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6 Unexpected Sources of Retirement Income

By Catherine Brock – Sep 20, 2020 at 8:30AM

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No cash on hand to invest in dividend-paying stocks or rental properties? Try these six income sources that don't require a big cash outlay.

Retirement should be your time to relax and enjoy life, without alarm clocks and meetings. Unfortunately, saying goodbye to your boss also involves saying goodbye to your paycheck.

If you haven't already saved ample funds to a 401(k), IRA, Health Savings Account, or a regular old savings account, you may be nervous about making ends meet. Social Security certainly isn't going to cover your lifestyle on its own. And it's tough to whip up dividend income, rental property income, or business income without a large cash outlay. The good news is, there are ways to raise money in retirement, even when you don't have investable cash. Here are six of them.

Senior man putting money into a piggy bank.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Your home

There's a lot of value tied up in your home, and a variety of ways to turn that value into cash. If you don't mind giving up some privacy, you could rent out a room on a long-term or short-term basis. Try advertising your space to prospective long-term tenants on Zillow Rental Manager or Avail. Or, find short-term renters with listings on Airbnb or VRBO.

You could also look into a reverse mortgage, which gives you cash in return for your home equity. Or you could sell your home outright and downsize to a smaller, cheaper residence. If your current home is already paid off, you can pocket the difference in cash. If you still owe on your mortgage, use the transaction to repay that balance and buy a new home with the remaining proceeds. Even if you don't have much cash left after closing, you will have eliminated your mortgage payment -- which can feel like a boost to your income.

2. Your life insurance

Your life insurance is another potential store of value. If you have a permanent life policy that accumulates cash value, you should be able to borrow against your policy. Life insurance loans generally carry competitive interest rates and have no specific repayment requirements. If you don't pay the loan back, your insurer will likely deduct the balance from the death benefit payout.

Or, if you don't want or need the life insurance anymore, you could either surrender the policy or sell it by way of a life settlement. Surrendering the policy can generate income when your life insurance has accumulated cash value in excess of any surrender fees. But if you are over 65 and your policy qualifies, a life settlement may be the more lucrative option. Either approach relieves you of the responsibility of the premium payments going forward.

3. Your closet or basement

Chances are, you have stuff sitting around your home that you don't need. Books, clothes, jewelry, electronics, and even furniture are all sources of cash. There are websites and apps that specialize in certain types of goods, like Poshmark for clothes. Or, you can try a general marketplace like the Mercari app for all your shippable goods. Find local buyers for your larger items, like nightstands and bed frames, on Facebook or the LetGo app.

4. Your car

With a reliable vehicle and valid driver's license, you can earn income delivering people, packages, and food. Ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft are the best-known options, but there are many others. Roadie and Favor, for example, pay you to deliver packages. You can also run groceries for Shipt and Instacart. Or, transport food for DoorDash and Grubhub. All of these platforms let you set your own working hours.

5. Your skills

If you feel comfortable working online, lean on your professional skills to pick up paying freelance work. Writing, graphic design, data entry, bookkeeping, teaching, and programming are all marketable skills that you can promote on websites like Fiverr and Upwork.

You could also look for consulting work in an industry you know. It might take only a few phone calls to former colleagues to turn up some opportunities.

6. Your hobbies

Some creative thinking could turn your favorite hobby into an income stream, too. If you are crafty, you can sell handmade goods on Etsy. Or maybe you're an amateur photographer. In that case, license your best photos on sites like ShutterStock and DepositPhotos. You can also sell personal stylist consultations, astrology readings, relationship advice, and even cooking lessons on Fiverr.

Your assets, skills, and hobbies are marketable

Whether you're facing an ongoing income shortfall or you'd like extra cash to fund nicer vacations, you have options. Big-ticket items like your home or life insurance can raise tens of thousands of dollars, or you can create smaller income streams by selling household goods you don't need and offering your services for pay. If you don't like the idea of working, even on a freelance basis, brainstorm how to monetize your favorite hobby. That way, at least you're making money doing something you love.

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Catherine Brock has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Etsy and Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends Uber Technologies. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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