(This article previously appeared on Sixtyandme.com.)
Women reaching retirement age today are under huge financial pressure. Since, on average, we will live longer than any previous generation, our savings will need to last decades. In addition, many of us find ourselves in the position of looking after our aging parents. If we are going to get the most from life after 60, we need a plan.
It’s always amazing to me how “retirement planning” seems to stop when we reach retirement age. The reality is that there is still plenty that we can do in our 60s to improve our financial position, even if we are living on fixed income.
To help you get the most from your money, I turned to the Sixty and Me community for advice. Here are 10 practical tips that some of our 50,000 women provided:
1. Shop Around for Everything
Many women in the community said they have become much more strategic about their shopping now that they are living on fixed income. After all, once you stop working, you have more free time and time is money.
Sometimes simply paying attention and being patient can save you 50 percent on your shopping bills. For example, many women I know wait to do their shopping until Friday evening when they know that inventory in their local supermarket will be marked down. Your supermarket may restock on a different day; it doesn’t take a lot of effort to ask a store clerk or simply look for patterns.
It’s amazing to me how “retirement planning” seems to stop when we reach retirement age. There is still plenty that we can do in our 60s.
The same principle applies for luxuries like travel. There are many creative options for saving money on your lodging. For deals on flights, checking a range of ticket broker sites and booking far in advance should give you plenty of cost-effective options.
2. Join the Sharing Economy
One of the newest trends in saving money is also one of the oldest: sharing. Do you remember the days when it was acceptable to ask your neighbor to borrow his garden tools or cooking equipment? Well, they’re back.
As I wrote in this article, the sharing economy truly is a global phenomenon. For example, websites like Neighborgoods.net and Freecycle.org allow you to trade everything from clothes to cooking equipment.
In addition to saving money, it’s nice to know that you are doing something good for the environment by using what already exists rather than creating more “stuff” by buying new.
3. Earn a Little Money on the Side
Even if you have left your full-time job, there is no reason you can’t make a little extra money in retirement. This could involve taking on a part-time job or starting a business around one of your passions.
I know women in the Sixty and Me community who are making extra money painting, making soap, writing articles, tutoring high-school children, providing marketing help to companies or working on their local farmer’s market.
There is no shame in having to work a bit in retirement. In fact, working will probably help you stay more social and could have health benefits, too.
4. Take Advantage of Government Programs
Many people feel a bit awkward about taking advantage of government programs when they retire. I never understood this. After all, we have worked hard our entire lives and paid taxes to support the system for others. Now that we have reached retirement age, why shouldn’t we get something back?
W in our community say: Start with Usa.gov, an interagency initiative listing government information and services. Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for free bus passes, assistance with your winter energy bills, housing assistance and more.
5. Learn to be Honest with Your Family About Money
This is a hard one for many women. For most of our lives, we have been supporting our children in one way or another. Now, as we reach our 60s, it is hard to admit that we can no longer be as generous with our money as we once were.
The sooner you can sit down with your grown kids to explain your new financial reality, the better it will be for all of you. In fact, you will probably be surprised how supportive your family can be when you give them a chance. They may even have some fantastic ideas for how you can make a little extra money in retirement, too.
If you want to be generous, be generous with your time. But, use your money to build the best life you possibly can for yourself.
6. Prioritize and Downsize Where Possible
One major change that many women in the Sixty and Me community have made is moving into a smaller house.
If you have significant equity in your home, this could allow you to free up cash to cover your daily expenses for years to come. If you don’t have a lot of equity or are renting, moving to a smaller place could reduce your monthly costs significantly.
So, ask yourself: “Do I really need all this space?” If the answer is “no,” you will be better off downsizing.
In addition to the big moves, there are also plenty of small things that you can do to downsize in retirement. As I wrote previously, reducing the number of items in my house was one of the best things I ever did. When you clear out the “stuff” from your life, you will be better able to focus on the things that really matter. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to downsize in retirement.
7. Deal with Your Debt as Early as Possible
Don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to your debts. If you owe so much money that you don’t see a realistic way out, talk to a credit counselor about whether declaring bankruptcy makes sense. Otherwise, cut your costs, try to make a bit of money on the side, negotiate with creditors and pay off your debts as soon as you can.
8. Have Fun Growing and Making Things
Whether by choice or by necessity, many women over 60 find themselves making more of their own food and other necessities in retirement. The most obvious example is having a small vegetable garden or planting fruit trees. But, beyond this, many women I know also have fun making their own natural cosmetics, soaps and other household items.
Who knows, maybe you will find something that you love making so much that you can start selling some of your extras to your neighbors or on Etsy.com.
9. Redefine “Going Out”
When we are in the thick of our careers, we tend to focus on entertainment options that are quick and easy: we go to movies, eat out and attend concerts. Life after 60 can be just as active, but, for most of us, we will need to make a shift to social activities that are more cost- effective.
For example, many women in the community go to free concerts, set up regular times to walk with their friends in the park, visit museums and organize movie nights at home.
I admit that, at first, I was skeptical about these kinds of activities. For most of my career, I was in a fast-paced environment and had a special place in my heart for visiting restaurants — especially when the company was paying! But, now that I have started to focus more on building genuine friendships rather than just “staying busy,” I can’t imagine living any other way.
10. Get Creative with Your Living Situation
One trend that many women are following is looking for a friend to share their home. As I wrote previously, it has become more common for women of our generation to move into a shared living community.
If you would like to live in a supportive community of other women over 60, consider resources such as Golden Girls Homes and Roommates 4 Boomers. The infrastructure for this type of communal lifestyle is growing as more women over 60 look for cost-effective and social living options.
One More Thing: Enjoy Life After 60
Once you get your plan in place, remember to have a little fun. After all, you have worked your entire life to get this point and, regardless of how much money you have in the bank, you deserve to build your dream life.
Embrace making home improvements yourself. Use your creativity to make beautiful and useful things. Get out into the world and enjoy the company of others. Look for ways to make a little extra money, while exploring your passions. Most of all stay positive and enjoy everything that life after 60 has to offer!
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