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6 Steps to Take If You Start Retirement Without Any Savings

Rachel Hartman

During your working years, life events and other obstacles can make it difficult to set aside money for retirement. Among baby boomers, nearly one in five has less than $5,000 saved for retirement, according to a Northwestern Mutual survey.

While Social Security benefits may provide some income, there are additional steps to take that can lead to a sustainable lifestyle during your golden years.

If you start retirement without any savings, remember:

-- Working longer could lead to better finances later.

-- Living expenses can be reduced in creative ways.

-- Hobbies could be used to bring in income.

-- Selling extra items may provide extra cash.

-- Family members may be able to help.

-- Government programs could provide the assistance you need.

Read on to learn what to do if you begin retirement without a nest egg.

Delay Taking Social Security

If you are physically able to keep working past retirement age, you may be able to generate income for current expenses and boost your Social Security payments. Your Social Security benefits will increase each month that you delay collecting payments until age 70. "For most people, the delay from 67 to age 70 can be the same as if they saved $80,000 to $100,000 additional in those few years," says Roger Gainer, a retirement income certified professional and president of Gainer Financial & Insurance Services in San Rafael, California.

[See: 10 Ways to Increase Your Social Security Payments.]

Look at Housing Options

If you have paid off the mortgage of your home, selling it and moving into a lower-cost house or apartment might bring in some needed cash. Downsizing can also reduce your ongoing expenses if you will have a lower monthly mortgage or rent payment and your utility bills and maintenance costs decline.

If you want to stay in your current home, "There are opportunities to use reverse mortgages to generate significant retirement income," Gainer says. A reverse mortgage is a type of loan in which you borrow against the value of your home and receive the funds as a lump sum, set of payments or as a line of credit.

Sharing your living space could also lead to extra income if you rent out a room or section of your house to a college student or other retiree.

Monetize a Hobby

Perhaps you have crocheted for years or dabbled with interior design. You might be able to put those dedicated hours to use to bring in income from a hobby. "A lot of Americans spend a lifetime specializing in a certain area, sharpening skills in a hobby or passion that they never have gotten paid for," says Andrew Piatek, a financial planner specializing in retirement income in Orchard Park, New York. You could sell your needlework on Etsy, set up a website to offer design services or take on work as a local tour guide.

[See: 15 In-Demand Jobs for Seniors.]

Sell Some of Your Assets

If you have two vehicles, now may be the time to put one car up for sale. Recreational vehicles like an RV, boat or motorcycle could also bring in some extra funds. "Take inventory of all of your assets, both monetary and physical, to see what they might be worth and how they can help you fund your retirement," says Leslie Tayne, a financial attorney and founder of Tayne Law Group in New York. You might find you have kitchen gadgets that can be sold on Facebook Marketplace, antiques to sell on eBay or enough extra clothes and furnishings for a garage sale.

Talk to Your Family

Have a conversation with relatives about your situation. By talking to others, you could discover solutions you hadn't thought of previously. A family member might offer part of their home to you, in exchange for helping care for children or assisting in housework. You could discover another relative is also looking to reduce expenses, and work out a situation where housing and auto costs can be shared. You may not be able to fund a grandchild's educational expenses or take in adult children. "Be realistic about what you can and cannot do, and say no when you know it will impact your finances," Tayne says.

[Read: Ways to Save for Retirement Without a 401(k).]

Check Government Programs

In addition to Social Security benefits, you may be eligible for other forms of assistance, such as subsidized housing, food stamps and help with internet and cell phone service. "Some might be able to get an earned income credit on their taxes, which can provide additional income," Gainer says. The earned income tax credit is a refundable tax credit designed for low to moderate-income workers. You can also ask about services at your local Area Agency on Aging to see what's available for seniors in your area.

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