings more slowly so they last longer.
Retirement might never be cheap, but you can make it a little more affordable by planning carefully now and in retirement to reduce your costs. Start with the five strategies above, and always be on the lookout for other money-saving opportunities.