Retiring on Less Than Expected

Published on: Jan 19, 2018
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Saving Money in Retirement

Today, nearly half of U.S. households report having zero retirement savings, according to the Economic Policy Institute.1 This means that without significant changes in wages, expenses and saving habits, millions of Americans likely will be living solely on Social Security benefits in retirement. Even if you expect to have a bit more in savings, with today’s longer life expectancies, it’s important to plan for many years in retirement. The following are a few ideas to consider for ways to help make your money last over the long haul.



Even for those who pay off their mortgage, housing can represent a pretty big expense in retirement when you consider maintenance, repairs, property taxes, insurance and utilities for a large family home. You may want to consider moving to an alternative housing option early on to help reduce expenses. For example, explore less expensive options such as a smaller house or a condominium. Also, consider moving closer to family so you have a support network for the possibility of assisted living and long-term care in later years.


Household Expenses

Make a habit of living thrifty long before you retire so you don’t notice a dramatic change in lifestyle. Learn how to prepare simpler meals, discover good values for dining out, and pursue hobbies and social engagements that don’t cost a lot of money. Spend vacation time visiting friends and family to save money on lodging and meals.



Make a proactive effort to find useful and rewarding activities to absorb your hours, like volunteering or helping a friend with their business. Another way to do this is by cutting the cable bill. Not only will you save money each month, but you’ll be forced to find healthier hobbies than watching television. Consider regular visits to the public library, long daily walks, raising a pet or taking an art or language class. If you follow a particular sport or team, find a local sports bar where you can join other fans to watch games. Staying socially active throughout retirement is one of the best ways to stay mentally and physically healthy.2

1 Greg Daugherty. Forbes. Sept. 3, 2017. “5 Ways To Retire Without Money.” Accessed Dec. 7, 2017.
2 Linda Blair. The Telegraph. Feb. 20, 2017. “Mind Healing: why being socially active in retirement is good for your health.” Accessed Dec. 20, 2017.


Money Saving Tips

Tips Before You Quit

Can you afford to retire? Perhaps you’d feel more financially prepared if you worked a few more years. Unfortunately, plenty of people go ahead and retire for the simple reason that they just can’t stand working at their job anymore.

If this sounds like your situation, it may be worth considering ways to rectify your job circumstances rather than retiring. After all, retirement these days tends to last much longer than in the past. Not only does remaining in the workforce give you the opportunity to bolster your financial reserves, but it gives you a place to be with responsibilities and the opportunity to contribute meaningful work — something many retirees miss once they leave the workplace.


The following are some ideas to help you cope with a challenging work environment.

  1. Identify the main issue by completing this sentence: “I’d be happy to stay at my job if only. …”
  2. For situations you can’t change, consider trying to alter your own For example, if you have a difficult supervisor, try observing him or her in various situations and consider how you would feel or react in those same circumstances. We often don’t appreciate that middle managers can be stuck between a rock and a hard place — demands from both staff below and company leadership above. Consider how you would handle similar stressful situations. Even if you can’t offer advice, making an effort to understand what is expected of them and the stress that may cause could give you a little more empathy.
  3. If you’re feeling empathetic, consider asking your boss — when you notice that he or she appears particularly stressed out — if there is something you can do to help. Sometimes this gesture, even if there’s nothing you can do, can help change the tenor of your relationship to something more positive and appreciative.
  4. Use this same approach with colleagues with whom you may have a combative relationship. A word of support now and then can go a long way to repairing relationships.
  5. If that doesn’t work, lead by example. You may not be in charge, but lead by reacting to situations and delivering your work in the manner you’d like to see from others.
  6. Recognize that changes don’t happen overnight. It may take time for you to turn a negative work environment into a positive one.
  7. If you’re still convinced that you can’t stay at your job anymore, consider looking for another way to earn a living instead of retiring “cold turkey.” This could mean seeking another job, opening your own shingle as a consultant or pursuing a hobby with revenue potential. Whatever you do, try to work on this alternative route while still earning income so there is little to no gap between paychecks.


Planning Tip

Should You Own or Rent?

While owning a home is the American dream, renting has its advantages — even during retirement. While retirees who have paid off their mortgage no longer have that monthly financial obligation, they still have expenses related to insurance and property taxes, maintenance and repairs, lawn care and, for some, high utility bills.

For retirees living on a tight budget, the following are some of the potential advantages of renting over owning:

  • Selling the family home may provide additional funds that can be repositioned to increase retirement income
  • Low maintenance expenses, many of which may be covered by the landlord
  • Living in a rental community may provide more opportunities for day-to-day social engagement than being in a single-family home
  • Renting a half year in a different location offers the opportunity for mild-climate living without having to worry about maintaining a home while away
  • Downsizing while still young enough to go through your own belongings is easier than doing this at a later age or having your adult children do it


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