Advice for Living on a Pension from the Sixty and Me Community
People 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, while living on a pension.
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 assumption seems to be that, by the time we reach our 60s, we have either “made it” or not. 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 a pension.
So, to help you get the most from your money, whether you are retired, or still working part-time in your 60s, I turned to the Sixty and Me community for some advice. Here are a few of the practical tips that the 50,000 women in our community provided for living on a pension.
Shop Around for Everything
Many of us develop lazy shopping habits while we are working. In part, this comes from necessity. When you are trying to juggle family and work commitments, you simply don’t have the time to shop strategically.
Many women in the community mentioned that they have become much more strategic about their shopping now that they are living on a pension. 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% 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. Of course, your supermarket may restock on a different day, but, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to ask a store clerk, or, simply pop in once in a while to look for patterns.
The same principle applies for luxuries like travel. If you live in Europe, you can often get flights on EasyJet for as £40 ($65) and there are many creative options for saving money on your lodging as well. Even if you live in the U.S., where there are fewer “budget airlines,” checking a range of ticket broker sites and booking far in advance should give you plenty of cost-effective options.
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!
Even better, thanks to several new websites, sharing is no longer restricted to our home towns and close friends. 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.
Several women in the Sixty and Me community mentioned that they have turned to sharing as a way of saving money in retirement. 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.
Earn a Little Money on the Side
Even if you have left your full-time job behind, there is no reason that you can’t make a little extra money in retirement. This could involve taking on a part-time job, or, you could start a business around one of your passions. For example, if you love to write, why not consider doing a little freelance writing? My interview with professional writer, Ben Gran is a great place to get started with this last suggestion.
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 to stay more social and could have health benefits too.
Know Your Rights and Take Advantage of Programs
Many people feel a bit awkward about asking for help or taking advantage of social 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?
According to the women in our community, one of the first things that you should do when you reach retirement age is visit your citizen’s advice bureau. For example, if you live in the U.K., you can visit adviceguide.org.uk and if you live in the United States, you can start with USA.gov.
Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for free bus passes, assistance with your winter energy bills, housing assistance and more. The sooner you understand your rights, the better equipped you will be to manage the rest of your money efficiently.
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 kids to explain your new financial reality, the better it will be for all of you. In fact, you will probably be surprised by just 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.
You have spent your entire life caring for others. Now it’s time to take care of yourself. If you want to be generous, be generous with your time. But, use your money to build the best life that you possibly can for yourself.
Prioritize and Downsize Your Life Where Possible
Downsizing can involve big changes or minor adjustments. 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 you are renting, moving to a smaller place could reduce your monthly costs significantly.
So, ask yourself, “Do I really need all this space?” If you are like most people, the answer is probably “no,” and 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 that 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.
Deal with Your Debt as Early as Possible
Dealing with debt in retirement can be scary, but, there is one piece of good news. Many women in the community have told me that reaching retirement has given their creditors an extra reason to settle their debts at significant discounts. For example, I know one woman who was able to negotiate a 50% reduction on a $4,000 credit card debt, by offering to pay it off with money borrowed from her son. She then paid her son back $50 a month at 0% interest, until everything was settled.
No matter what you do, 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 councilor about whether declaring bankruptcy makes sense. Otherwise, cut your costs, try to make a bit of money on the side, negotiate and pay off your debts as soon as you possibly can.
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.
As with anything in life, whether you enjoy making things depends on your frame of reference. If you see yourself as being forced to make things by hand, you will probably hate the process. But, if you see yourself as choosing to get creative in retirement, you will almost certainly love the process.
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.
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 at restaurants and go to 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 move 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 I 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.
Get Creative with Your Living Situation
If you want to continue to live by yourself, downsizing your house can be a great place to start, but, this isn’t the only option. One trend that many women are following is looking for a flat mate to share their home with. 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
Finally, Stay Positive and 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!
What advice would you offer to the other women in our community for living on a pension? Please join the conversation.
Do you want to know how to make money with your writing? Then, this episode of the Sixty and Me Show is for you! In this episode, I speak with Ben Gran, a successful freelance writer, about how to start a writing business.