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How Your Spending Is Likely to Change as a Retiree

By Christy Bieber – Jun 5, 2020 at 6:59AM

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Healthcare expenses go up; transportation costs go down.

When planning for retirement, it's important to know how much income you'll need to live on. Estimating this can be hard, though, because you aren't likely to continue spending on the same things you're buying when you're working. 

In fact, your spending habits as a retiree can change in important ways that you need to know about when setting your retirement savings goals.

To help you better understand where your money is likely to go in your later years, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) provided some data on the changes seniors usually make to their expenditures after leaving the workforce. 

Older couple sitting on a bench at the beach.

Image source: Getty Images.

Spending changes you'll probably make in your later years

It's long been accepted wisdom that spending tends to fall in retirement, and EBRI data backed that up. While average spending among pre-retirees ages 50 to 64 was about $54,500 in 2017, spending during that same year among early retirees ages 65 to 74 was around $50,400. And spending falls even further the older you get, with retirees age 75 and older spending an average of just $39,500 annually. 

What you're spending on is also likely to change, although not as much as you might think. Housing spending stayed pretty stable, for example, accounting for 46% of expenditures among pre-retirees and late retirees but dropping to 45% for early retirees. And spending on food also didn't change, with average spending among each age group adding up to about 11%. 

Unsurprisingly, healthcare accounted for a bigger portion of spending as people aged. While pre-retirees devoted about 8% of their money to cover medical costs, healthcare accounted for 10% of household spending among retirees between the ages of 65 and 74, and 11% of spending among those 75 and older. Unfortunately, when healthcare spending costs increase, you don't usually have a choice (and they can be substantial)

And while transportation costs fell from 14% before retirement to 12% in early retirement to 10% in late retirement, travel and entertainment expenditures predictably went up and then down. Pre-retirees devoted 10% of their money to vacation, dining, and arts, and early retirees bumped that up to 11%. But late in retirement, spending on these leisure pursuits dropped to just 8%, likely as health issues kicked in and vacations became fewer and farther between. 

Finally, spending on clothes stayed steady, which may come as a surprise once you're no longer buying office gear. And charitable contributions and gifts stayed the same among pre-retirees and early retirees but went up after age 75, likely as older retirees began considering their legacy. 

Be prepared for your spending as a senior

As you plan for retirement, estimating your expenses is important to ensure you have enough income to live on. As you can see, many of the things you'll pay for in your later years, such as healthcare and housing, aren't optional. And spending on some of the essentials only goes up as you get older.

You don't want to risk running out of money when you need it to cover vital medical care late in retirement, so having a big-enough nest egg is key to ensuring your needs are met for the rest of your life. Saving and investing throughout your career and budgeting carefully as a senior are the best ways to make sure you have enough. 

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