Millions of Americans are worried about retirement. Fully 23% of workers are not too confident or not confident at all that they (and their spouses) will have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement, per the 2019 Retirement Confidence Survey -- which also noted that 40% of workers have saved less than $25,000 for retirement. Yikes.
Fortunately, if you're one of those folks in a financially precarious position, there are ways to beef up your retirement income via actions you can take now and/or later. Here are 12 ways to get more money in retirement and strengthen your future financial security.
No. 1: Pay off debts
Let's start with debt. If you're carrying a low-interest rate mortgage, that's not likely to be problematic. But high-interest-rate debt, such as from credit cards, can wreck your finances.
Many cards these days are charging rates in the high teens, with plenty charging 20% to 25%, and sometimes even more. If you're carrying $12,000 in credit card debt from year to year and are being charged 20% interest, that's $3,000 in interest payments up in smoke every year. That's especially bad in retirement, so aim to enter retirement with as little debt as possible -- and know that you can pay off debt even if you're weighed down with a lot.
No. 2: Increase your saving and investing -- now
If you're working and at least a few years away from retiring, you still have time to strengthen your financial condition by saving and investing more money. You're probably already doing so, but could you do a little more?
The table below shows the results you'll get if you invest different sums over time. You can see how powerful it can be to go from investing, say, $1,000 per month to $1,200 or $1,500 per month.
Growing at 8% for
Investing $1,000 Per Month or $12,000 Per Year
Investing $1,200 Per Month or $14,400 Per Year
Investing $1,500 Per Month or $18,000 Per Year
No. 3: Work a few more years before retiring
The table above also reflects the power of time. It's great if you can save and invest for 20 years. But if you can do so for a few more years before retiring, you can build a much bigger war chest for retirement.
The table below illustrates clearly how much of a difference even a single additional year can make.
Growing at 8% for
$10,000 invested annually
No. 4: Work a little -- in retirement
Instead of going cold turkey in retirement -- from collecting a salary to suddenly earning no money and just living on savings and Social Security -- consider easing into retirement by working a little in your early years. You might be a cashier, for example, earning $12 per hour, and if you log just 12 hours per week, that's $144 per week, or about $575 per month -- or $7,500 per year in extra income, which can come in very handy. Or think more creatively and come up with ways to make more money that might be more satisfying.
Working a little in retirement is good in other ways, too. It can give your days a little more structure and offer valuable opportunities for socializing, preventing you from feeling isolated and, perhaps, depressed.
No. 5: Make the most of retirement accounts
You may have one or more IRAs and 401(k) accounts -- of the traditional and/or Roth variety -- and you may be contributing to them every year. That's very good. (If you're not doing so, reconsider that.) You may still not be making the most of these accounts, though. Know that for 2019, you can contribute as much as $6,000 to all your IRAs, combined -- plus an additional $1,000 if you're 50 or older.
A 401(k) account allows up to $19,000 in contributions for 2019, plus $6,000 for those 50 and older. The tables above show how powerful it can be to contribute more to your accounts over time. Be strategic about how you use these accounts, too.
For example, while 401(k)s allow far larger contributions, they typically restrict you to choose between a handful of mutual funds and other investments. IRAs, on the other hand, permit you to invest in just about any stocks and gobs of bonds and mutual funds. A 401(k) is likely to feature matching contributions from your employer, so you should definitely contribute enough to max that out. And a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) can give you tax-free income in retirement, if you follow the rules.
No. 6: Include dividends in your portfolio
Another way to boost your income in retirement is to have a meaningful chunk of your portfolio invested in dividend-paying stocks. A portfolio of non-dividend payers would require you to sell off some shares in order to generate income, leaving a smaller portfolio to keep growing for you. If your portfolio is generating meaningful dividend income, though, you may not have to sell any or many shares -- you can simply collect the income and leave the rest to keep growing.
For example, if you have $400,000 distributed across a group of healthy and growing dividend payers with an overall average yield of 3%, you'll get $12,000 per year -- $1,000 per month. Better still, healthy and growing dividend payers tend to increase their payouts over time. You can invest in individual stocks such as Verizon Communications and Johnson & Johnson, which recently yielded 4% and 2.6%, respectively, or you might opt for a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) that features ample dividends. The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) recently yielded 1.75%, for example, while the iShares Select Dividend ETF (DVY) and iShares U.S. Preferred Stock ETF (PFF) recently yielded about 3.6% and 4.7%, respectively.
No. 7: Consider annuities for pension-like income
Annuities can be another great option for income in retirement. You will have to fork over a hefty sum in order to buy one from an insurance company, but by doing so, you can set yourself up to receive monthly checks for the rest of your life -- and the rest of your spouse's life, too. Focus on fixed annuities, as they generally don't have the steep fees and restrictive terms as indexed annuities and variable annuities, and learn more about them before investing.
The table below offers an idea of the income you might get from a fixed immediate annuity in the current interest-rate environment.
Annual Income Equivalent
A deferred annuity might also be useful in helping you avoid running out of money late in life. It starts to pay you at a future point, such as when you turn a certain age. A 65-year-old man, for example, could receive around $569 per month for the rest of his life starting at age 75 for about $50,000.
No. 8: Collect income from interest
Interest is another kind of retirement income to consider -- though it's far less appealing an option these days than it has been in the past and may be in the future. Many three-year certificates of deposit (CDs), for example, were recently offering less than 1% in interest.
Just keep an eye on rates over time, because there could be periods when you could generate helpful income by deploying funds into interest-bearing accounts. Remember that in the 1980s, interest rates were in the teens and even around 20% for a while. You could get more than 15% from a six-month CD back in 1981! Rates of 5% or more are certainly possible in future years.
No. 9: Consider a reverse mortgage
Reverse mortgages are an income-producing option for many but not all people. They involve borrowing money with your home as collateral. A lender agrees to pay you a certain sum each month -- or perhaps a lump sum -- and you get to stay in your home. But when you move out -- either to a nursing home or cemetery, the loan must be repaid, typically through the sale of the home. Read up on reverse mortgages to see if one might make sense for you.
No. 10: Relocate -- to a less costly home or region
Relocation can be a surprisingly powerful way to generate more income in retirement, under the right circumstances. For example, if you live in a high-cost-of-living area or simply have a costly home, you might sell it and move -- either to a smaller, easier-to-maintain home, or perhaps to a less costly region. Be sure to study your options closely and consider a wide range of factors, such as the family, friends, and support you'll find in various locations, the kind of lifestyle you can live in them, the quality and availability of healthcare, and expected taxes and other expenses.
No. 11: Borrow against your life insurance policy
You might also be able to generate income for yourself by borrowing against a life insurance policy. Of course, this is not a great idea if anyone will be depending on that money in the future. But if you got the policy to protect your kids who are now self-supporting adults, it might be worth considering.
When you borrow against a life insurance policy, you effectively reduce its death benefit until you repay what was borrowed. This only works with "whole" or "universal" life insurance, not term life insurance, and the funds you borrow are usually free from taxes. (Cashing out a life insurance policy, on the other hand, generally produces taxable income.)
No. 12: Make the most of Social Security
Finally, there's Social Security, which is a major and critical source of retirement income for most of us. It doesn't offer a huge amount, though: The average monthly retirement benefit was recently $1,478, or about $17,700 annually, while the maximum monthly benefit for someone retiring at their full retirement age this year is $2,788 (about $33,500 annually).
You can make your checks bigger or smaller by choosing to start collecting your benefits later or earlier than your full retirement age, and there are other ways to increase your Social Security benefits, too. For example, you might strategize with your spouse about when you'll each start collecting, perhaps opting to delay collecting for the higher earner in order to make those bigger benefits even larger.
Take some time to learn more about the various sources of income you might have in retirement, and plan any actions you might want to take now or later to best position yourself for a comfortable future.
The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,728 more... each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.