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3 Easy Ways to Supplement Social Security in Retirement

How to pick up pocket money, sometimes from things you pick up

Concerned that Social Security and whatever savings you have won’t be enough to retire adequately? Consider supplementing your retirement income through one of these three easy methods:

Providing Home Care

Betty Howard of Piggot, Ark., now in her eighties, has brought in extra cash in retirement through several gigs looking in on older women nearby.

“One was a woman with multiple sclerosis,” Howard said. “I cleaned her house — nothing major, just some light cleaning — and did the laundry. I also went grocery shopping for her.”

After that, Howard said, she assisted the woman’s older sister twice a day. “I made her breakfast, made sure she took her pills when she was supposed to, a little bit of cleaning, did the dishes after breakfast, watered her flowers, took her shopping…really, right up until she died,” she said.

If you have old Star Wars toys or posters or other pop culture memorabilia lying around, now might be a good time to try and get money for them.

In Atlanta, Howard’s son-in-law, Leo, supplemented his income for three years by doing similar non-medical home care work  for a female friend’s mother with Alzheimer’s. His friend couldn’t get home from work before 8 o’clock and her mother’s nurse left at 6, so the friend needed someone to sit with her mom during the gap time.

“This was every weeknight, from around six to around eight-thirty or nine, sometimes later,” Leo said. The friend’s mother “sat and watched TV, mainly game shows — she actually had appeared on Jeopardy herself back in the Sixties. I made sure she ate supper and took her nighttime pills. Sometimes I had to help her with her adult diapers in the bathroom.”

Later on, as the Alzheimer’s progressed, Leo’s friend decided it was time for a live-in nurse.

Selling Scrap

When most people see old appliances or furniture on the side of the road, they generally relegate what they see to the status of junk. But some people notice a discarded gas grill, for instance, and instantly realize it’s recyclable metal that could be turned into cash through “scrapping.”

Take one 75-year-old man in Plant City, Fla. who asked me not to use his name. He lives primarily on Social Security after losing his modest retirement investments during the Great Recession. Scrapping allows him to get a little extra money in his pocket.

“Copper wire, brass fixtures, steel, aluminum. That’s what I primarily look for,” he said.

Scrap prices are down, so these days he often focuses on stockpiling metal, waiting for its value to go up. He gets an idea of how much money he can get by watching Bloomberg television for commodity prices, primarily copper and aluminum — currently, copper metal goes for about $1.50 per pound and aluminum auto wheels get roughly 45 cents a pound, according to a check of scrap prices online.

While scavenging for scrap, he also finds things to clean up or repair and then sell later in a yard sale, such as golf clubs. Recently, he picked up a bicycle. “I cleaned it, oiled it, and all it needed was a better seat,” he said. “A few weeks later, there was another bike with a better seat, so I grabbed it and switched out the seats. I’ll sell the extra bike when I clean it up.”

Selling Pop Culture Memorabilia

If you have any old Star Wars toys or posters or other pop culture memorabilia lying around, now might be a good time to try and get money for them.

With at least two more Star Wars movies on the way, interest in collectibles related to the film franchise is bound to surge. A 1982 video store poster for the original Star Wars recently listed on eBay was going for $140.

Aside from the obvious potential of sports memorabilia, old comic books and key historical events from the ‘60s and ‘70s, keep an eye out for the unexpected, too. For example, you might think your vintage rock concert t-shirts are little more than rags, but 1977 Pink Floyd Summer Tour shirts have been selling sell on eBay for $15 to $600.

Nicholas Gregg, who’s in his mid-fifties and lives in Tucker, Ga, remembers an interesting discovery he made. As a Clint Eastwood fan, Gregg was thrilled to find a beer called Pale Rider Ale in his local liquor store. The art on the label depicted a likeness of Eastwood from his 1985 film, Pale Rider. Gregg discovered a market for the empty bottles on eBay, and soon had interest from Eastwood fans in areas where the beer wasn’t available.

“I sold empty bottles for more than I paid for a full six-pack,” said Gregg, “after drinking the beer, of course.”

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