Retiring from work and beginning to collect Social Security are two reasons to celebrate getting older. Although you are able to start collecting Social Security at age 62, your monthly benefits will be significantly higher if you wait until you reach your full retirement age, which ranges from 65 to 67 depending on the year you were born.
For example, if your full retirement age is 67, but you start collecting Social Security at 62, your benefits will be 30% less than they would be if you waited the additional five years. If possible, wait to start collecting until even after you reach your full retirement age. If you delay collecting Social Security until age 70, you will receive your maximum Social Security benefits.
Did you claim your benefits early and now find that you're shocked by the true costs of retiring on Social Security? If you filed for Social Security within the past 12 months, you can withdraw your claim and restart at a later date if you want to increase your benefits. However, it's important to note that if you choose to withdraw, you must repay all the benefits you received up to that point. Still, this could be worth it in the long term to be able to max out your Social Security payments.
If you are married, it's important to discuss how to maximize Social Security benefits should one spouse die. When one person dies, the widow or widower can receive the deceased spouse's benefits instead of their own if the benefits are higher than what they were receiving before. So it makes sense for the higher-earning spouse to retire later so that when two Social Security checks coming to the household become only one, the surviving spouse will receive the greatest benefits possible.
Your Social Security benefits will stretch further when your cost of living is lower. If you live in an expensive location, consider moving to a place where you can live on only a social security check. Cities like Tuscon, Arizona and Reno, Nevada have warm weather and plenty to do for retirees, plus their cost of living is low.
To make the most of your Social Security income, it's best to pay off all debts, including credit card bills and mortgages, before retiring. This way you can focus on putting your benefits towards what you need day-to-day, rather than spending it on things you purchased in the past.
Most states and Washington, D.C. do not tax Social Security benefits, but you can make your benefits stretch even further if you live in a state with even fewer taxes. Alaska and New Hampshire levy no tax on sales or income, and Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming do have sales taxes but don't impose state income taxes or taxes on pension income, according to AARP.
Splitting living expenses with a roommate or housemate is a great way to make your dollars stretch further, plus it can prevent the loneliness that often comes with being a retiree. A SmartAsset study found that in some major cities, renters who split a two-bedroom with a roommate save more than $800 a month over those who rent a one-bedroom on their own. Even if you are not renting, having a roommate can lower the amount you spend on utilities, internet, cable and energy.
You don't need to spend any of your Social Security check to stay busy and have fun. Go to a museum with free admission or check out a library book to stay entertained during the day. You can also attend open mic nights at a local coffee shop or theater, which often do not charge an admission fee. Other free activities include attending book readings, going to a lecture at a local college or university and attending free outdoor concerts.
Of course, these benefits might have to wait until after states are fully reopened from the coronavirus shutdowns.
An AARP membership costs $16 a year, but the discounts can earn you the membership fee back plus more. AARP members get savings on health and wellness expenses, restaurants, entertainment, shopping and community memberships that go beyond regular senior discounts.
Sprucing up your wardrobe doesn't have to take a big chunk of your Social Security check. Many major retailers offer discounts to senior shoppers: Banana Republic gives 10% off to shoppers age 50 and up, Kohl's gives shoppers 60 and above 15% off every Wednesday, and Ross has a 10% off Tuesday deal for anyone age 55 and up, according to TheSeniorList.com.
Medication costs can really add up. To save money on your prescriptions, always opt for the generic when possible. And consider joining a prescription membership program wherever you buy your medication to receive discounts and earn rewards. For example, the Rite Aid Rx Savings Program gives members 15 percent off or more on meds, and a 30-day supply of most generics costs only $9.99 with the plan.
An easy way to stay active for free is to go for a daily walk or hike. Make a morning walk around your neighborhood part of your daily routine, or visit a local hiking trail to enjoy nature in your area. Going for hikes during times when most people are at work saves you the hassle of dealing with crowds, so you can really enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors.
One of the best ways to feel good is to give back to those in need. Volunteer your time to a cause that's important to you -- it's a free way to spend your time that benefits others as well.
Many local colleges and universities allow seniors to take college classes for free thanks to tuition waivers for residents age 60 and older. Even if your local higher education institution doesn't offer a tuition waiver, you might be able to audit classes for free. This means you can attend all classes and lectures, but you won't receive a credit for the classes you take. One benefit of auditing is that you don't have to deal with exams and homework assignments.
You might not have had time to hit the gym regularly while you were working, but now there's no excuse to not be active. Medicare members can join the free SilverSneakers program, which gives seniors access to over 14,000 gyms and fitness centers across the country. Not only do you have full access to participating gyms, but SilverSneakers members can enjoy free classes at the gym and beyond. If you've never tried yoga or want to dance your way to health, you can do so without spending a dime.
Unfortunately, this perk may have to wait until all gyms are fully open and safe to go to again.