Getting By on Social Security

Print viewPrint view
Getting By on Social Security

The Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that nearly 21 percent of married couples and 43 percent of single people collecting Social Security receive 90 percent or more of their income from Social Security. That could mean a substantial drop in earnings for people who are at their most vulnerable.

What can you do to get by on a Social Security income if you’re approaching retirement or already retired?

Tips Before You Retire

There are things you can do before you retire that will help to maximize your Social Security income – even if your retirement is approaching soon. These tips will help you boost your income during retirement and improve your lifestyle expectations during retirement.

  • Delay retirement. If you continue to work past your full retirement age, you can enjoy an increase in your retirement income of eight percent per year until you reach age 70. There are no additional Social Security benefits for working beyond age 70. However, retiring before your official retirement age can cut your benefits by as much as 30 percent so avoid that, if possible.
  • Maximize survivor’s benefits. That is another area where working until the age of 70 can prove beneficial. As long as you are healthy enough to continue working, you can take advantage of the additional income it will provide you or your surviving spouse, if something should happen to either of you.
  • Relocate to an area with a lower cost of living. That is a step you can take before or after retirement. The goal is to reduce your expenses so consider the cost of everyday items and not just property values. Things you want to look for are tax benefits, commuting expenses (surprisingly one of the largest expenses retirees contend with), and prices for necessities and entertainment. Another factor to consider is the climate where you choose to live. A more temperate climate can mean lower costs for heating and cooling.

Tips After You Retire

Once you retire, you have a few options available to you that might help you supplement your income and get more living from your Social Security check each month.

  • Consider a roommate. Depending on the size, condition, and costs of operating your home, bringing in a roommate can help you reduce your expenses, greatly supplementing your Social Security check each month.
  • Simplify your lifestyle. Shop wisely to take advantage of special shopping days or hours (in stores and restaurants) and senior discounts. Eliminate expenses you no longer need. For instance, go down to one vehicle instead of two or get rid of cars altogether and rely on public transportation or ride-sharing services.
  • Consider downsizing. Consider selling your home and moving to a smaller place. That will help reduce your monthly utility costs and give you a smaller space to maintain. Plus, the money from the sale may allow you to have some cash left over after you buy a smaller residence. Any excess funds can help to supplement your Social Security income.
  • Work part time. This will help to supplement your income and keep you active and engaged in the community.

Getting by solely on a Social Security income is possible, but for some it may require some lifestyle changes and spending adjustments.

Member FDIC