In the decades leading up to retirement, an incredible amount of planning is needed to ensure your financial stability during your golden years. People have different goals for their retirement, and the amount of money needed depends on these aims, whether they include traveling the world, moving to a new location, or just pursuing hobbies. Whatever your plans, the unfortunate truth is that income from Social Security is not likely to cover all your expenses, which makes products like 401(k)s particularly important.
At the same time, once you are retired, you’ll still have to manage a budget to stay financially solvent. Below are some tips for retirees to keep in mind to ensure that they have the funds they need to enjoy their retirement.
Make plans for taxes.
Sometimes, taxes catch people in retirement off guard. While not all retirement income is subject to taxes, much of it is, depending on how you chose to save money. Make sure to keep track of what is and what is not taxable to ensure that you have the money needed to cover taxes. Income taken from a retirement plan, including an IRA and a 401(k), is taxed like any other income. However, Roth IRA income is not taxable, since you already paid the applicable taxes when you put the money in the Roth account. Retirees also need to pay taxes on gains they make from investments in brokerage accounts. Long-term gains have lower tax rates than short-term ones, but they still require planning. Even Social Security income may be subject to taxes.
Delay Social Security benefits as long as possible.
Some people need to begin claiming Social Security benefits as soon as they retire. However, you will actually get more money each month if you can wait longer. For that reason, it may be a good idea to hold off on claiming your benefits as long as you can. Each year you wait past your full retirement age, you’ll receive about an eight percent increase in benefits, up to age 70. Once you reach 70, there’s no more advantage to waiting. However, someone who reaches full retirement at age 66 with a monthly benefit of $2,000 will increase that benefit to $2,640 by waiting those four years, and this increased rate lasts for the rest of that person’s life.
Continually maintain and update your budget.
Budgets are important for everyone. However, they become extremely important during retirement, because going into debt can pose major problems during this time. Budgets allow you to track your spending and see where you might be able to curb expenses. Updating your budget is also important. Typically, people use estimates to figure out how much money they’ll need in retirement, but once you retire, you can plug in the actual figures to see if adjustments should be made. Some expenses, like healthcare, are non-negotiable, while you may have to reduce others to fit your income.
Take advantage of senior discounts whenever available.
A number of discounts are available to senior citizens, and these breaks are generally intended to ease expenses during retirement. You’d be foolish not to take advantage of them whenever possible. While the discounts may seem small, many of them taken together could add up to real, noticeable savings. Discounts are available at restaurants, theaters, and other leisure activities, but many also apply to transportation and other basic necessities. If you’re living on a fixed income, these discounts could relieve a lot of pressure and even allow an additional trip each year to become feasible. For example, a $2 discount on public transport taken twice a week saves a little over $200 in a year, which could cover airfare to visit nearby family.
Spend a realistic amount on housing.
In the average monthly budget of most Americans, housing is the single largest expense. When retirees overpay for housing, they may not have much money to spend on hobbies, trips, and the other activities they’ve been waiting to do. As retirement approaches, you may want to think about downsizing to a less expensive home or moving to a less expensive area. If you can save $500 on your monthly cost of living, you’ll have $6,000 to spend on other things each year. Small differences in housing costs may not seem like much, but they add up quickly when you consider them from an annual perspective.
People who own homes tend to stay in them, but this isn’t always the wisest decision. Over time, homes will need more maintenance—sometimes to the extent where it makes more sense to sell your old home and purchase a smaller, newer one. Typical maintenance costs on a home can range from $4,000 to $16,000 annually. While the lower end is manageable, the upper end can be crippling to a family on a fixed income. In addition, neither of these figures includes the costs of property tax and homeowners’ insurance. Moving into a rental can help make the cost of housing more predictable and could keep more money in your bank account.