Social Security was not designed to be your only form on income in retirement, but the program is being relied on more as people make their way through their golden years, which begs the question: Can you retire on Social Security alone?
A recent study by the Social Security Administration found that almost 25% of married couples and close to 50% of individuals rely heavily on their monthly checks, using them for 90% of their income in retirement. The program was only meant to replace 40% of your income made before retirement.
Some retirement accounts are probably looking a little grim after the recent market crash, and that means that if you’re planning to retire soon, you may count on relying more heavily on Social Security. The average benefits check was $1,503 in January, according to the SSA, which is just over $18,000 per year.
While that may not seem like a ton of money, it is possible to live comfortably in retirement on that kind of income with some careful planning and lifestyle changes. Lets take a look at how you could retire on Social Security alone.
You May Have to Move to Retire on Social Security Alone
Lowering your cost of living should be one of your main focuses if you plan on living comfortably on Social Security alone. One way to bring your cost of living way down is to consider moving to a cheaper area.
The savings from moving to a less expensive neighborhood, town or even state can come in many forms. You could save thousands on housing, taxes and even transportation.
Of course, planning a move is a huge task and requires plenty of research before you uproot. Here are a few things to consider if you want to move:
- Proximity to health care: Getting older means visits to the doctor become more frequent, and travel costs can rack up quickly if you have to constantly drive to adjacent cities for check-ups.
- Proximity to family and friends: The same principle apply here if you plan on frequently meeting up with friends or travelling to see the grand kids.
Moving can help you stretch those Social Security checks out, though, in the long run. And while relocating is always tough, it can also be exciting because it gives you a new place to explore and opportunities to connect with a community. If you are considering a move, check out our guide to some of the best states to move as far as quality of life.
Delaying Your Social Security Can Be a Boon
We’ve harped on it before, but delaying Social Security benefits until you’ve at least made it to your full retirement age (FRA) means a big boost to your monthly checks. Your FRA should fall somewhere between age 66 and 67 depending on when you were born.
Here’s an example of how powerful delaying your Social Security can be, per The Motley Fool:
Say your full retirement age (FRA) is 67 years old, and by claiming at that age you’d receive $1,500 per month. If you were to claim early at age 62, your benefits would be reduced by 30%, leaving you with $1,050 per month. But if you were to wait to file for benefits until age 70, you’d receive a 24% bonus on top of your full benefit amount, or $1,860 per month.
Delaying benefits is not possible for everyone (check out our guide on when taking Social Security before FRA makes the most sense), but it can be a huge boost if you are planning to live on Social Security alone.
Creating a Budget Can Stretch Your Social Security Benefits
Living on Social Security alone can mean you aren’t pulling in as much monthly income as you probably were before retiring, and that means budgeting becomes even more crucial.
There are tons of budgeting tools and applications that can simplify the process for you, including Mint and You Need a Budget. Creating a plan for your money and sticking to it can really stretch your income out in the long run, though.
Another benefit of budgeting and tracking every expense is you may realize areas that are easy to cut back on, which means more money to spend on necessities like health care and transportation. It can be a real eye-opener when you calculate how much you spend every month on eating out if you’ve never tracked it before.
Living on Social Security alone is a tough prospect, but with the right plan in place it is doable. And with the way markets have been going lately, Social Security may take a more important role in your retirement.
For our friends: Anyone who wants to grow and protect their money in retirement needs to hear this. For the first time publicly, Bill O’Reilly comes clean about what happened to his money.