Tuesday, February 5, 2019

100 Retirement Tips

We are pretty much retired (hubby is fully retired, I am kind of retired but like to take gigs and other freelance jobs as they come up).  We did a little (very little) planning for retirement but so far we are pretty happy where we ended up!  I saw this post on Kim's blog and it reminded me that there are A LOT of things that go into (frugal) retirement planning.  Here are 100 tips to consider if you are heading towards retirement...


  1. Where, geographically, do you want to live?  We are happy with hot weather and no snow shoveling required!  
  2. In what sort of housing do you want to live?  House, condo, apartment, with your kids?  Each option has pluses and minuses; owning your own house requires maintenance costs like for a new hot water tank or roof or HVAC system, on the other hand, living in an apartment means non-stop rent increases usually.
  3. Plan ahead for when you aren't as mobile; many seniors chose single story ranch houses instead of two or three story houses with a lot of stairs for this reason.
  4. Do you want to live in a senior community with low maintenance homes and a community center or do you want to keep the family farm (working the family farm becomes exponentially more difficult as you age)?
  5. How are property taxes where you plan to live?  There can be several thousands of dollars difference between buying a house in one state (like Nevada where the taxes for houses are low) and Connecticut (where property taxes are un-freaking-believably high!).
  6. Does the place you plan on living have senior property tax rebates?  Many areas offer tax abatement programs for seniors which they can use on house and car taxes to cushion the financial impact of ever-increasing taxes.
  7. What kind of disasters are common to where you plan to live?  Obviously it becomes more difficult to deal with disasters like tornadoes and hurricane evacuations and major winter storms as you age so this is something to check into when deciding where to live.
  8. How much living space do you need?  We downsized quite a bit when we moved because I didn't want to continue cleaning a big house or hiring a housekeeping service.  My 88 year old friend finally decided it was time to downsize from a 5,000 square foot house to a 1,500 square foot house (!?!).  It's taking her a bit of time to get used to a smaller place but most people don't need so much space.
  9. Should you downsize or should you actually upsize?  If we would have thought about it before buying our house, we would have considered getting a place with a mother-in-law cottage to give us more options (we could live in the cottage and rent out the house or lived in the house and when we are old, used the cottage for a caretaker or for one of the kids to move in to help us in our old age).
  10. What changes do you need to do to your home to make it livable for the rest of your life?  Flooring that will wear for many years and not need changing out is one thing to consider.  We have a tile roof that has a 50 year lifespan so that should last us the rest of our lives.  We will add grab bars in the bathroom if they become necessary.  A quality interior paint job should last for year.

Medical Care

  1. What kind of health insurance do you have now and how will this change as you retire?
  2. How will you pay for your health insurance in the future?  Many people switch to Medicare when they can but still need to pay for parts C and D as well as pay additionally for some medication costs and other things (this whole system is rather mind-boggling).
  3. How will you pay for medications?  This can become a huge issue for people as they age because insurance may not pay for everything and drug costs are sky-rocketing!
  4. Where will you get medical care?  This actually comes into play as you age because healthy young people can live anywhere but older, sicker people like to live closer to their healthcare providers and hospital services.
  5. Do you need long-term care insurance?  What would happen if you need long-term nursing home care or in-home care?  How would you pay for it?
  6. If you do take medications, make a plan for not getting them mixed up or overdosing (this actually happens quite a lot).  Hubby takes several medications daily so I have a written list of his medications, dosages, and when to take them.  I put his pills in those daily pill boxes so they are organized by pills to take in the AM and pills to take in the PM.  And I have a picture of each pill bottle on his phone so if he ever needs to recite his medications to a doctor or pharmacist he just has to show them the pictures.
  7. How can you keep yourself as healthy as possible while you age so you don't incur steep medical costs?  Daily exercise, a good diet, and monitoring your health metrics can go a long way towards keeping you healthy.
  8. Do you know some do-it-yourself medical care tricks?  Years ago most medical care was done at home with old fashioned remedies.  These still work for the common cold and basic illnesses (obviously get yourself to a hospital when it comes to high fever, difficulty breathing, chest pain, etc).
  9. Do you need to consider specialized medical situations?  I have friends that live in remote places and a couple who live on an island so they pay a small fee every year to the local air ambulance service in case they need to be evacuated.  For people who travel a lot, travelers health and medical evacuation insurance may be a good idea.
  10. One of the most common injuries/fatalities for seniors is falling.  Work on preventing falls with regularly updating your prescription glasses, wearing sensible shoes, not climbing ladders or doing other high-risk activities, doing exercises to increase your balance, reviewing your prescriptions so interactions don't cause dizziness or falls, and getting rid of fall hazards in your home.

Living Expenses

  1. You need an emergency fund!  It isn't if but when an emergency will happen (a busted stove or air conditioning unit for example) and having cash to cover it usually goes a long way towards fixing or mitigating the emergency.
  2. Common living expenses like utilities and every other monthly bill you pay have nowhere to go but up so how will you pay continually rising bills while living on a fixed income?  I would love to get rid of our cars and just Uber around but hubby hates that idea (I really think it would be cheaper!).
  3. How secure are your retirement sources of income?  Social Security payments are pretty secure (for now) but pension plans can range from pretty secure to nearly bankrupt depending on the plan.  
  4. Can you develop multiple sources of retirement income?  I know people who have Social Security, a civil service pension, a military pension, Roth IRAs, a 401k, and even royalties coming in.  Needless to say that is a way better retirement plan than just hoping to subsist on a small Social Security check each month.
  5. Do you regularly look at each of your bills and see if there are ways to eliminate or reduce them?  I regularly check different companies to see if I can get lower home and auto insurance plans, I keep an eye on our local internet provider and switch to cheaper plans if they come available, and we have switched cell phone plans several times over the years to cut costs yet still meet our needs.
  6. Can you share living expenses?  Years ago the "Golden Girls" was a funny TV show but as housing and living expenses have increased, having roommates or living in a co-housing community is looking better and better when it comes to ways to cut down on living expenses.
  7. Do you have a fund for planned replacement costs for things that will eventually wear out?  Eventually you will need to replace shoes and clothing as well as towels and furniture and tires and maybe even your car.  Having a fund to pay cash for these items is a great way to stay out of debt.
  8. Note that where you live can have a huge impact on regular living expenses.  Some states have really high utility costs, in some places it costs a lot more for gas for your car than other places, food and meat and produce can range from cheap to very expensive...it pays to look into these costs as well when deciding where to live.
  9. What living expenses do you no longer need?  We used to have several cars, we went down to one car and now have two cars (only because hubby doesn't want to get rid of his van although we hardly ever use it).  We can easily live without cable TV as an OTA antenna works well here (unfortunately it costs less to have internet and cable TV bundled together than just internet so for now we have cable TV, otherwise we would be perfectly happy with just OTA TV).  The fewer things you need, the more money you can save on maintenance/storage/insurance/extraneous costs associated with these consumer products.
  10. How can you reduce the living expenses you can't get rid of?  When we first moved to Las Vegas we read our electric meter everyday after a particularly high electric bill and worked at doing things to reduce the bill like setting the AC higher or the heat lower, taking shorter showers, turning off appliances and lights when not in use, etc.


  1. Do you have an up-to-date Will which is signed and notarized?
  2. Do you have an up-to-date Living Will which is signed and notarized?
  3. Do you have an up-to-date medical power of attorney document which is signed and notarized?
  4. Do you have all of your important documents (birth certificates, marriage and divorce paperwork, military paperwork, death certificates, deeds and titles, etc) in a safe place like a safe or safe deposit box?
  5. Do you have ALL of your documents (important documents, tax documents, photos, etc) scanned into your computer AND saved on an external drive which is saved off-site (so if your house burns down, both your computer and external drive with your backed up files won't all go up in smoke)?
  6. Do you keep a list of all of your important information (bank info, account info, passwords, creditor info, medical information, insurance and financial info, etc) on your computer as well as in a place where your executor can access it in the event of your death?
  7. Do you keep a list of things that expire (passport, driver's license, credit cards, car registration, etc) so that you will know in advance when to get these renewed so they won't lapse?
  8. Have you backed up all of your contact info (phone numbers, email addresses, etc) so that if you lose your phone you won't lose all of your contact information?
  9. Do you keep a list of all of your medical information (doctor's name, health history, current medications, allergies, health insurance info, DNR/POLST form, etc) where it would be easily accessible during a medical emergency?
  10. Have you went through your house with your camera/video camera on your phone and done a complete home inventory?  In the event of burglary or fire, you will have a simple way to submit your loss to the insurance company this way.

Financial Stuff

  1. How is the overall tax burden where you live?  Whether your state has a state income tax or exempts tax on social security or your pension can make a big difference in the amount of money you keep in your pocket.
  2. Do you have a good credit score?  You may not use credit but if you do need to buy something like a house or car, having a good credit score can be a good thing.
  3. Do you have a couple of low-interest credit cards on hand?  While cash-only is a great way to live, having credit cards to use if needed is another good thing.
  4. Can you work?  Some older people like to work for fun and some need to work out of necessity so if either of these things are the case with you, having some good work skills/work history is a bonus when it comes to the gigs/jobs you can do during retirement.
  5. Do you know how to do online banking and pay your bills online?  This is both a convenience and a safe way to handle your money and it is pretty easy to learn if you don't know how to do it.
  6. Can you create multiple streams of additional income?  Have you ever tried bartering?  Have you tried reselling things online?  Have you ever had a garage sale?  Do you have a novel you are just itching to write which you can publish/sell online?  There are lots of fun and interesting ways to make a little extra money if needed.
  7. Do you have a firm no co-signing for loans of any kind policy?  If the kids have a crisis and need money, we give them what we can afford as a gift with no need for them to repay us.  We NEVER co-sign loans for anyone or give money as a loan since both of these thing can cause unending financial strife in the family.
  8. Do you go for all of the coupons/rebates/discount programs you can possibly find?  We love senior discounts and senior day at the movies.  We have taken advantage or freebies and rebates from our local utility companies.  We use coupons for everything from food to haircuts.  If there's a way to save money, we are all over it!
  9. Do you do your taxes on time and in full every year?  There are several in-person and online services for doing your annual taxes which are often free, especially for seniors.  If you should owe taxes, be sure to pay them in full or set up a payment program so you don't get even more penalties and interest added.
  10. Be debt free!!!!!!!  This can not be stated loud enough but when you are on a fixed income or headed towards living on a fixed income, being completely out of debt (house, car, credit cards, loans) is the only way to live!


  1. Do you know how to cook and eat at home regularly?  This is a great way to save money AND eat healthier compared to eating out at restaurants.
  2. Do you regularly shop sales and loss leaders?  This is a good way to save money on food which will also allow you to stock your pantry on the cheap.
  3. If you do eat out, do you go to lunch instead of dinner (it's cheaper), use coupons (if available), and save half of your meal to take home (with the giant quantities of food served in restaurants, it's pretty easy to get two meals from one serving of restaurant food)?
  4. Do you have any food-related hobbies?  Fishing, hunting, gardening, and foraging are all great ways to eat well on the cheap and have fun at the same time.
  5. Have you checked out local alternative food options?  We love to shop in ethnic stores where the food is cheap and fresh, some people join CSA programs to receive regular orders of produce, and we used to buy fish and shellfish right off the boat when we lived in a seaside community.
  6. Do you cook in bulk?  It can be tiring to produce three complete meals a day but by cooking larger quantities and freezing some of what you make, you can have meals to last several days.
  7. If you are out and about often, have you considered taking meals and beverages with you?  We do this nearly everyday because it is cheaper and healthier to make coffee or take a drink and pack a sandwich as we are heading out the door instead of needing to hit up a restaurant everyday for a mid-day meal.
  8. Do you use the internet to expand your repertoire?  There are so many great recipes online as well as how-to videos.  You can even Google your favorite restaurant food and it is nearly guaranteed that someone has figured out how to replicate it complete with a video to show you how to make it!
  9. Have you considered the judicious use of Costco and Sam's Club?  We used to buy nearly everything in bulk when the kids lived at home but now that there is only the two of us, we only occasionally buy in bulk (generally big bags of oatmeal and rice and other items we are sure we will use up before it goes bad).
  10. One of the things we are known for is cooking for parties.  Cooking your specialties (in my case desserts and in hubby's case Asian food) is a great way to contribute to social events in a very inexpensive way.

A Safety Net

  1. Do you know your neighbors and can you rely on them to help you during an emergency?
  2. Do you have family/friends who live near by or in the same city that you can rely on to help you during an emergency?
  3. Do you have family/friends anywhere in the country/world who you can rely on to help you during an emergency?
  4. Do you have food and supplies stockpiled to use in the event of an emergency like a snow storm or long-term illness or other situation when you can't get to the store for a week or more?
  5. Do you have a couple of places you could evacuate to if you need to leave your home at a moment's notice (like needing to evacuate if a hurricane is heading your way or if a tornado damages your home)?
  6. Do you have an emergency fund in cash that is safely stored in your home for use during an emergency if you can't get to the bank?
  7. Do you have an emergency fund in the bank that would cover six to twelve month's of living expenses?
  8. Do you have a list of service people you know are reliable to help you if needed (handyman, veterinarian, auto mechanic, etc)?
  9. Are you proactive in keeping things maintained so you don't end up in a crisis (like keeping your car maintained and the oil changed, changing your furnace filters, having your HVAC system checked annually, always keeping your gas tank at least half full, etc)?
  10. Are you well insured (life, health, auto, home, long-term-care) so a small problem doesn't turn into a major financial disaster for you?

Keeping Busy

  1. Are there free and inexpensive entertainment options where you will retire?  We are fortunate that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of free and cheap entertainment options where we live, from movies and shows to community events and museums!
  2. Are you interested in volunteering?  Volunteers are always needed by so many community organizations and this is a great way to spend your time while helping others.
  3. Another great way to spend your days and improve your health is to see what kind of fitness activities are available where you live.  Bowling centers, community parks, gyms, skating rinks...by adding your fitness routine into the mix you will be healthy and entertained at the same time.
  4. If you have a hobby (or several hobbies), are there groups in place for this hobby where you will retire?  I love my walking group, my hiking group, my genealogy group, and there are literally several other hundred other groups in my city that meet up monthly from an astronomy club to a makerspace to knitters to scrabble players to romance writers...the list is endless!
  5. Check out senior centers in your area.  Ours have some great programs including a daily lunch, card games, classes, drop in centers, and several other things to keep seniors busy.
  6. Church is also important for many people.  If church is important to you, definitely check out your church options where you plan to retire.
  7. Get a library card!  Our library system is amazing.  Besides books and ebooks and music and movies available to check out, our wonderful library system offers events nearly every weekend, a genealogy library, classes on everything from learning English to using computers, as well as lots of kids programs.
  8. Even if you live in a not so busy place, you computer can open up a world of entertainment opportunities.  Netflix is of course entertaining.  So are gaming groups, YouTube videos to teach you literally everything, bulletin board communities, etc.
  9. You can always learn something new.  Our local university has free/cheap classes that are open to seniors, I recently took a free CERT class and got some great information as well as a big bag of emergency supplies just for attending, our county extension office has an ongoing series of classes for those who want to become Master Gardeners, and if you want to do something and there isn't an established group already, you can always set up your own meet up group.
  10. Parties are another fun way to spend your time.  Many of our social groups (bowling league, walking club, poker player friends) hold parties every now and then.  These are usually potlucks and a lot of fun!

Crisis Management

  1. If you need help call: 911 (emergency fire/police/ambulance), 811 (if you are going to dig up your yard and want your utility lines marked), 711 (connects to a relay operator for hearing and speech impaired), 611 (customer service number for your cell company), 511 (for road conditions), 411 (for directory assistance), 311 (for situations that are less urgent than calling 911), 211 (for social service help like information on food banks, homeless services, etc), 111 (not used in the US), 011 (for international dialing).
  2. If you need help, sign up for any social service program you qualify for.  If you need food, sign up for SNAP; if you need housing, sign up for senior housing; if you can't afford your medications, sign up for prescription assistance programs, etc.
  3. Find out what social service programs are available in your area for those in need and use them if you are in crisis including meal programs, food banks, home healthcare, homeless shelters, etc. 
  4. If you belong to a special group, see what help is available to you.  Military members have several resources from VA services to free medical care, cheap home loans, and on-base services.  The Elks/Lions/Masons/etc are still active groups that help their member in need, and churches often have emergency assistance programs for their members and the community at large.
  5. Contact your local department of emergency management/Red Cross and see what kind of disaster services they offer.  Some offer free preparedness and first aid classes, while others offer evacuation shelters during a disaster and free apps to alert the community to impending emergencies.
  6. Make your own disaster plan.  Whether there is a natural disaster like an earthquake or an emergency evacuation due to a chemical spill, plan how you will respond ahead of time by creating a disaster plan.
  7. If you retire to an area with frequent weather emergencies, get a NOAA weather radio which will alert you when a tornado or hurricane is heading your way.
  8. Sign up for AAA.  Especially if you drive a lot and if you drive far distances, the knowledge that you can just call for help or roadside assistance is well worth the money this service costs.
  9. Up your security consciousness.  Seniors are often a target for robbery and other crimes simply because they are old and frail.  Use online and community sources to learn how to protect yourself physically and how to make your home more secure in order to prevent becoming a victim of crime.
  10. Protect yourself from financial disasters too.  Pull your free credit report annually and correct any mistakes, learn about putting a credit freeze on your accounts to protect yourself, and learn what to do if you become a victim of financial crime (unfortunately seniors are also a huge target for scams and identity theft).

Other Stuff

  1. Shop the Goodwill and thrift stores.  This is my favorite place to shop and saves a boatload of money over buying retail!
  2. Consider joining AARP and other senior organizations if you find that the value is well worth the money.
  3. If you are lonely or just enjoy animals, consider adopting a pet from your local shelter.  Rescue animals are just as good as purebred animals from a breeder and make great companions!
  4. In the interest of not being a burden to your family, plan your death ahead of time. Decide on and pay for your death arrangements (funeral, burial, cremation, etc) to save your family from this difficult task.  Cleaning out years of stuff from your home and giving away valuables to important family members before you die is also a great idea.
  5. Use technology to help you age in place.  There are so many things that technology can do now that it boggles the mind.  Alexa can remind you to take your medications, you can control an entire home security system from your cell phone, and your family can easily use technology to check in on you to make sure you are all right if they don't hear from you (my friend's son put a camera in her living room that she waves at every morning to let her son know she is fine).
  6. Be sure to lock up drugs like opiod medications, guns, and money anytime you have guests, the grandkids, or service people in your home.  This prevents accidents as well as cuts down on crimes of opportunity if people see these valuable/dangerous things just sitting around in your home.
  7. Make it a point to stay active.  It can be easy to become a hermit if you don't have anyone like a boss telling you to be at work every day at a certain time.  By forcing yourself to get out and be active you will age better (social interaction has proven to be an important part of healthy aging).
  8. Know when to make significant changes in your life.  Determine when you should stop driving (we have already cut down significantly on driving at night), be proactive in staying up on your healthcare (including glasses, hearing aids, dental care, mental health care if needed, etc), and ask for help when needed (no one wants to be put in a "home" but assisted living can be the difference between aging well and suffering alone).
  9. Make sure to keep your brain active.  Whether you are doing crossword puzzles or sodoku, learning a new language with Duolingo or reading the Wall Street Journal everyday, keeping your brain active is another important component of healthy aging.
  10. Live wondrously.  If you want pink hair, dye your hair pink!  If you want to travel the world, go!  If you want to become a famous painter, paint--that's what Grandma Moses did at the age of 78!  Go.  Do.  Cool.  Stuff!