Many elderly people want to use Social Security for their retirement savings and income, but it may not be enough to live comfortably, depending on your location and expenses.
According to the latest data from the Social Security Administration, more than 50% of seniors age 65 and above rely on Social Security for more than half of their monthly income. If you're approaching retirement and intend to rely solely on social security benefits, you must have a strategy in place.
Who Depends Mostly On Social Security?
A recent study proved that living solely on Social Security is not a viable option for seniors. As the executive director of the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) explains, the United States is on a 'treacherous path' with its proposals to reduce pensions and cut Social Security benefits for the elderly.
Based on a Gallup poll conducted in 2022, 55% of retirees rely on Social Security as a major source of income, compared to 33% of near-retirees who expect Social Security to be their major source of income after retiring.
How To Retire Comfortably With Your Social Security Pension
Some people plan to work until retirement, which can help them enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle. On the other hand, seniors with lower income say it's more difficult to get by, and saving for retirement is difficult.
This information can be helpful if you are planning to live comfortably on Social Security alone.
1. Wait To Start Social Security
Those born in 1960 or later can retire at the age of 67. As early as age 62, you can begin receiving Social Security benefits, but your benefits will be reduced with each passing year.
When you reach full retirement age, which varies from 66 to 67, depending on your birth year, you are entitled to 100% of your benefits. Each year after that, up to the age of 70, your benefits increase by 8%, meaning you can access 32% more at 70 than at 66.
2. Downsize Your Home
Housing expenses can quickly deplete your Social Security benefits. Moving to a lower-cost home can significantly reduce your monthly cash flow. If you have a mortgage on your home, aim to pay it off by the time you retire.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people aged 65 to 74 spend approximately 34% of their annual household income on housing. For those aged 75 and up, the figure rises to 36.2%.
3. Cut Expenses
Aside from making your housing more affordable, the next stage is to cut back on your utilities, transportation, and food costs.
Is it possible, for example, to opt out of cable TV in favor of online streaming services? If you own two cars, would you be able to sell one of them? These are difficult decisions to make, but they will make your transition to Social Security benefits much easier in the long run.
Resources To Help Seniors Living Only On Social Security
Food accounts for most of a senior’s living expenses and can cause a huge dent in their social security pension. Seniors can extend those dollars by taking advantage of these government benefits.
Seniors living only on social security can be eligible for the government’s food assistance program, called SNAP. The program gives as much as $250 monthly for one senior, and the extra funds are accepted by groceries, farmer stands, and online food retailers.
The USDA aims to help low-income seniors enjoy a nutritious diet by distributing food packages containing fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, dairy, and more. Application is done per state and seniors living only on social security will definitely qualify.
Free Meals Through Medicaid Or Medicare
Medicaid Health Plan beneficiaries and Medicare Advantage Health Plan holders may qualify for free meals under certain conditions. Mom’s Meals delivers free meals like Salisbury steak, pasta, meatballs, and others two or three times a week to eligible retirees. Simply inquire with a Medicare or Medicaid representative to know eligibility.
Health Insurance And Prescription Assistance
Health insurance and prescription also make a huge dent in seniors’ social security allowances. These benefits will help manage the cost of medicines.
Some seniors can qualify for the Medicare Savings Program which covers premiums, deductibles, and copays. Seniors can apply for this program through their state and shouldn’t worry if they feel they won’t be eligible. Most states treat cases differently, and the savings you’d get are significant.
For seniors enrolled in Medicare D, which covers drug prescriptions, the Extra Help program can reduce drug-related costs by up to $5,000 yearly. Check with your state or Medicare for details on how to apply and qualify.
Various charitable organizations help seniors cope with healthcare-related costs. Check out Copays.org, an organization that helps cover premiums, deductibles, and over-the-counter medications.
National Patient Advocate Foundation
Seniors living only on Social Security can also check the National Patient Advocate Foundation’s financial resources directory, which lists organizations that provide aid for every health care need, such as dental care and end-of-life services.
The government has other means to help seniors cope with their rising expenses. Check out these other resources:
The Supplemental Security Income helps low-income persons with disabilities cope with life’s expenses. The program is also available to seniors 65 years and older, even those with no disabilities.
In 2021, qualified participants could get as much as $841 monthly. To apply, just visit their website.
The National Council on Aging has established an online directory, Benefits Checkup, where seniors can access over 2,000 resources to help them cope with life. The platform connects seniors with benefits programs who can pay for medicines, health care, food, utilities, etc.
You Gave, Now Save is another guide created by the National Council on Aging. The guide provides information on various benefits that help seniors cope with other expenses like phone bills and property taxes.
For seniors interested in part-time work, they can check out the Department of Labor’s Older Worker Program, which helps low-income, jobless seniors get certified training and find work. Another nonprofit, SER, also helps provide job training for seniors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Social Security enough for retirement?
If you’re wondering how long will my money last in retirement with Social Security, then the answer is not very long. In June 2021, the average monthly payment was only $1,555 for every retiree. Depending on how you foresee yourself spending your retirement years, this figure can be tough for a household.
Relying on Social Security alone for retirement is not enough. Most wealth experts advise that to retire comfortably, you should invest your money in other forms of investments while you’re young. And even if you think you’re late in the game, investing in conservative assets can help guarantee a more comfortable retirement.
What is the full retirement age for Social Security?
The full retirement age for claiming Social Security benefits changes slightly depending on your birth year. People born before 1960 have a full retirement age of 66, while those born after 1960 have a full retirement age of 67. This changes slightly depending on the exact year you’re born; you can refer to this chart for details.
Does working after the full retirement age increase Social Security benefits?
You can delay the full retirement age up to 70 and continue working and contributing to your Social Security. This will increase the amount of your retirement benefits. However, beyond age 70, there is no longer any financial incentive for delaying claims.
Relying solely on Social Security for retirement is not ideal. Think about increasing your retirement savings if you still have time before retiring.
Start by contributing as much as possible to your employer's retirement plan, if one exists, especially if it offers a match. Check out other forms of financial help for seniors who can’t live on their SS benefits.
Elizabeth Kogut works as the editorial head of Senior Strong. Armed with her degree in Nursing from the University of Missouri, Elizabeth ensures that all the site’s content is relevant to seniors today.