How to Make Ends Meet in Retirement

Retired man pours morning coffee in a bright kitchen and thinks about how to make ends meet in retirement.

Retirement is an exciting chapter of life. This new time is a period where you can relax, try new things or get back to your old hobbies. However, it also means living on a fixed income—which can come with challenges. You have a certain amount of money each year and want to live a certain quality of life. We already know that budgeting is important, but what else can you do to stretch your budget to make the most of every dollar?

Wait to Use Your Social Security Benefits

You can start taking your Social Security benefits from age 62 as part of your retirement plan but do you really need to? According to the government, early retirement can reduce your monthly benefits by ‘“5/9 of one percent for each month before normal retirement age, up to 36 months.”

If you wait to reach the full retirement age, you can get your full benefits, giving you more money on a monthly basis.

Get Rid of Debt

Try to pay off any debt before you retire while you have an income. It's likely that your salary is more than what you'll be living on during your retirement so you'll have that extra income to pay off your debt. If the debt is unmanageable, consider consolidating it into one smaller payment so you can pay it off faster.

Reduce Your Fixed Costs

This applies to debt, food, transportation and housing. If you had two cars but only use one, sell the other and use the money to pay off any debt. If you have a house that’s too big for you and your partner, consider downsizing to a smaller home if it makes financial sense. This means that you can sell your home and buy a smaller home without needing a new mortgage.

Before you retire, do any renovations you may need on your home if you're going to stay in it. Replace any out-of-date appliances with energy-efficient ones which can help lower your power costs and so you won't have to deal with expensive replacements during your retirement.

You can also invest in technology that will automate your heating, cooling and lighting so your home is using energy efficiently.

Ask for All the Discounts

Don’t be afraid to ask for and get seniors’ discounts at restaurants, pharmacies, grocery stores, airlines, retail, hotels, car rentals and cell phone plans. For example, AT&T has a cell phone plan for seniors and Sprint has a plan for people 55 years and older.

Most places have senior discounts or special shopping days for seniors so if you shop or go somewhere regularly, keep track of those days and adjust your schedule. You may need a membership card to access some discounts such as an Association of American Retired Persons (AARP) card. If the cost of membership is free or the fee is offset by greater savings, consider becoming a member. Most places offer an average of 10% off the cost, which can save quite a bit of money over a year.

Leverage Your Points

The flip side of seniors’ discounts is credit card points or miles. Most credit card programs have a points or miles program where you can collect and trade in for items, discounts or travel. If you have a good credit card habit and pay off your bills on a monthly basis, then collect and use those points to save money on trips and products.

Negotiate Your Bills

It’s always a good idea to negotiate your annual bills such as cable, internet, phone and insurance plans. Most companies will offer some savings as part of their customer retention practice and you save money. It takes time but is worth it. Always ask for seniors' discount when signing up for a new service.

For phone and streaming services, you can split services between you and your family members. That way you both get what you need and can share the costs.

Comparison Shop

The difference between two stores could mean several dollars saved. We tend to form habits when we shop and go to the same store every week. But if you live in an area with more than one grocery store, you may find discounts on food and dry goods.

Another option is to keep track of store sale cycles. Certain items go on sale monthly or every six weeks. Once you know the cycle, you can stock up on your regular pantry items when they’re cheaper or if they offer more points.

Get a Part-Time Job

Retirement is also a time to try new things. Just because you finished your career doesn’t mean you can’t try a new part-time job. It gets you out of the house, helps you meet new people which is good for your mental and emotional health, keeps you active and healthy, and provides some household income. So if you’re healthy, why not get a low-stress, interesting part-time job?

Work with Your Financial Advisor

They can help you find more ways to save money. They are a valuable resource for new information about tax breaks. A financial advisor can ensure that you maximize your deductions so you don’t have to pay too much in taxes and keep more of your savings.

Retirement isn’t about winding down, it’s now about exploring the next stage of your life, a time when you have the knowledge and time to try something new. With some smarter planning, you’ll have the money you’ll need to support your retirement dreams.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, Member FDIC.