The data are in, and there are some troubling trends for U.S. workers.
More individuals than ever before are painfully unprepared for retirement. Recent surveys have found that 40% of Americans risk going broke during retirement and, compounding the matter, about half have less than $1,000 in savings.
There are, of course, some safety nets still available for retirees. On average, men and women receiving Social Security checks get around $1,400 per month. That amount is not entirely promising, of course, given that out-of-pocket health care costs over the course of retirement can exceed $200,000. Meanwhile, the average retired household spends around $45,000 per year, an amount that includes housing, transportation, medical expenses, food and entertainment.
For a healthy retired individual or couple, health care costs are not going to be the most expensive cost, however. That title goes toward housing, which The Motley Fool found reaches just over $1,200 per month. It appears the average Social Security payment is enough to cover housing expenses, but with little left over, those on retirement without much else to go on in savings will find survival uniquely difficult.
There are several ways to reduce spending on housing, even into retirement, however, that can help even those with a minimal amount in savings.
Downsizing Will Significantly Reduce Costs
Retired homeowners should seriously consider downsizing if housing costs are a significant portion of their spending. Even if you fully own your home, there are regular expenses that smaller homes, and especially manufactured homes, simply won’t have.
Take property taxes, for example. Most property taxes are assessed based on the value of your home. And while having a large home doesn’t necessarily always mean having a larger tax payment, location is still everything. A larger home in a hot market is going to cost far more in property taxes than a smaller home in a more rural or suburban community.
Additionally, selling your home and moving to a smaller home will not only free up the property tax payments, it will also put some money into your savings, especially if you buy a smaller home for far less than you earned from the sale.
What’s more, a smaller home will also have smaller payments for utilities. Electricity alone, which can cost hundreds of dollars per month for a larger home, will have a far reduced cost for a smaller home that requires less heating and cooling. You should also see a reduced home insurance bill, as well, as you have far less home, and presumably far fewer items, covered.
You may experience a few downsides to downsizing, however. Certain types of homes, such as manufactured homes (or mobile homes), can have higher insurance rates due to their lack of durability and overall loss of value over time. Manufactured homes may also be required to have chattel mortgages, which have different rates that may be more expensive.
Nevertheless, smaller homes are particularly popular these days, and getting into one may afford you the opportunity to land in great communities built specifically for retired individuals. And considering smaller, manufactured homes cost far less than typical family home construction, and offer more variability in where they can be located, you may be able to have a home placed in a coveted and comfortable homespot.
Renting a Home May Be a Good Option
Of course, you can always sell your home and rent a home or apartment. Depending on your situation, renting instead of buying during retirement can help free up a large number of costs associated with homeownership. The primary reason for this is that you’ll pay little to nothing in maintenance costs, expenses that can be extremely high and will only increase as a newer home ages.
Downsize and Then Rent Your Previous Home
There is also the potential for moving into a smaller property while still owning your previous, larger home. This can afford you the opportunity to downsize your current home and then rent out the property. This brings with it the possibility of a steady stream of rental income that can more than supplement many of your retirement expenses.
Taking into account the the growing market for rental properties, this is a great option to consider. However, going into it blindly would end up causing more harm than good. New landlords should be concerned about all of their liabilities. Acquiring a landlord insurance policy is going to be a necessity to help protect your property and reduce liability if something goes wrong with one of the tenants.
You may also want to consider partnering with a management company that can help free you up from having to take over the management yourself. Many of these companies work independently, similar to how you operate your home through services like Airbnb or VRBO. Especially for those living in Florida, your home may well be an attractive summer spot for vacationers. Turning it into a vacation rental may be a notably lucrative idea, even with increased home insurance rates, so long as the location is good and the home is in excellent condition.
Lower Your Home’s Maintenance Costs
If you’ve been in your home for some time, there’s a good chance you can make some maintenance improvements that will bring your costs down in the long term.
For example, you may want to consider investing in solar panels. The cost for solar panels continues to fall, so you may be able to see the cost savings in electricity within just a few years after installment. Some estimates have found the average payback time for solar panels is just 7.5 years. Many states in the U.S. receive an extremely large number of clear and sunny days, making solar a wise investment. Florida, in fact, gets over 100 days of clear skies each year.
Beyond moving to solar, you may want to look into general upkeep that can reduce energy costs. Updating windows to more energy-efficient double- or triple-paned glass can reduce savings, so long as you don’t overspend on the windows. You can also shore up areas of leakage around doors and windows, replace roofing tiles and install new insulation. All of these should help reduce heat or cool air loss.
You may also want to consider dropping some of the added expenses associated with owning your home. If you’re paying for a gardner or pool cleaning service, consider managing these tasks yourself. Homeowners often spend between $100 to $200 per month on lawn care, according to HomeAdvisor, with different types of services costing thousands of dollars a year.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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