Retirement means different things to different people. You might plan to spend your days on the golf course while your neighbor rocks the days away on his covered front porch. Regardless of your goals, when you’re living on a fixed income, money is a common concern. Here’s how to make do with the funds you have, and still experience all the promise of your golden years.
Social Security and You
Social Security is a valuable economic cornerstone for budget-conscious seniors. But you may not be aware that you don’t have to draw only your Social Security. Under certain circumstances, you can receive your spouse’s, or even ex’s, benefits instead. As long as you were married for at least a decade – and have not remarried – Zacks explains you might qualify for your ex-spouse’s benefits.
In order to take advantage of this boost, you must have reached the minimum retirement age; your spouse or former spouse’s age does not matter. While you will only receive half of their entitlement, if it’s more than what you qualify for based on your own work history, this is a potential way to increase your monthly income.
Even if you can’t increase your monthly Social Security, you may be able to lower your recurring expenses. Your automobile insurance is a prime example. Contact your insurance agent to find out if you are getting all of the discounts you deserve, or if you have the right amount of coverage.
If you aren’t happy with your current provider, or if you’re just ready to find a better deal, look for policies that offer price breaks for things like being a responsible driver, installing a security alarm, or driving less than the equivalent of 1000 miles each month. By comparing multiple quotes you can ensure that you have at least your state’s minimum coverage, while potentially saving hundreds of dollars each year.
Like your car insurance, health insurance costs are not the same from person-to-person. If you are receiving Medicare, you are not obligated to stick with the Original plan. During certain times of the year, you can select an alternative policy that may provide better coverage. Regardless of the type of Medicare plan you elect, contact a Senior Health Insurance Assists Program (SHIP) representative to make sure you are getting the most out of your benefits. Seniors Resource Guide notes that SHIP counseling is free of charge and is available in all states.
Reverse the Situation
Moving into a smaller home makes sense for many seniors, reducing expenses and home care in one fell swoop. However, if you have lived in the same home for many years, you might not want to leave. Thankfully, there are other ways to ease financial strain.
One suggestion is to consider a reverse mortgage, which is essentially the process of the bank buying your home from you. The biggest difference between this and a traditional selling situation is that you live in the home. Depending on your arrangement, you receive a monthly income or lump sum, which you can choose to pay back or simply allow the bank to claim ownership when you die. You’ll still have to pay your utilities, HOA dues, and taxes, but instead of writing a check to the bank every month, you’ll receive a check that you can use as needed.
Beyond your mortgage, you still have lots of other expenses that you can evaluate. If you find you’re spending too much on food, for example, you can cut your grocery bill simply by taking advantage of seasonal foods. Entertainment is another area worth examining. Utilize parks, libraries, and your local senior center for activities instead of paid memberships to a fitness center or country club.
You can comfortably without sacrificing everything you love. Start by looking at your Social Security benefits, and don’t be afraid to change health or auto insurance providers to save money. When you have ample home equity, a reverse mortgage is a smart way to supplement your income. With a few small changes, your retirement years can shine!
ABOUT THE GUEST AUTHOR:
Hazel Bridges is the creator of AgingWellness.org, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor. She challenges herself to live life to the fullest and inspire others to do so as well.