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5 Secrets to Making Your Money Last in Retirement

Neve Gotshalk
5 Secrets to Making Your Money Last in Retirement

If you have plenty of money socked away for your retirement years, you're to be commended. An estimated 1 in 5 Americans has nothing at all saved for retirement, a Northwestern Mutual survey found.

Retirement costs are rising while public trust in Social Security is eroding, but the news is not all gloom and doom.

With a little planning, your golden years can be the most fulfilling of your life. You’ll be as confident about the future as those smiling, active seniors in commercials for banks and pain relievers.

You’re not likely to outlive your savings if you follow these five tips.

1. Keep earning money

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If you keep working, you'll have lots of company.

Around 20% of the senior population is still in the workforce, reports Provision Living, an operator of senior living communities. A surprising 45% of survey respondents said they could afford to retire, but they just enjoy working.

You don’t necessarily have to work full time or stay in your current job. Retirement is a golden opportunity to leverage those skills, talents or hobbies you’ve always wished you had more time for.

Teach music, or get a gig in a piano bar. Cruise ships need casino workers, photographers and tango instructors. If you like kids, consider substitute teaching or church nursery work. Real estate jobs are flexible and can be highly lucrative.

2. Work with a professional

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Even savvy savers like you can benefit from expert advice.

Professional financial planners are aware of unique challenges that retirees face. They can create a customized saving, investing and spending plan for your circumstances that will preserve your quality of life even when costs inevitably rise.

Financial planning services are even available online now, through advisory firms such as Facet Wealth.

A financial planner also can help keep your money safe. People 50 and older hold almost 70% of the country’s bank deposits, according to AARP, and that makes them prime targets for exploitation. Advisers teach clients to avoid the latest scams.

3. Maximize your Social Security

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You can file for benefits starting at age 62. Unless you’re in poor health or dire financial straits, resist the temptation. Being hasty will cost you.

In most cases, claiming Social Security before what's called your "full retirement age" — which is either 66 or 67, depending on the year you were born — will permanently reduce your benefits.

For instance, if your full retirement age is 67 but you start taking benefits at 62, you’ll lose a whopping 30% off your monthly payment.

Holding out until you’re 70 is ideal, because you'll receive your maximum possible benefit. That's one of the ways to get the most from Social Security, and there are many others.

4. Keep money in stocks

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Since people are living longer nowadays, this is no time to be conservative.

You may feel like it’s all about wealth preservation in retirement, but you must continue to grow your stash in order to outpace taxes and inflation.

Most experts recommend having 40% to 60% of your assets in the stock market when retirement starts. You can offset risk with fixed-income investments (such as Treasury bonds and CDs) and cash.

As always, diversify your portfolio with U.S. stocks, international stocks and commodities. Consider real estate investment trusts, which pay above-average dividends.

The best tip on investing is to get help and not go it alone. An automated investing firm can help you make the right choices.

5. Hold down your expenses

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Strategizing to reduce expenses will make all the difference in the quality of your retirement.

Focus on paying off your mortgage as soon as possible. Consider downsizing or relocating to a city with a lower cost of living.

This is a great time to see the world, but you can save a fortune by traveling at off-peak times of year. If you sleep well on planes, look into red-eye overnight flights. They’re typically cheaper, and you’ll also avoid the extra hotel stays coming and going.

Finally, take full advantage of senior perks at restaurants, movie theaters, museums, pharmacies and grocery stores. There are even discounts on travel and phone plans.

If you know where to look, you’ll find more ways than ever to maximize your savings.