According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, 24% of those 65 and older live in families that rely on Social Security benefits for 90% or more of their income. With an average monthly benefit of $1,523, retirees who rely on Social Security to cover all of their living expenses are living on a shoestring.
There are numerous discounts and perks available to seniors once they retire, allowing them to live a rich life on a limited budget. Take the necessary steps to maximize your benefits and live comfortably.
Delay Receiving Social Security Benefits
Two reasons to celebrate getting older are retiring from work and beginning to collect Social Security. Although you can begin collecting Social Security at the age of 62, your monthly benefits will be significantly higher if you wait until you reach your full retirement age, which ranges from 65 to 67 depending on your birth year.
For example, if your full retirement age is 67 but you begin collecting Social Security at 62, your benefits will be 30% lower than if you waited the extra five years. If at all possible, postpone starting to collect until you reach your full retirement age. If you wait until the age of 70 to collect Social Security, you will receive the maximum Social Security benefits.
Consider Withdrawing Your Claim If You Filed For Social Security Early
Did you claim your benefits early and are now surprised by the true costs of retirement on Social Security? If you applied for Social Security within the last year, you can withdraw your claim and reapply at a later date to increase your benefits. It is important to note, however, that if you choose to withdraw, you must repay all benefits received up to that point. Still, being able to max out your Social Security payments may be worth it in the long run.
Make a Social Security Plan Benefits for Survivors
If you are married, you should talk about how to maximize Social Security benefits if one of you dies. When one person dies, the widow or widower may receive the deceased spouse’s benefits instead of their own if the benefits are greater than what they were previously receiving. So it makes sense for the higher-earning spouse to retire later so that when two Social Security checks become one, the surviving spouse receives the maximum benefits possible.
Relocate to a Low-Cost-of-Living Area
When your cost of living is lower, your Social Security benefits will last longer. If you live in an expensive area, think about moving to a place where you can live solely on your social security check. Cities such as Tuscon, Arizona and Reno, Nevada have warm weather and plenty to do for retirees, as well as a low cost of living.
Before retiring, pay off your debts.
To maximize your Social Security benefits, pay off all debts, including credit card bills and mortgages, before retiring. This way, you can direct your benefits toward what you need on a daily basis rather than spending them on items you previously purchased.
Relocate to a Low-Taxed State
Most states and Washington, D.C. do not tax Social Security benefits, but if you live in a state with even lower taxes, you can stretch your benefits even further. According to the AARP, Alaska and New Hampshire have no sales or income taxes, while Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming have sales taxes but no state income or pension income taxes.
Find a Roommate
Splitting living expenses with a roommate or housemate is a great way to stretch your dollars further and avoid the loneliness that often comes with retirement. According to a SmartAsset study, renters who split a two-bedroom with a roommate save more than $800 per month over those who rent a one-bedroom on their own in some major cities. Even if you do not rent, having a roommate can help you save money on utilities, internet, cable, and energy.
Make the Most of Free Entertainment
You don’t have to spend any of your Social Security check to keep yourself busy and entertained. To keep yourself entertained during the day, visit a free museum or borrow a book from the library. You can also go to open mic nights at a local coffee shop or theater, where admission is usually free. Attending book readings, attending a lecture at a local college or university, and attending free outdoor concerts are all free activities.
Of course, these advantages may have to wait until states have fully recovered from the coronavirus shutdowns.
Purchase an AARP Membership
An AARP membership costs $16 per year, but the discounts can more than cover the cost of the membership. AARP members receive discounts on health and wellness expenses, restaurants, entertainment, shopping, and community memberships in addition to regular senior discounts.
Transfer to a Retirement Community
If you plan to relocate, moving into a retirement community may be less expensive than buying a new home in the area. “They’re frequently less expensive than the surrounding market homes that are open to everyone,” said retirement coach Sara Zeff Geber. Furthermore, living in a retirement community makes it easier to socialize with people your own age. However, you must be realistic about what you can afford with your Social Security check, as some luxury retirement communities can be prohibitively expensive.
Visit Restaurants That Provide Senior Discounts
You’ll be on a tight budget if you live on Social Security, but it’s okay to eat out once in a while, especially if you go to a restaurant that offers a senior discount. Many popular restaurants offer up to a 25% discount on meals for people 55 and older, including takeout. According to TheSeniorList.com, Chili’s offers a 10% senior discount every day, and Uno Pizzeria & Grill offers a 25% senior discount on Wednesdays.
Save Money While Shopping
Updating your wardrobe does not have to deplete your Social Security benefits. According to TheSeniorList.com, many major retailers offer discounts to senior shoppers: Banana Republic offers 10% off to shoppers aged 50 and up, Kohl’s offers 15% off to shoppers aged 60 and up every Wednesday, and Ross has a 10% off Tuesday deal for anyone aged 55 and up.
Don’t Pay Too for Prescriptions
Medication expenses can quickly add up. When possible, choose generic medications to save money on your prescriptions. Also, think about joining a prescription membership program where you buy your medication to get discounts and earn rewards. The Rite Aid Rx Savings Program, for example, offers members 15% off or more on medications, and a 30-day supply of most generics costs only $9.99 with the plan.
A daily walk or hike is a simple way to stay active for free. Make a morning walk around your neighborhood a part of your daily routine, or go hiking at a nearby trail to enjoy nature. Going on hikes when most people are at work saves you the trouble of dealing with crowds, allowing you to truly enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors.
Giving back to those in need is one of the best ways to feel good. Volunteer your time to a cause that is important to you; it is a cost-free way to spend your time that also benefits others.
Return to School
Tuition waivers for residents 60 and older allow seniors to take college classes for free at many local colleges and universities. Even if your local university does not provide a tuition waiver, you may be able to audit classes for free. This means you can attend all classes and lectures, but you will not receive credit for them. One advantage of auditing is that there are no exams or homework assignments to deal with.
Attempt a New Gym Class (for Free)
You might not have had time to go to the gym on a regular basis while working, but there’s no excuse now. Members of Medicare can participate in the free SilverSneakers program, which provides seniors with access to over 14,000 gyms and fitness centers across the country. You not only have full access to participating gyms, but SilverSneakers members can also take advantage of free classes at the gym and elsewhere. If you’ve never tried yoga or want to dance your way to better health, you can do so for free.
Unfortunately, this benefit may have to wait until all gyms are fully operational and safe to visit.