There are more than 2,500 benefits programs for seniors. You can easily check which ones you're missing with the National Council on Aging's Benefits CheckUp. You can also use Benefits.gov to find more qualifying benefits. State and local funding can vary a great deal, but here are some of the most important federal senior benefits to keep in mind:
The Ultimate Guide to Spending and Saving Wisely During Retirement
You've worked and saved, and now, it's finally time to stop working and buy that beach house, right? If you're like many Americans, you might be trying to figure out how to live in retirement with no money besides Social Security income, or maybe you're too nervous to make big purchases for fear of running out of funds early. Never fear! There are plenty of ways to save money in retirement, from tiny lifestyle changes to smart investments. If you want to be retired and thrifty but also want to have fun, our retirement savings tips can help you spend wisely and have a blast during your "twilight years."
Think of it this way: If you've already saved and retired, you're already doing great! If you were one of the unlucky ones, you'd be saying, "I want to retire but have no money." Trying to figure out how to retire with no money saved is a lot more difficult that having just a bit saved up. But even if the situation gets dire, saving after retirement isn't impossible, even while on a fixed income. There are great ways for seniors to save money out there once you know where to look!
If you're wondering how to save money after retirement, we've listed several strategies: budgeting wisely, getting a side gig or part-time job, saving with senior discounts and memberships, and avoiding spending the funds you have unnecessarily.
Creating A Post-Retirement Budget
At this point in your life, you've probably figured out how to create a budget. On the other hand, budgeting for retirement has a few tricky factors to consider, with a fixed income being the primary source of potential problems. You can't rely on bonuses, raises, or changes in salary like you could while you were working. On the other hand, having consistent funds means you can plan consistently. Let's talk about some of the most important financial lingo.
Navigating Government Funds For Seniors
This will be the primary source of fixed income for retirees from the federal government.
For low-income seniors, there's no shame in getting help for groceries. Be sure to check out the list of criteria.
If you're struggling to make do in extreme weather, this government program can help with energy needs.
There are lots of special rules for seniors that will allow them thousands of dollars in tax breaks and cuts. Here are a few potential changes to look at.
There are Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) offered by drug manufacturers and State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs) that offer free or cheap prescriptions. (The age depends on your local program.)
Investing and Navigating Financial Language
There are literally hundreds of financial terms to do with retirement, so it can feel like you have to go back to school again in order to not get lost; however, generally speaking, developing a fairly low-risk financial profile is the best method for how to invest retirement money after retirement.
- Low-Risk and High-Risk Investments - This is simply what it sounds like. The general wisdom is that you should go with low-risk investments that will consistently yield profits, though some disagree on this.
- Nest Egg - This is an odd but very general term that means a sum of money that you've put aside for the future.
- Annuities - Annuities are fixed sums paid each year by your insurance company via a contract. They range a great deal in interest rates, number of payments, and death benefits, so you may want to look at the fine print. They're a good building block but shouldn't be the only resource.
- Dividends for Your Stocks - If you've invested in the stock market, you'll likely expect some company dividends during your retirement, assuming that everything worked out.
- Bonds - If you're still wondering where to invest your money after retirement and think the other options are too risky, government bonds are a good way to earn a small amount back in the form of interest.
If you have any extra money, it would be smart to tuck it away by investing. That way, you can get something back. These aren't the only options, of course. It's likely that you already have an IRA or 401(k) account, and if you don't, there are lots of tax benefits to opening one. Everyone has their own opinion on what's the best place to put retirement money. For some, it's the stock market. For others, it's their mattress.
While it's true that there are plenty of places that aren't so good for getting a return, there's nothing wrong with more education. If your financial adviser is throwing a bunch of terms at you, try looking up more information on what they're talking about on Investor.gov.
Taking Simple Side Gigs and Senior-Friendly Jobs
Let's say you're not lucky enough to have extra money hiding around. If you're one of the many Americans who haven't had the chance to save enough, you may ask yourself, "How can I make money in retirement?" When people find themselves cutting down on their budgets as much as possible, sometimes, the only option is to earn more.
Going back to work full-time isn't really the best way to make money in retirement. Most people will start a part-time job or side gig instead to help them make connections with new people while earning a little bit. And there are plenty of productive things to do at home that can help you earn as well. Here are a few ideas for how senior citizens can make money:
Here are some flexible "gigs" that you can pick up pretty much whenever you want.
- Rent out your home while you're away for a weekend. If you have a nice property that would make a good vacation spot, choose a good time of year to stay at a friend's house. Sometimes, you can earn your whole mortgage within a week! Of course, be smart about it. Here are some apps you can use:
- Take online surveys. But be careful with this one! Make sure you're not signing up for a scam. Here are a few legitimate survey companies to try out:
- Sell your "antiques" or old junk. You never know what might be valuable, from an old vinyl record to a classic comic book.
- Become a babysitter, house-sitter, or pet-sitter. If you love babies or puppies, what's a more perfect job?
- Sell crafts. If you've been wondering what to do after retirement to make money, why not start a crafting project? Those who are getting into crafting anyway can sell their projects to make a few extra bucks. You can also create and sell an e-book about your crafting hobby.
- If you're confident in your driving abilities, try driving with one of these apps:
- If you're not that confident, try renting your car when you're not using it.
- Freelance write or edit online copy. That's one method for how to make money in your retirement any time you really need it.
- Knowledgeable seniors can take up teaching and tutoring jobs.
Retirement Job Ideas
How can seniors make money that's a bit more consistent? There are plenty of short or part-time jobs that can work out.
- Find an age-friendly employer, from General Mills to LinkedIn to Lowe's. Check the AARP's employer pledge program or the Certified Age Friendly Employer (CAFE) Program.
- Senior Service America and Experience Works both offer specialized programs for senior employment, such as the Forest Service ACES program.
- Speaking of forests, if you love the great outdoors, get an Older and Bolder job through Cool Works.
Important Senior Memberships and Clubs
You can create a budget, invest, and try to earn while you're a retiree, but you can also cut back a lot on spending in really creative ways. Groups like the AARP provide many of the senior discounts and deals you're looking for!
And for retirees, connecting with other seniors is critical. Social activity is scientifically related to potential longevity, so it's important to explore groups in your area that can provide friendship as well as potential financial benefits.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
The largest nonprofit for retired people, their extensive list of benefits includes banking help, cheaper medical insurance, travel deals, and entertainment discounts. For most, AARP membership is worth the cost because of the wide breadth of discounts available. (Membership is $12 for the first year for people ages 50 and older.)
American Seniors Association (ASA)
This is considered to be the more conservative version of the AARP, with financial benefits, deals on hotels, and help with emergency calling and identity theft. (Membership is $15 per year for people ages 50 and older.)
Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC)
Another conservative organization, this organization is a tad newer. Benefits include the AMAC MasterCard, insurance help, and some retail savings. (Membership is $16 per year for people ages 50 and older.)
Christian Association of PrimeTimers (CAP)
A Christian-based alternative to AARP, this organization offers specific Christian health ministries and access to the Today's Christian Living online store. (Membership is $14.95 per year for people ages 50 and older.)
Christian Seniors Association (CSA)
Another conservative and Christian-based answer to AARP that speaks out on issues affecting Social Security. Most of their perks include insurance and cash-back benefits. (Membership is $12.95 per year - no age requirement.)
National Association of Conservative Seniors (NAOCS)
A smaller conservative-focused organization that supports small businesses, military service, strong family bonds, and faith-based living. (Membership is $12 per year for people ages 60 or older, but younger people may support the organization.)
The Seniors Coalition (TSC)
Created as an answer to the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, this conservative group offers a small amount of benefits including car rentals, hotel deals, and vision aids. (Membership is $10 per year - no minimum age.)
Nonprofits for the Aging
- National Council on Aging (NCOA) - This isn't a membership as much as an advocacy group, an active one in public policy and economic security. Their mission is to improve the lives of senior citizens, often through living independently, finding jobs, and getting assistance.
- National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) - Created to promote expression and overall health for elderly people, this is a nonprofit organization.
- Leading Age - This advocacy group is a nonprofit that tackles ageism, dementia, long-term service and support funding, and workforce issues.
- Alliance for Retired Americans - This advocacy group fights for Medicare and Medicaid.
Senior Clubs, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Connect
This is a network of women ages 50 and older who wear purple dresses and red hats and go on fun adventures! It's meant to connect older women with each other. (Supporting membership is $30 per year for women 50 and older.)
Meetup is popular with everyone, and they have a robust collection of events for seniors as well. (Joining Meetup is free; the individual events will have their own costs.)
Are you tech-phobic? Learn important computer skills with this club. (Membership is $44 for the first year for people ages 50 and older.)
Volunteering can be a great way to fight off isolation, a real danger for many elderly people. This database can help find great places where seniors can connect with their communities.
Are you retiring after working in a small business environment? Serve as a mentor to a new small business owner in this program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. There's no age requirement!
Volunteer to become a foster grandparent and mentor children, young mothers, and troubled teens, connecting with your community in a whole different way.
A Brief (Senior Discounts List)
Joining a group like the AARP will often allow you to get more senior discounts and coupons than you would normally have access to. For example, an AARP card will get you a senior discount at Outback Steakhouse, Carrabas, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. On the other hand, you don't necessarily need a membership to get deals - just ask! Here's a short list of senior discounts that you can ask about whether or not you have a membership.
Many retail stores offer a senior citizen discount on certain days, so pay attention to the fine print! For example, there's a Joann Fabrics senior discount coupon, but only on specific days.
This senior art supplies discount coupon offers 10% off sale items at Michael's.
Save 10% on Tuesdays.
Get one 5% discount per order; it may not be combined. [60+]"Senior Discount Days at Walgreens - Some participating Walgreens offer discount days on the first Tuesday of the month.
Some participating Walgreens offer discount days on the first Tuesday of the month.
Chances are good that if you need to go somewhere in America, you can get deals on the travel there and back, not to mention your stay.
Save 10% on rail fares.
Get 5% off on bus fares.
Sure, the National Park senior discount isn't as good as it used to be, but that's no reason to not go on adventure.
Watch a movie at a discounted price at participating theaters.
Some domestic markets have senior fares.
Some prices are lowered for United as well.
Save 10% when booking.
Save up to 10% with advanced reservations.
Save off of best available rates.
Find special trips and save.
Find special prices on select sailings.
For many restaurant chains, from Boston Market to Ben & Jerry's to Whataburger, there are a host of senior discounts and deals available at various locations, but not all of them. It certainly never hurts to ask! Here are a few common examples:
McDonald's Discounted Coffee
Ask your local McDonald's if they're participating in discounted coffee for seniors.
Pick from discounted/smaller meals and get 15% off with an AARP card.
Pick from discounted/smaller meals.
Take $50/month off on your data plan.
Senior users can get a special deal for $35 per month.
Also, keep in mind that you don't necessarily need to stick to national chains! Shop around for discounts and senior coupons at your local mom-and-pop shops as well. You never know what sort of deals could be available locally.
If you're struggling to find good senior citizen coupons, you might be surprised by what you find using Coupon Follow!
Being Wary of Scams Targeting Retired and Elderly People
One of the most obvious ways to save money is to avoid having it stolen! Unfortunately, there are plenty of senior fraud cases and scams that target the elderly, and they're updating their tactics every day. Here are a few tips.
Examples of Scams Targeting Seniors
- "This Is the IRS" - Scams targeting the elderly may pretend to be IRS officials and demand payment now. The IRS will never call you to demand immediate payment without having first contacted you via the U.S. Postal Service and given you several opportunities to appeal. They will never accept debit or credit card payment over the phone, either. Contact 800-366-4484 if you think someone is posing as the IRS. If you think you actually do owe taxes, call 800-829-1040.
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs, Medicare Posers, and Health Insurance Scams - You don't have to pay for your new Medicare card, and you should make sure that you have the correct information on real companies before signing up for special health-care programs. Avoid buying prescription drugs online.
- Impostor Charities - It's shameful that there's usually a rise in these types of senior scams after natural disasters, but it's true. Make sure that the website is authentic, and avoid paying over the phone. Google the charity and make sure it's been approved by the Better Business Bureau.
- False Relative Injuries and Crashes - This is one of the worst and most common financial scams targeting the elderly. Sometimes scammers will call and tell you about a son, daughter, or grandchild who's in trouble and needs money right now, using this lie to con you.
Real Programs That Aren't Scams
There are Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) offered by drug manufacturers and State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs) that offer free or cheap prescriptions. The required age depends on the specific program.
You can get a deal on the cost of phone and Internet service through several providers. Your qualification depends on income and federal programs
While it sounds sketchy, free credit reporting is your right as a consumer. You can get reports from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Don't trust other websites besides this one, however.
There are a few imitation websites mixed in with real local chapters, but this is the real resource for getting meals delivered to your home.
You can get help from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program if you make $54,000 or less. You can also qualify for Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).
How to Find Out if It's a Real Program or Elderly Scam
- Don't give out your birth date, Social Security number, or names of relatives. All of this information can be used with identity theft. Relatives' names can be used later to contact you for money. Most of the time, official sources won't ask for this information.
- Double-check the URLs of important websites. Is it a ".gov" site or a ".com"? Does it look strangely similar to the official resource, but it's slightly off? There's a big difference between IRS.gov and IRS.com! Watch out for email phishing scams, too.
- Watch company names closely, and Google where they're from. Ever gotten a car insurance claim even though you don't drive? Look up the companies or the return addresses on envelopes.
- Be wary of telemarketers in general. Older people as a group make more purchases via telemarketing than average Americans, so watch out for charity scams, fake phone calls on behalf of relatives, or "good faith" payments.
- Stay up to date on the latest tactics. Check the FTC's Scam Alerts, the AARP's Fraud Watch Network, and local news for the latest forms of theft happening in your area.
- If fraud's been committed, don't be embarrassed: Report it. Don't let it happen to other people, too. Learn about how to report a crime against the elderly and the resources to contact.
Spending Money Wisely on Fun Things to Do After Retirement
While working, many of us dream about what to do during retirement, often imagining far-off beaches and grand schemes. But the reality is that many of us will experience boredom at the lack of work. If you're finding yourself sucked into the TV after a few weeks or not reaching out, the dangers of social isolation are real. It's very important to stay active. But don't worry; there are plenty of things to do when retired and bored, even if your budget is limited!
Some Free Things for Seniors to Do
- Free Gym Membership for Seniors via Silver Sneakers - See if you're eligible for free access to your local gym.
- Free College Courses for Senior Citizens - Numerous local and state colleges offer free college tuition to senior citizens, often 60 years and up. (The age requirement depends on your local program.)
- Free Museum Access - Seniors can often get either discounts or be able to attend free days; check your local museum's calendar. Also, some museums like the American Museum of Natural History only require a pay-what-you-want donation. (The age depends on your local program.)
- Free Library Classes and Events - Most local libraries run free public classes for seniors on everything from using the Internet to public speaking to jewelry-making.
- Free Local Festivals and Farmers' Markets - Your community may have all manner of free public activities during the day that you might not have had access to when you were working. See if your community has free concerts, free events, or farmers' markets. And did you know that the U.S. government offers farmers' market coupons for seniors who are on a low-income budget? It's called the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).
- Pokemon Go With Young Friends - Pokemon Go is a smartphone app designed to help nerdy people be more mobile, and there's no reason seniors can't enjoy apps and games like this, too!
- Volunteering With RSVP - See how you can help out your local community with this national program. It's free to volunteer, and you'll likely feel great afterward!
Inexpensive and Fun Things to Do When You're Retired
- Board Game or Card Game Nights - Get your friends together once a week to play games. It doesn't need to be Monopoly over and over; there are plenty of new board games being made every year. It's very good for your brain and relatively cheap fun.
- Picnics in the Park - Throw together a picnic for you and a friend and enjoy a day in a public or state park!
- Movie Parties - If you have a nice backyard, consider setting up a projector and hosting small get-togethers with friends. Pick nostalgic films that haven't been seen in a while, or perhaps invite family to watch an embarrassing slideshow that they'll secretly love!
Some Notes on Budgeting Trips and Excursions
Of course, these are some simple things to do in retirement, but what about bucket-list items? When most people think about what to do in retirement, they're imagining those big ideas, trips, and purchases. It's all about sorting out your priorities. In extreme circumstances, affording that trip to Bali might mean downsizing your home or your budget. But always check for senior deals and discounts first!
Create a realistic bucket list that's based on achievable needs and wishes. Sit down and write one, or write out your desires on index cards, arranging and rearranging them based on what's the most and least important to you. This will give you a better idea of what to do after retirement immediately as opposed to a few years from now.
Avoid "spendaphobia," or a fear of spending that will ruin your retirement. Rather, plan your big dreams carefully. Ideas that are incredibly expensive or far off might not actually be that important to you when you list out what you'd like!