How to Retire With Less Than $1 Million in Savings

By Aja McClanahan on 9 March 2018 0 comments

The sad truth is that many Americans are vastly underprepared when it comes to retirement savings. A 2016 GoBankingRates survey revealed that 33 percent of Americans have nothing saved for retirement at all. In total, 56 percent have less than $10,000 saved.

How much money does it actually take to retire comfortably? It seems like one million dollars is the magic number many people think of — and today, with people continuing to live longer, some think that magic number should be closer to $2 million. But is it really necessary? Could some people could get by in retirement on less?

For some, a smaller retirement income could actually support a reasonable lifestyle provided inflation and health care costs don’t get out of hand. For others, it might be a financial struggle.

That being said, let's explore all the different ways you could live a happy retirement even if you don’t amass a million-dollar nest egg.

Work part-time

If your nest egg won’t stretch far enough for all of your financial needs, a part-time job could help immensely. Not only can the extra income come in handy, but a few hours of work per week can have a positive effect on retirees' mental health, as well as their sense of purpose and social life.

You can choose to work in the same field as you always have or launch a second career, maybe in a field you've always been curious about. Turning a hobby into a business could also be profitable, provided it doesn't require a large financial investment to get off the ground. If you already have the skills and materials needed to get started, it can be a cost-effective and rewarding option to bring in extra income. (See also: 5 Questions Retirees Should Ask Before Starting a Small Business)

Wait to take Social Security

If you can live comfortably on your savings early in your retirement, most people should hold off on taking Social Security benefits for as long as they can. The Social Security Administration reports that if you delay receiving retirement benefits until after your full retirement age, your monthly benefit continues to increase. If you can wait until you’re 70 (the maximum age for waiting) you can get 132 percent of your expected payout. Unless your physical health or family history makes you think you will die before your late 70s, it usually makes sense to wait.

This strategy requires patience and frugality, and it may not work for retirees who need their benefits earlier to get by. Before taking this option, make sure you’ve got the financial means to wait, and that you have no other options for bringing in an alternative source of income. (See also: 6 Smart Ways to Boost Your Social Security Payout Before Retirement)

Reduce your housing costs

Housing is one of the largest expenses you’ll incur in life. If you can decrease this expense, you could live on a lot less in retirement. One way of doing this is to move into a smaller home or apartment. This could help you eliminate or drastically lower your mortgage payment, as well as minimize other housing costs like utilities, maintenance, and property taxes.

Another option is moving in with friends or family, if they are willing and able to take you in. Sharing a home is becoming increasingly common due to the rising costs of living for not only retirees, but for everyone else. If you don't have friends or family you could bunk with, you could try to find a roommate that could help foot your housing bill. (See also: 6 Ways You Can Cut Costs Right Before You Retire)

Invest in a health savings account (HSA)

A health savings account is available to those who have a high deductible health care plan. You contribute pretax dollars into your HSA, and can use those same pretax dollars to cover qualified health care expenses — everything from hearing aids, to X-rays, to bandages.

The best part about this plan is that it can become a helpful part of your retirement savings when you turn 65. At this point, your HSA basically becomes a traditional IRA. You can withdraw the funds for anything — health care related or not — to help supplement your retirement income. Funds withdrawn for qualified medical expenses will continue to be tax-free, while nonmedical withdrawals will be taxed as ordinary income. (See also: How an HSA Could Help Your Retirement)

Consider relocating to a low-cost country

The number of American expats abroad is very surprising. The U.S. Department of State estimates that as many as 9 million citizens live overseas. There's a reason so many Americans are choosing to live out their golden years abroad; moving to a country with a lower cost of living means that their retirement dollars are stretching a lot further.

In lower cost of living countries, you will see steep savings on housing, food, and even health care. Many people can also afford inexpensive help from locals to assist in tasks like cooking, cleaning, and running errands.

What’s more is that many of these countries have beachfront properties and communities that are affordable even for the non-millionaire retiree. Though you may be leaving friends and family behind, the good news is that they may be more likely to visit you if there’s a beach involved. (See also: 4 Affordable Retirement Spots With World-Class Health Care)

Invest in cash producing assets

If you don’t have one million dollars in cash, you might be able to make up the balance with other assets like real estate, stocks, or a small business. All of these assets have the potential to add another stream of income for you in retirement.

Real estate can be an excellent source of cash flow if you are able to charge rents that exceed expenses for your property. If you own dividend-yielding stocks, the income from dividend payouts can also boost your bottom line. Finally, if you have an interest in a business that is profitable, you could retire on less than $1 million with a moderate amount of monthly net income. (See also: 7 Reasons to Invest in Stocks Past Age 50)

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