Don't let the financial experts scare you. Remember, it's in their interest for you to save more than you really need and then let them handle it so they can profit from your fears and anxieties.
Retiring on 100 percent of your pre-retirement income may be an option for one percenters who leave work with golden parachutes, but it's not realistic for the rest of us. Most of us will get by on a combination of some retirement savings in addition to Social Security and a pension if you still have one. Whether your nest egg is large or small, here are ten ways to make it last:
1. Pay off debt before you retire.The first thing to do is count up your assets and debts. Hopefully, by the time you retire you have more assets than debts. You should no longer have student loans, and your mortgage might even be paid off. Now is not the time to take on new debt. If you have to float a big loan to buy a new car, it's probably better to keep the old one and fix it up.
2. Downsize your housing. Once your kids are grown you don't need three or four bedrooms anymore. A lot of retirees hang on to the old place in case the kids want to move back in. But this is a "what if," while the expense of carrying a home is a certainty. If your budget is limited, then move to a smaller place in a less expensive neighborhood with lower taxes and smaller utility bills.
3. Get a part-time job. Many people choose to work in retirement because they need the money, a place to go in the morning or some new friends. Retirees are no longer concerned about a career, so they don't need to stress out over promotions or workplace politics. Think of your retirement job like the summer job you had as a kid -- have fun, make a few bucks and then go live your life.
4. Share your home. If you're single, consider sharing a home with a friend or relative. Many older houses feature mother-in-law suites, and some newer construction offers two master bedrooms. Two can live cheaper than one, and this setup can offer companionship as well.
5. Rely on friends. Don't be afraid to ask for a favor and then offer to reciprocate. You can save a lot of money driving each other to the airport or the store instead of calling a cab. Exchange yard work for housework or financial expertise for culinary skills. Don't think you have to pay someone to do everything for you. Help each other out.
6. Search for free entertainment. If you want to cruise the Mediterranean, you may need 100 percent of your pre-retirement income. But most people don't do that. Your community likely offers free summer concerts and fall festivals. Check out your library for free seminars, book clubs, movies and lectures. Your church, veteran's association or social club can provide rewarding activities, all at little or no cost.
7. Eat out early in the day. We all like to splurge a bit and skip a turn in the kitchen. If you're going out for a meal, go early in the day. Breakfast is cheaper than lunch. Lunch is cheaper than dinner. If you insist on dinner, go early for the senior citizen discount. Or consider trying a place that serves breakfast anytime. Eggs and sausage are definitely less expensive than steak and potatoes.
8. Stop subsidizing your kids' lifestyles. The old saying goes: Give your children roots and wings. You've already given them roots. Now it's time for wings. It doesn't really help anyone to let them settle into their old bedroom. They need to find their own apartment, prepare their own meals and learn to live on their own.
9. Take advantage of discounts. Join AARP for discounts as well as supplemental medical insurance. Take a trip to town hall and find out about real estate tax breaks and other senior citizen discounts. Check out programs for free transportation, low-cost meals and subsidized health services.
10. Go international. Some people retire to the land of their grandparents, where they enjoy the support of family members. There are retirement enclaves in Mexico, Costa Rica and other Latin American countries. And a new trend points toward Asia and countries like Malaysia and Thailand, where the cost of living is low and people respect the elderly. Retiring overseas requires a lot of research, but it's an option more budget-minded people are considering.
Tom Sightings is a former publishing executive who was eased into early retirement in his mid-50s. He lives in the New York area and blogs at Sightings at 60, where he covers health, finance, retirement and other concerns of baby boomers who realize that somehow they have grown up.
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