Many people wonder how they will make it living on Social Security benefits that they’ve earned while working throughout their lifetime. While the little bit of extra is nice, it is not usually sufficient to support you at the same lifestyle level you were used to before retirement. It requires a great deal of ingenuity to live on this income, especially if you do not have pension benefits or a large retirement savings in place. Both pensions and retirement savings are becoming increasingly rare in our new gig economy, so this particular problem will likely get worse over time. If you find yourself in this boat, of having to rely on Social Security for most of your income, read on for a few helpful tips on survival.
- Be sure your health is covered first. Whether this means that you need to go on Medicare or another type of insurance, be sure that you have a plan to meet your health care needs. It is impossible to predict what types of things might ail you in the next 20-40 years, and it is very harmful to not have a plan in place. Figure something out, even if it’s not as good as the insurance that you had while working, something is better than nothing. If you are struggling with this, talk with Medicare advisors, insurance agents & your friends and family for ideas. Figure something out BEFORE you need it so that your anxiety levels are not high.
- Speaking of health, look into all prevention measures you can take to stay healthy. Handwashing, exercise, nutrition & sunlight are a few basic preventative measures to start with. Once you have those in place, add things like humidity if you live in a dry area, immune boosting activities and/or supplements like echinacea, elderberry syrup, etc. Increase your intake of antioxidants like Vitamin C. Take a probiotic. Laugh as often as possible. Prevention will likely save you a ton in health care costs. A bag of salt for your sidewalk when it’s icy is far cheaper than hip surgery, for instance!
- Your home. If you spend quite a bit on heating or cooling your home, look into ways that you could reduce that expense. Add draft stoppers under doors and windowsills, have someone check outlets to see if they are insulated against cold/hot air entry. Consider closing off certain rooms or areas of the house when it is frigid or sweltering outside. Practice heating or cooling yourself first. Add a layer or two of clothing if you’re a bit chilly, or use a heating pad. Put a cool towel on the back of your neck if you feel hot. It’s far easier to heat and cool ourselves than to heat & cool an entire home, and more cost efficient!
- Your vehicle. Be sure your vehicle has updated oil changes. Also make sure that the tires are inflated to the recommended PSI. Both of these are incredibly easy, but can greatly decrease your gas mileage. Also, consider consolidating trips or carpooling with several people in order to stretch your vehicle expenses. Perhaps this seems extreme, especially if you are not used to coordinating with others for these types of things, but it is incredibly helpful & environmentally conscious to boot!
- You may have to re-think your recreational activities. If you are used to going out to eat or a movie in your free time, you might start to consider getting together with friends for a potluck instead. There are plenty of things that you can do that are helpful to others while also being a time of socializing. Volunteer at a food shelf or charity shoppe alongside other friends. You’ll have loads of time to talk while helping others.
There are tons of other ideas out there on frugal websites and in books. Evaluate your food intake and how you cook. Evaluate what you spend on clothing. Evaluate every cent you spend. You will come up with creative ideas to combat the smaller income you are receiving. Most of all, reduce your expectations of what your life will look like. A good life is still possible with a smaller income!