You need personal savings for a shot at a secure retirement -- there's no question about it. While your Social Security benefits will no doubt come in handy during your senior years, they'll only replace about 40% of your previous paycheck, and chances are, that's not going to cut it for you. In fact, the average beneficiary today collects about $18,000 a year, and even if you're willing to live frugally in retirement, you'll probably need more income than that to maintain a reasonable standard of living.

But what if you're nearing retirement and your nest egg isn't looking all that robust? As a general rule, it's wise to retire with about 10 times your ending salary socked away, but the average household aged 56 to 61 had just $163,577 in savings as of a couple of years ago. That's better than nothing, but it's also hardly a lot of money in the course of what could be a 20-year retirement or longer.

Older man and woman sitting on couch, holding small pieces of paper with other papers on table in front of them


If you're nearing your golden years without much savings, the good news is that there are several things you can do to compensate -- and avoid struggling financially at a time when you're supposed to be enjoying life. Here are a few moves to start with.

1. Delay your Social Security benefits

We just learned that Social Security can't fund your retirement by itself, but the more you boost your monthly benefits, the less financial stress you'll have. You're entitled to your full monthly benefit based on your earnings history once you reach full retirement age, which is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between, depending on your year of birth. But if you delay your filing past full retirement age, you can boost your benefits by 8% a year, up until you turn 70, thereby leaving you with a much higher payment each month.

2. Work part-time

After spending a lifetime in the workforce, the idea of earning an income in retirement may not sound appealing. But if you're short on retirement savings, you may not have much choice. That said, working in retirement isn't what it used to be. You're no longer limited to boring, frustrating customer service or retail jobs. Rather, you can join the gig economy and do something you enjoy on your own schedule, whether it's caring for animals, house-sitting, driving for a rideshare company, or even starting a new business.

3. Downsize your home

Housing is the typical American's greatest monthly expense, and that often holds true for retirees as well. If you're sitting on a larger home, downsizing could free up money for you in a number of ways, making it possible to live comfortably on low savings. For one thing, you can sell your home at a profit, spend some of your proceeds to buy a new place to live, and use the rest of that money as ongoing income. Additionally, since it costs less to maintain and power a smaller home than a larger one, you can lower your recurring expenses by moving someplace with less square footage.

4. Monetize your home

If you don't want to downsize your home, or doing so just isn't feasible, then you still have options -- namely, you can take in a tenant and enjoy the monthly rental income that comes with it. Renting out a portion of your home is more than feasible if you have a finished basement, garage, or another area that lends to privacy and separation.

Kicking off retirement without a hefty savings balance isn't ideal, but if that's the scenario you're in, don't assume all is lost. Instead, take these steps to generate the additional income you'll no doubt need.