You'll often hear that Social Security won't pay you enough money to cover your bills in full. The reality is that some seniors do manage to pay all of their living expenses with their monthly Social Security benefits.
But what sort of lifestyle are those seniors living? Chances are, it's a pretty frugal one. In fact, if you end up retiring on Social Security alone, you may be forced to give up the following things.
1. A more comfortable home
Even if you enter retirement with your mortgage already paid off, you may find that a larger home becomes more and more expensive to own over time. First of all, property taxes have a tendency to rise through the years, so that particular bill could climb, even if the value of your home doesn't fluctuate all that much.
Additionally, as homes age, they tend to require more maintenance. And they also tend to need costly repairs. Those expenses may be too much for you if the only income source you have access to is Social Security. As such, if you retire on those benefits alone, you may be forced to downgrade or downsize.
To be clear, downsizing a home in retirement isn't necessarily a bad move. For many seniors, it makes sense. But if you'd rather live in a larger home -- or keep the home you've owned for years -- then you may need income outside of Social Security to make that happen.
Many seniors aim to travel extensively once they don't have a job to report to daily. But travel can be expensive, and if your only income source is Social Security, you may be limited to local trips or places you can access by vehicle.
Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it may not align with the goals you set for yourself.
3. Engaging hobbies
Some seniors enjoy low-cost hobbies like gardening or baking. And to be clear, there are plenty of ways to stay busy in retirement without spending a fortune.
But some of the things you like to do may cost a lot more money, and if you only have Social Security to fall back on, you may have to forgo them. Playing golf, for example, is hardly an inexpensive prospect. And if you love growing your knowledge, even the cost of classes at a community college could prove too expensive for your budget if you're heavily reliant on Social Security.
Don't sell yourself short in retirement
The retirement you've always dreamed of having could end up looking very different if your income is limited to Social Security. The average senior today, in fact, collects just $1,557 a month in benefits.
If you want to avoid having to give up on the things that could make you happy as a senior, do your best to save independently for retirement so you can supplement your Social Security income. Even if you only manage to sock away $100 a month in an IRA or 401(k) plan, if you do so over 30 years, you'll end up with about $136,000 if your investments deliver an average annual 8% return, which is a bit below the stock market's average. And that could give you more freedom.
There's nothing wrong with planning to live very frugally during retirement, and frugal living doesn't have to mean being miserable. But if you want to open the door to more financial flexibility during retirement, make sure Social Security isn't your only source of income.