Retirement: How to live on social security alone?

Many people who are approaching retirement age wonder if it’s even possible to live on just social security with no other income whatsoever. And, having been there, we can tell you that it’s entirely possible, however, not especially easy.

If you’re planning to live on Social Security alone, then it’s important to start planning early. This will help by giving you sufficient time to save some money and tweak your lifestyle a bit so that it’s easier to live on limited income.

Average Monthly SS Benefit

First of all, the average Social Security benefit in 2023 is $1,657 per month, which means that a single person would have to find a way to live on less than $20,000 in annual income. Believe me, this could prove quite tricky, especially if you’re dealing with high housing costs or other sky-high expenses. And, although the average monthly benefit may be $1,647, many retirees have to live on a lot less, depending on their pre-retirement income level.

In fact, some retirees are actually forced to live on SS benefits that are actually below the national poverty level. That doesn’t seem fair after a lifetime of hard work but it’s a very sad fact of life.

Helpful Hints For Getting By on Your SS Benefits

Here are just a few tips and hints for living on Social Security alone:

Create a detailed budget trying really hard to stick to it

This will help you with tracking all of your spending and ensure you’re not overspending in any particular area.

Cut back on any unnecessary expenses

Think about it. Do you really need your expensive cable or satellite TV package? Could you simply start cooking more m home instead of eating out so often?

Cancel unnecessary subscriptions

If you give it some thought, you can probably find some that you don’t really need (or even want) anymore. And, to make it even easier, you can sign up for a service, like Rocket Money that will track and cancel your subscriptions for you. Hey, every little bit helps.

Downsize

If you’re currently living in a large home and don’t really need all of that space anymore, you could start saving money by moving to a smaller one. 

Get help from family and/or friends

If you have family or friends who are willing to help and can afford to, don’t be afraid to ask. They may be able to help you and you could trade your time for things like childcare for financial assistance. And, if they’re wealthy and in need of help with their tax bracket, substantial monthly financial help to you could be enough to make you a dependent, thereby reducing their tax liability.

Be sure to consult your accountant about this one but it’s something to consider and could benefit both you and your family member or even a friend. After all, if more than half of your annual income is coming from them, then technically you’re a dependent for as long as they provide that income.

Get creative.

There are so many ways to make money on the side. Just think about it. You could start a blog, sell some handmade crafts, or offer pet sitting or house cleaning services to friends, neighbors, or even the general public. Just get creative and find some ways to make money that fit your own individual skills, hobbies, and interests.

Let’s face it. Everybody has them, so why not make a little extra cash by offering the fruits of your labor nd talent to other folks who might not be quite as good at that sort of thing.

Get a Job (part-time)

You could get a part-time job to help you supplement your income and make it easier to cover all of your expenses.

Apply for government assistance programs

If you’re struggling to make ends meet on SS alone, you may qualify for food stamps, Medicaid, or other government assistance programs.

Find other ways to save money

Could you possibly consider getting a roommate to help with paying the rent or your mortgage? Could you carpool to work (if working a part-time job)?

(We’re going into a lot more about these options below.)

How To Make It Easier

From our experience, we can tell you that there are a few things that you can do to make it easier to live on Social Security alone if you have to. First off, you can try to reduce your expenses as much as you possibly can. This could mean moving to a smaller home, driving a less expensive car or eating out a lot less often.

In addition, if you’re really struggling to make ends meet on SS alone, you may want to consider applying for one or more government assistance programs like food stamps (EBT card) or Medicaid. These are just some of the types of programs that can assist you with paying for food, housing, and medical care.

Save on Cell Phones & Internet

Saving on necessities like cell phones, service, and the Internet can be an excellent budget tamer. Here are a few suggestions:

Free Cell Service

One program that has proven to be a Godsend for many is Assurance Wireless. With it, you can get free cellphone service with free unlimited data and text messages every month and we’ve been getting it for years.

You can apply online and, if you qualify, that’s one less bill that you have to worry about every month on your limited SS income. And, it uses T-Mobile, so you know you’re getting pretty good coverage. Another similar program is called SafeLink. Both programs also offer a free smartphone.

Free Internet

Another great service for low-income individuals is through Xfinity via the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Again, like Assurance Wireless or SafeLink, if you qualify, you can get your home WiFi absolutely free.

A Part-Time Job or Maybe Something More?

You may also want to consider getting a part-time job to supplement your SS income. Many local businesses are looking for steady seniors like you for all kinds of positions from sales to service and even management positions. Your years of experience in your field will naturally play into what type of part-time job you’re qualified for.

Whatever you do, however, make sure that you don’t sign on for a job that requires you to work so many hours that now you’re not retired at all but working full-time just like before retirement.

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Whether or not you should even consider working part-time to help make ends meet depends on several factors, including:

  • Your Health: I you’re in good health, you’re more likely to handle both the physical and mental demands of a part-time job. However, needless to say, if you’re not, then the rigors of most part-time work could be prohibitive.
  • Your Financial Situation: If you’re struggling to make ends meet, a part-time job could be a good way to supplement your income. Even a minimum-wage part-time job could make a big difference.
  • Your Interests: Some retirees actually enjoy working, and discover that working part-time gives them more of a sense of purpose while also keeping them active. On the other hand, you might prefer spending your time relaxing, spending time with family, and just enjoying your retirement in general. If so, just tighten your belt and stay within your budget.

Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Be sure to check the Social Security website to find out how much you’re allowed to make at your age before your SS checks start diminishing in value. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by losing money instead of making more of it. And, last but not least, don’t apply for any part-time jobs that would require a long commute.

Otherwise, you’ll be back to that same-old-same-old of pre-retirement gridlock and way too much wasted time spent in your car instead of relaxing and enjoying retirement. Search only for local businesses and only those that are in your wheelhouse and within your capabilities. Retirement is definitely the time to work smarter, not harder, so always keep that uppermost in your mind.

Finding a Part-Time Job

If you’re one of the many retirees who decide that a part- job is a good fit, there are a few tried and true ways of finding one:

  • Networking: Start by talking to your friends, family members, and even some former colleagues to find out if perhaps they know of any part-time jobs currently available.
  •  Searching online: Surf the Internet for websites that list part-time jobs.
  •  Contacting local businesses: Often, local businesses are looking for part-time help but you might not know they are unless you call or email them, or even ask them in person.

Starting Your Own Business

On the other hand, instead of a part-time job working for someone else, perhaps you’ve always dreamed of starting your own business, and now could be just the time to do it. Here’s 20 ideas that could get you started. However, what’s important now is carefully considering the many factors involved before you make any decisions in this area. So, here are just a few of the pros and cons when it comes to starting a new business when you retire:

Pros:

  • Making some extra money: If your business is successful of course, you could make some extra money, which can help you a great deal by supplementing your retirement income or even saving a little for a rainy day.
  •  Meeting new people: Starting your own business can be a great way for you to meet some new people since you’ll be networking with employees (if you have any), potential customers, and suppliers.
  • Staying active: Although retirement could be a time for just relaxing, traveling, and enjoying your hobbies, it’s also quite possible that it’ll actually turn out to be a time to get really bored. So, starting your own business could be an excellent way to stay active and engaged.

Cons:

  • Risk: Starting your own business can be a risky venture and there’s no guarantee that it’ll be successful. You can minimize some of that risk by choosing to start a small business in a niche market that is currently doing quite well and requires very little overhead. So, do your research and consider a home-based business, like affiliate marketing, for minimum overhead.
  • Time commitment: Both the start-up process and the everyday running of your own business can be a bit time-consuming. You might need to be willing to put in some long hours at times, making you feel a lot less retired.
  • Stress: Starting your own business can be quite stressful (if you let it). You may need to develop the ability to handle that stress while dealing with any challenges that might come up.

So, if you’re considering starting a new business after you retire, it’s crucial that you carefully weigh all of the pros and cons. Then, if you decide to go ahead and dive into the deep end, here are a few tips to help you start your post-retirement business.

First, you need a solid business plan that includes your target market, marketing strategy, and financial projections. Second, you need to make sure that you have the necessary resources to start and run your business.

This means not only money, but also time, and expertise. Third, you need to be prepared to work hard and make some sacrifices, especially at first. Starting a new business can be a lot of work, and it could take several years for it to be successful.

Stop Worrying & Start Enjoying!

Have you been worrying about how you’ll possibly survive if you have to live on your Social Security benefits alone? If so, then it’s always important to remember that living on Social Security alone is definitely a challenge, but it’s not impossible. With careful planning and budgeting, it’s entirely possible to live a comfortable and independent life after you retire.