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One scary part of retirement is knowing you could have 30 more years in front of you but only a limited amount of cash available to pay for them. How do you make sure your retirement account doesn’t run dry before you say your final goodbye?
Well, there are no guarantees, but here are 15 strategies you can use to stretch your money — however little or much you have — over the decades to come.
1. Budget, budget, budget
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Ugh. This is no fun, right?
You may not want to spend your free time working on a budget, but there is no better way to make your money last than to be intentional about its use. Without a spending plan, you could find yourself running through your cash in no time. Your retirement adviser can help you, or you can use our “4 Rules for Creating a Painless Budget.”
The good news is that the digital age has made it easier than ever to keep track of money coming and going. One of our favorite tools for doing this is an app called YouNeedABudget, which allows you to assign every dollar to a job. YNAB offers a free 34-day trial so you can see how it works for you. See also: “Quit Living Paycheck to Paycheck: This Tool Makes It Easy to Save.”
2. Embrace senior discounts
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Senior discounts are one of the best parts of getting older. Once you hit a certain age — often 55 or 60 — you can start getting discounted meals, travel, tickets and more. Use these reduced prices to make your money last longer in retirement.
Check out our list of 50 of the best senior discounts around.
3. Move to a smaller house
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Once the kids are gone, you might not need so much space. Consider downsizing to a smaller home. You could find your maintenance, utilities and tax bills all get smaller as well.
4. Relocate to a less expensive area
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Or you could take moving to an extreme and change states, or even countries.
Some states, like Florida, are known for being tax-friendly and can help keep your money out of the government’s pockets. Others, such as Missouri and Kansas, are known for their low cost of living. Either way, such locations help you stretch your money in retirement. We’ve got a list of the best and worst states for retirement that takes into account taxes, cost of living and other factors.
Some retirees leave the country completely. They opt for places like Mexico or Panama, where even small retirement savings can translate into comfortable living thanks to cheap prices or a favorable exchange rate.
For more ideas, check out: “Your Beachside Bar and 11 Other Ways to Fund a Dream Retirement Abroad.”
5. Sell what you don’t need
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You can add to your retirement war chest by selling the items you no longer use. Maybe your camping days are done, or you decide woodworking is a hobby that will never take off. And all those Disney movies? Probably not essential in this phase of your life. Keep a couple for when the grandkids visit and make some money off the rest.
Garage sales, local Facebook groups and Craigslist classifieds are all places to sell your excess for cash. However, you’ll also want to read our suggestions of where to get top dollar for your stuff.
6. Get the things you do need for cheap
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When you do need to buy things, you’ve got the advantage of having more free time to search for a deal. Scour garage sales, classified ads and second-hand stores for steals on what you want.
If you’d rather buy new, don’t forget to follow the golden rules to saving on absolutely everything.
7. Become a one-car household
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Speaking of things you no longer need, is it really essential to have two cars after you retire? Sure it’s nice to have the freedom to go to one place while your spouse goes to another, but is the convenience worth the extra car payment, insurance, maintenance and registration fees?
Your money will stretch further in retirement if you’re not using it on a vehicle you drive only occasionally.
8. Refinance or consolidate your debts
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In a perfect world, you’d have your debts paid off before retirement. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in the real world.
If you have debt, you can save money by lowering your interest rates. For example, you may be able to move balances from high-interest credit cards to one with a low introductory rate. (.) Just be sure that any balance transfer fee isn’t more than what you’ll save.
You could also get a debt consolidation loan that could combine all your debt into a single payment at a lower rate. However, if you do, heed Stacy Johnson’s advice and make sure you understand the cause of your debt and make sure you have a plan to avoid digging yourself another debt hole in the future.
9. Travel wisely
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When you don’t have to plan vacations around work or school schedules, a whole world of travel savings opens for you. Travel in the off-season to get great deals and avoid the crowds. Or be spontaneous and go wherever the daily deals take you.
We’ve got a whole bunch of other suggestions that will help you travel on the cheap while still enjoying your retirement to the fullest.
10. Manage your sequence of returns risk
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If you’ve never heard about sequence of returns risk, also known as sequence risk, we’ll try to keep it simple. It essentially means that if the stock market tanks when you start taking withdrawals from your retirement accounts, your balance may never rebound even if the market does.
In other words, you want to avoid having to withdraw money from your accounts when the market is down. There are several ways to do this, such as keeping enough money in a cash account to ride out a bear market or investing conservatively to minimize losses in a crash.
Since this can be a complex topic, working with a finance professional to structure withdrawals is always a good idea.
11. Stay active
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Medical expenses can be a major drain on a retiree’s finances. a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2018 will need $280,000 to cover their health care costs in retirement. That doesn’t include long-term care costs either.
However, you may be able to minimize your expenses by staying active for as long as possible. Physical activity can reduce the risk of expensive medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, .
12. Understand your health care benefits
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When you do need health care, understand the benefits provided by your plan. For instance, if you’ve signed up for Medicare Advantage, you may have to go to in-network providers and pharmacies or pay more. If you opt for original Medicare and travel internationally, your care at a foreign hospital may not be covered.
In addition to knowing how your coverage can cost you, know how it can save you cash. There are more than 20 freebies that come with Medicare, so use them to the fullest.
23. Get ready for long-term care costs
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In addition to your regular health care expenses, you may have to pay for long-term care. This type of care doesn’t come cheap and runs as much as $7,698 a month for a private nursing home room, . These costs are not covered by Medicare except in very limited situations and for short periods.
Without a plan for how to pay for these costs, you could find your retirement money gone in a flash. If you’re young enough, you could buy long-term care insurance. Otherwise, consider whether you can use a reverse mortgage, long-term care annuity or living benefits from a life insurance policy to preserve your assets.
24. Set boundaries with the kids
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A recent reveals some startling information. Parents with children ages 18-34 spend twice as much on their kids as they do on their retirement. What’s more, 82 percent say they would be willing to make a major financial sacrifice for adult children including drawing down their savings or pulling money from retirement accounts.
Moms and dads, this has got to stop. If you want your money to last through retirement, you’ve got to stop giving it to kids who are old enough to support themselves. It’s one thing to help with a one-time expense such as a wedding or a down payment on a home and another to serve as your children’s personal ATM. Set clear boundaries on when and how much you expect to spend on grown kids and then stick to your guns.
25. Work longer
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If you’re hitting your golden years with little savings in the bank, the best way to stretch those dollars is to avoid using them at all. Working full-time or even part-time not only pads your bank account but may also let you delay claiming Social Security. For every year between what the government considers your full retirement age and age 70 that you delay receiving Social Security retirement benefits, you get an 8 percent boost in your monthly payment.
We call retirement the golden years, but it will be fool’s gold if you’re not careful with your money.
Which of these strategies will you be using to stretch your dollars in retirement? Tell us in the comments below or on our .
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