In Jeff Rose’s new article for U.S. World and News Report, Charles Scott shares his idea for saving money in retirement.
By Jeff Rose, Contributor | Sept. 15, 2017
How to Save Money After Retirement
Reducing your monthly costs will make your retirement savings last longer.
Most people who retire don’t achieve their goals due to a stroke of luck. They save their money diligently and invest regularly until they finally reach a point where they no longer need to work. Then they take regular withdrawals from their retirement accounts in such a way that maintains principal and gets their money to last for the next 20 to 40 years. This isn’t easy to pull off.
If you’re already in retirement and living off your savings, you are well aware how precarious balancing your priorities can be. If you consistently withdraw more money than you planned to, your nest egg may not last. And if your post-retirement investment returns don’t produce the amount you thought they would, you could be left with a smaller nest egg than you envisioned.
Whatever situation you’re in, there’s one simple way to make your money last longer. By reducing your spending, you can keep withdrawals at a minimum and stretch your retirement funds as far as they can go. Here are eight easy strategies to save money once you’re already in retirement:
1. Always ask about senior discounts. It can be overwhelming to keep track of every place that offers discounts for seniors, so get in the habit of asking for one. “Whether you’re buying a new piece of furniture, a cup of coffee or shopping for insurance, just kindly ask the person you’re buying from if there are any discounts available,” says Taylor Schulte, a certified financial planner for Define Financial in San Diego. “If you’re in the appropriate situation, you might also tell them you’re shopping around with their competitors and ask if that’s the best price they can offer.” While you may not always score a discount, you may be surprised at how often you do. Asking only takes a few seconds, and the worst they can say is “no.”
2. Shop for cheap staples online. Seniors not accustomed to shopping online could benefit immensely from getting up to speed. Retirees may be able to save money on basic staples like cleaning supplies, non-perishable grocery items and household items by buying online. “Not only can retirees save money on the items they purchase, but they will save money in gas and ultimately their time driving around town,” says Matthew Jackson, president of Solid Wealth Advisors in Fort Collins, Colorado.
3. Downsize your home. While nobody would ever say selling your home and moving is easy, this one move could help you save money for decades to come. Downsizing your home is the ultimate way to save money and possibly even simplify your life in retirement, even if you have to do some heavy lifting up front. “Not only does your mortgage payment go down, but all other expenses associated with home ownership typically decrease too, including taxes, insurance, utilities, yard service, housekeeping and other maintenance,” says Andrew McFadden, a financial advisor in Fresno, California. A smaller house can also mean less time cleaning and maintaining the property, which can boost your free time in retirement.
4. Downsize your hobbies. If you dream of playing golf or collecting antique cars in retirement, you might need a larger nest egg. But if you trade out those expensive hobbies for cheaper ones, you may be able to drastically reduce your spending without sacrificing any fun. Martin Smith, a financial advisor and founder of Wealthcare Financial Group in Bethesda, Maryland, suggests retirees start gardening as a hobby if they’re able to. You can save money on food with a simple garden, while also doing something that is relaxing and fulfilling.
You can further reduce your food costs by dining at home. “Organizing a cooking club with other retired friends can save money, and it’s fun,” says Matt Adams, a financial advisor and partner at Money Methods in Amarillo, Texas. “Buy grocery items in bulk from a wholesale club, split the bill, get together to cook and socialize, and everyone leaves with freezer meals for the month.”
Another meaningful option to consider is volunteer work. Volunteering can also help seniors get out of the house and meet other people. “Finding opportunities to serve people in your community is consistently one of the best things my clients say they do in retirement,” says Brian Hanks, an Idaho financial planner and author of “How to Buy a Dental Practice”. “When you’re serving others, you’re rarely spending money.” However you decide to spend your time, trading some expensive hobbies for cheap ones will help you save in the long run.
5. Minimize your tax liability. It never hurts to look for ways to reduce your tax bills. Be prepared to pay income tax on distributions from IRAs and your 401(k). One situation that could affect your tax load is if you are receiving Social Security while taking money out of your 401(k). “If you are taking your Social Security distributions at the same time as your IRA or 401(k) distributions, that can potentially make your Social Security income taxable if you are over a certain threshold,” says Raj Shah, president and founder of Secure Capital Management in Schaumburg, Illinois. Consider meeting with an accountant or tax advisor to see how you can reconfigure your assets to lower your tax liability.
6. Create a weekly meal plan – and quit dining out so much. Curbing impulsive eating out or overspending at the grocery store can lead to huge savings and reduce your food waste. Charles Scott, a financial planner for Pelleton Capital Management in Scottsdale, Arizona, recommends coming up with a meal plan. Create a list of items to buy before you hit the store based on your meal plan, then follow your plan to the best of your ability. Taking this simple step can help you avoid too many visits to the grocery store where impulse purchases could potentially wreck your grocery budget. You may also get a better handle on your food spending and be able to avoid situations where you’re tempted to eat at a restaurant.
7. Travel cheap. If one of your retirement goals is travel, look for travel deals and ways to travel for free or cheap. Financial advisor Mitchell Bloom, president of Bloom Financial in Westminster, Colorado, suggests looking for tax-deductible travel volunteer programs that visit destinations such as Costa Rica, Italy, China, Portugal and St. Lucia. However, he cautions that you must strictly adhere to IRS requirements that you actually do work five out of seven days on your trip. “You can also travel within the United States and write off your trip to help out nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity,” Bloom says.
Another low cost way to travel is to house sit on vacation, says Alex Whitehouse, a financial advisor for Whitehouse Wealth Management in Vancouver, Washington. You can connect with people seeking house sitting and pet sitting services all over the globe, even in popular tourist destinations like Paris, Sydney and London.
8. Price shop for everything. Any monthly bill you pay can be negotiated down if you’re willing to put in the work to find a better deal. Consider shopping around for a better rate on auto insurance, switching cable television providers, changing your financial planner or investments to reduce costs or trading in your homeowner’s insurance policy for one with a lower annual rate. You should compare prices and shop around for these big expenses every year, and retirees have the time to do the research. The few hours you spend searching for a better deal will be worth it.
Jeff Rose is a certified financial planner, U.S. combat veteran and the founder of GoodFinancialCents.com.