Experts say you should have at least 8 times your income stashed away before you retire.
While that’s great advice, it is not always the case for everyone.
And that’s evident from statistics indicating that more than 15 million American senior citizens live below 200% of the federal poverty level.
Of course, we do not encourage slothfulness toward retirement planning and savings, but if you’re wondering how to survive retirement with no money or very little amount of money, this post might be the best thing you’ve read in recent times.
What Happens If You Retire With No Saved Money?
As unthinkable as it may sound to some people, there are about 15% of Americans with no retirement savings whatsoever!
That’s in addition to about 22% or more than a fifth of Americans that have less than five grand in their retirement nest egg.
These percentages may not really drive the point home for you. But a few real-life situations may help you understand what can possibly go wrong if you don’t have any money saved for retirement.
First, you don’t have many options if you don’t have savings. Money opens doors of opportunities, and a lack of it results in the opposite.
You may lose your home if you can’t pay the mortgage. That means you don’t have a choice in where you live in retirement. Also, you run out of choices once the money in your credit dries up.
Lose Your Assets
Eventually, you will have to give up some of your assets to qualify for state and federal government programs, such as healthcare insurance programs.
Some older adults who outlived their savings had to foreclose their homes or relinquish their Social Security checks to live in long-term care facilities or receive government-sponsored healthcare.
Relying on Family
You have to move in with family or friends to survive retirement without money. This is not a comfortable position for anyone, even if family members are willing to help.
Forgo Retirement Altogether
You may have to continue working for the rest of your life, living paycheck to paycheck, if living off family and friends is too embarrassing for you.
The dream lifestyle you envisioned during your working years may never come to reality. This can quickly take its toll on your emotional health unless you have a strong support network in retirement.
In a nutshell, surviving retirement without savings will be tough, no doubt. And while it is not an ideal situation, it does happen. Don’t panic if that’s your current financial situation or you’re concerned about outliving your meager retirement savings.
Know that you’re not alone in this, and there are a few things you can do to remedy the situation.
Tips for Surviving Retirement with No Savings
Make the Most of Social Security
Although you can start drawing from Social Security once you reach age 62, consider delaying the checks until you hit age 70 if you can.
In 2021, it is possible to receive up to $3,895 per month if you file for Social Security at age 70. The maximum amount of money you can draw at age 62 is $2,324.
If possible, take on part-time and seasonal jobs to cover your living expenses until working becomes too much for you to bear due to age.
On the other hand, if you are already receiving Social Security benefits, you must maximize every single dollar. Overspending, splurging, or buying things on impulse are not for you if you have no money saved for retirement and depending only on Social Security.
The best thing you can do is to figure a way to make your expenses less than what you receive. This means making a budget for your income and keeping track of every amount of money you spend. This is a smart move, even if the idea of budgeting doesn’t really appeal to you.
Keep in mind that the amounts of money mentioned above are the absolute maximum anyone can receive. Not everyone gets that type of check.
In many states, Social Security checks are worth only about $1,400 per month on average. Only a few states offer a monthly benefits payment of a little above $1,500.
Reduce Your Expenses
Similar to the recommendation to save up to 8 times your income before you stop working, telling you to reduce or cut back your expenses is easier said than done.
But with little to no savings at all, you pretty much don’t have a lot of options. Here are some ways to reduce your expenses:
Live in a smaller home: Holding on to your home because of sentimental values may not be in your best interest if you don’t have enough money in retirement. Moving to a more affordable part of town and even downsizing to a smaller home can significantly cut down your rent or mortgage payments. However, if you own your home outright with no mortgage debt, it is wiser to remain in your home and consider the next tip instead.
Have a roommate: Sharing your space might not be a bad idea if you’re looking to drastically cut back your living expenses. Besides, you can rent out part of your home, especially if you live in a fairly large home.
Save on transportation: Slash your transportation costs by owning only one car, buying a more economical car, or drive less by switching to public transportation. If you want to keep your car, consider using it to earn money by signing up with a rideshare company.
You might have to forego the idea of retirement if don’t want to downsize or overhaul your lifestyle.
Luckily, the traditional retirement age doesn’t seem to be biding anymore. In fact, it is considered illegal to force anyone to retire based on age.
In other words, retirement is a more matter of choice than compulsion. This gives you the leeway to work for as long as possible, at least, until you can save enough money to support yourself without working on a 9-to-5 grind.
Take Up a Retiree Job
Working part-time in retirement is arguably the most practical thing you can do if you ever find yourself in need of cash after you are officially retired.
Indeed, working while you are officially retired may not have been part of your original retirement dream lifestyle, but if you haven’t stashed up enough funds to support the type of life you want when you stop working, the smart thing to do is to keep working.
Although you may not rake in the same amount of money you earned during your peak income-making years, some retirement jobs can help you make ends meet. Some of these include:
Driver (school bus, truck, public transport, etc.)
Rideshare job opportunities (Lyft, Uber, Wingz, etc.), especially if you still have a car
Lastly, you may have to resort to asking family members for support if you are heading into retirement without money. As embarrassing as this may be, you may have to tread this path until you can, at least, find your feet again.
But before you ask your family for help, make sure to look into local non-profits that may link you up with services that can improve your situation.
Another thing you can do is offer free services at the local food pantry where you can get some food for the week. Volunteering in this way says a lot about your determination to improve your current situation.
Ask your family for help if all else fails. However, remember that you are a financial burden to them and that can lead to a ton of anxiety and stress. For this reason, it is a wise move to make smart choices with any money you get from family and friends.
You shouldn’t constantly go begging for handouts. You may not have been able to save enough money during your working years, but that doesn’t mean you are not smart enough to use your limited resources judiciously.
Social Security alone can’t provide the type of retirement lifestyle most people want.
That means you will have to make a lot of sacrifices if you retire without savings. You may need to forgo retirement altogether or take up part-time and seasonal jobs to help you survive your golden years.
Whichever option suits your situation, at least, you now know how to survive retirement with no money. If you have a few years until retirement, though, your best bet would be to start saving aggressively toward the future.
Even if you don’t amass a ton of money before you stop working, you can get creative and strategic with your resources.
John E Chambers is an experienced financial advice expert. Born in Chicago, he has a master's in Industrial Finance, but he has spent decades offering investment advice to businesses and individuals alike. He is the founder of RetireeWorkforce.com and wants the website to be valuable for retirement advice. In addition, he writes articles that help users jump-start their retirement plans and choose the best investment options. If not pondering over stock market statistics or reading some magazines, you can find John spending time with his family. As an early retiree, John also offers unique insights into what post-retirement life is like.