Just because you’re retired now doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the lifestyle you had when you were working. Indeed, now that your time is your own, you might even be able to improve your quality of life.
Think of retirement as a new suit or dress you’ve purchased. To make sure it fits, feels and looks the way you want, simply make a few easy alterations.
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Focus your adjustments on these five key areas:
Before you can adjust your spending to meet your income, you need to know what you’re spending your money on. Your accounting doesn’t have to be down to the penny (you’re not preparing a report for your boss anymore). Separate and stack up your gas, grocery, restaurant and other receipts and total your expenditures for each spending category. You may quickly grow alarmed at how much you’re spending at restaurants or on dog treats each week.
After gaining a clear view of your expenses, look to trim any mindless or careless spending. If you’re no longer commuting to work, ask yourself if you still need that second car taking up space in the driveway, not to mention the registration, insurance and maintenance costs it rings up. With so many on-demand car-sharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Zipcar available, the need to own more than a single car is diminishing.
Take that same cost-cutting approach to everything you own or use. Do you still need your expensive cable package, when you only watch one or two channels? Would a streaming service, offered by Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, better serve your viewing habits?
Again, you don’t have to give up what you like, like your smart phone’s data plan that you use for everything from listening to podcasts and audiobooks to speaking to your brother Barry in Boston every day. You just don’t want to be throwing money at things you no longer need or have been replaced by cheaper, but not inferior, alternatives.
It’s easy to become a creature of habit when you’re working. You wake up at the same time each day, you crawl through the drive-thru for your cup of Joe on your way to work, and when you finally arrive, you claim the same parking spot. On the way home, you pick up your favorite take-out meal.
But now that you’ve given up your workaday routine for a retirement routine, it’s time to recalibrate your spending regimen as well. All those triple latte fill-ups at the local brewing station and robotic stops on the way home, picking up pizza, sushi and chicken wings, add up.
It’s also easier than ever to have GrubHub or DoorDash deliver your favorite food at home, but if you find yourself calling them five days a week, try to trim back to two or three times a week. Reacquaint yourself with your kitchen. You might find you enjoy throwing together a salad. It might taste and look so good that it becomes an overnight Instagram sensation. You’re not giving things up; you’re spicing things up for your retirement.
Lastly, if one of your spending habits is hopping online and seeing what’s new on your favorite shopping site, invoke the 24-hour purchase rule. It’s okay to put what seems like a must-have-item in your online shopping cart, but you can’t buy it for 24 hours, which should be enough time for you to ask yourself if you really need it.
Senior discounts are alive and well. They’re so prevalent that you shouldn’t frequent a restaurant, movie theater, department store, hotel, car rental agency or other public or private establishment without asking for one. If you don’t ask, you’re likely wasting money.
AARP’s Now Mobile App notifies you when you’re in the vicinity of any benefits and discounts that you program into the app. The Sciddy app also notifies you of U.S. businesses that offer discounts to people 50 years of age and older. Also check with your local municipality to see what kinds of discounts might be available on public transportation, parking, property taxes and other expenses.
Here are four discounted services widely available across the country:
National Parks – U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over can access more than 84 million acres of land protected by the National Park Service for the rest of their lives for $80. While this isn’t quite the bargain that it used to be — prices were raised from just $10 last year — it’s still much better than the general, $80 annual pass rate.
Amtrak – Travelers ages 65 and over can receive a 10% discount on most rail fares on most Amtrak trains.
Walgreens – Shoppers 55-plus, and all AARP members, receive 20% off all eligible purchases on the first Tuesday of every month.
Kohl’s – Shoppers ages 60-plus can receive 15% off every Wednesday.
Modifying your spending habits — tailoring and customizing them for that perfect retirement fit — should allow you to maintain or even enhance your lifestyle, but if you feel you need a skosh more room in your spending budget, consider getting paid for work you truly enjoy. The opportunities for added income are almost endless. Tutor, teach yoga, give golf lessons, consult, work at a bookstore or gardening center. On your time and terms, the activity will help keep you young and put a little extra money in your pocket at the same time.
Even if you’ve made all the suggested adjustments listed above but still feel they won’t be enough to help you live the retirement you want, you may simply need to put more financial options on the table.
If you own your home but find it’s now too large for your needs or you’re spending too much time and money on home improvements, maybe that your signal to downsize.
Or if you feel you have everything in retirement you need, except that long-term health policy to protect you or your spouse against a serious, savings-draining illness, maybe it’s time to check out a reverse mortgage line of credit, which charges you interest only on the portion you use. Your unused line also continues to grow year after year so it’s there when you need it most.
To maintain or even enhance your lifestyle in retirement, you don’t have to sacrifice the things you enjoy the most. You just need to make a few tweaks, tucks and trims, as any competent tailor will tell you, so that you can always be looking and feeling your best.
Remember, to get through life and retirement often takes a series of well-timed adjustments!