How to Live on Social Security Alone


Looking at your estimated Social Security benefit statement can be a sobering experience. After all, comparing it to your current level of expenses almost always reveals a significant shortfall.

The good news is people do manage to make it on just that one check. Even better, it can often be a more pleasant situation than you might expect.

Here’s how to live on Social Security alone.

Delay Retirement to Maximize Your Benefit

Hitting that magic age (currently 62) at which the Social Security Administration is willing to send you a check each month can trigger significant temptation. However, you’ll leave a whole lot of money in D.C. if you go for the okie-doke.

Your benefit will be 76 percent higher if you wait until you’re 70. Some people might think getting it at the earliest possible moment means you’ll get something if you die before 70. However, you’ll need that money even more if you live beyond 70. The longer you can keep working, the bigger benefit you’ll earn.

Eliminate Debt

Take every step possible to eliminate all of your debt beforehand if you know you’re going to retire with Social Security as your sole means of income. Every dollar spent to satisfy a credit card bill is a dollar you won’t have to buy food.

Consider working with one of the better debt settlement companies out there to negotiate settlement agreements on your behalf if your obligations look like they’re going to be too tough to eradicate. You’ll also want to make it a point to pay off your mortgage before retiring. This will limit your housing costs to property taxes and maintenance.

Lower Your Living Costs

If you still have the large home in which you raised your family, it’s time to sell it and use the proceeds to buy something smaller and less costly to keep up. Taking that idea one step farther, you can also move to a place with a milder climate and more reasonable living costs.

States like Alabama, Texas and Tennessee have pretty favorable weather and you can live in them for far less money than Florida and California.

While most states don’t tax Social Security benefits, a number of states forego income tax too. Even better, a couple of them have no sales tax, nor do they impose income tax. Living in one of these places lets your money do more for your personal needs.

Share a Pad

Remember the Golden Girls? Living with others can cut your expenses considerably. Hey, if it worked for Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia, it can work for you and your friends too. Another plus, you’ll have others with whom you can enjoy activities. Single and retired can be a solitary existence. A housemate (or a few) will alleviate those concerns.

Look for Deals

One of the advantages of being older is lower prices on certain items. Restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters and many other places offer senior discounts. Find them all and time your pursuits to coincide with those offerings.

Clothing at consignment stores is just as good as brand new if you need to get something nice. A number of benefit programs exist to help you pay for medications, utilities and the like. Libraries, parks and community centers provide lots of free entertainment.

Yes, living on Social Security alone — while not ideal — is certainly doable. It can also be a far more comfortable existence than you’ve been led to believe. You just have to be resourceful. These tips will set you on the right path.