Whether you’re so far from retirement that it seems like barely a blip on your radar, or you can see the big day circled in bright red ink on your calendar, planning for retirement at any and every stage of your life is essential. From small, incremental changes to big, monumental ones, there’s a lot of value in being an active planner when it comes to your “second act.” Here are 10 ideas for anyone to supercharge their retirement.
1. Start living simply.
This is a life-long lesson for anyone who wants to retire comfortably. No matter how close or far you are from retirement, start living a more simple life now. Scale back on all of your expenses. Each time you’re going to make a purchase, ask yourself if this is a need or a want, and if you’ll be just fine without it. Opt for less living space when possible, and aim to acquire fewer things.
2. Ask for a raise now.
Earning a higher salary now means that your earning potential for the rest of your life has grown. Don’t put it off another day–if you think you deserve more, then ask for it. If you’re take-home pay is $50,000 right now, and your raise gets you $5,000 more each year, you’ll make $75,000 more over the course of 15 years. You might not notice a big difference paycheck to paycheck, but the amount you can put into savings is significant.
3. Cut back on your expenses.
This is part of living a simpler life. Make it a habit to reduce your energy consumption, buy fewer clothes and take better care of the ones you have, and avoid purchasing anything new. Sources like Craigslist, consignment shops, and reuse stores offer a wealth of new or slightly used merchandise at far lower prices, or even for free. Resolve to not buy anything new for one month and see how far you are able to get. You’ll be surprised at how many things you don’t really need, or how much you can get for free or very inexpensively because it’s used.
4. Max out your employer matches.
In addition to asking for a raise, make sure you are taking the maximum allowable level for your 401(k) and other employer sponsored investment and savings programs. Whatever your employer’s match is, be sure to meet its maximum. Otherwise, you are basically foregoing free money.
5. Take advantage of AARP and AAA discounts.
Even if you’re not yet retired, people aged 50 and older can become members of AARP and take advantage of the discount programs they offer. At any age, you can join AAA, and find discounts on everything from groceries to travel to entertainment.
6. Work part-time during retirement.
When the Social Security Act was signed in 1935, the average life expectancy in the United States was only 60 for men and 64 for women, yet the retirement age was set at 65. Now people live 15, 20, or 30 years past their retirement age. Keeping a part-time job during retirement helps you stay fresh, offers you regular income, and keeps you connected to your professional self. There are so many options for professional part-time jobs for people who have a wealth of experience now. You can even find at-home jobs that allow you to work from the comfort of your home, helping you to avoid the costs associated with commuting and professional wardrobes.
7. Downsize your home.
One of the biggest expenses people have is the upkeep of their homes. Not only is a large home expensive, but as you age it will be more difficult for you to maneuver through your house. A smaller house provides you with reduced expenses and responsibilities, and the ability to stay in your home for as long as possible throughout your retirement.
8. Learn how to cook.
This is a great idea for people at any age. Not only does learning how to cook give you something new to enjoy during retirement, but cooking your own meals is far cheaper than dining out. The added bonus is that home-cooked meals are generally healthier for you, setting you up for a healthier retirement. Cooking at home will help you save an estimated 75 percent on food-related expenses each year.
9. Put off retirement for just two years.
If the idea of working until you are 65 is not appealing, consider what you’ll be missing out on monetarily by retiring early. At 65, you are able to claim full Social Security benefits, whereas retiring earlier means that your overall payments will be lower throughout the course of your retirement. In addition, that’s two more years of bringing in a full salary and two more years to save for your impending retirement.
Lifestyle changes take a while to become habits, so be sure to make these tips part of your daily routine right now. Whether you’ve got a year or 20 years before retirement, it’s never too late to make meaningful changes that will positively benefit the later years of your life.
Featured photo credit: TaxCredits.net via flickr.com