5 Ways to Lower the Cost of Retirement

Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool

Retirement is an exciting period of life to look forward to, but it can also be an expensive one. In fact, nearly half of older households wind up spending more money, not less, during their first two years of retirement. If you're worried about running low on cash during your golden years, here are a few things you can do to reduce your retirement costs and alleviate that concern.

1. Pay off your mortgage

Many seniors enter retirement on the hook for the same mortgage payments they were responsible for during their working years. But if you manage to pay off your mortgage in time for retirement, you'll have one less major expense to worry about. If retirement is still years away, here's a trick you can use to accomplish that goal: Take your current monthly mortgage payment, divide it in half, and pay it every two weeks. In doing so, you'll make an extra payment each year, thereby shortening the life of your loan.

Senior couple sharing a bowl of rice outdoors

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

2. Downsize

Generally speaking, it costs less to maintain a smaller living space than a larger one. If you're sitting on square footage you no longer need (say, because your children have all grown up and moved out), then it pays to consider downsizing in retirement. Doing so might reduce a host of home-related expenses, from your mortgage or rent to your property taxes to the cost of upkeep and utilities.

3. Move somewhere you don't need a vehicle

Transportation is the second largest expense for Americans 65 and over, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it costs the typical senior $6,814 a year. If you're able to retire someplace that doesn't require you to have your own vehicle, you might reduce that expense tremendously. Therefore, take a look at walkable cities, or those with extensive public transportation systems. You might even get away with living car-free in a suburb if it's one with a thriving town center you're walking distance from.

4. Stop outsourcing home maintenance tasks

It makes sense to outsource home maintenance tasks when you work full-time and don't want to spend your evenings and weekends doing chores. But chances are, paying other people to do that work for you doesn't come cheap, so if you're looking to spend less in retirement, you can accomplish that goal by cleaning your own floors, mowing your own lawn, and repainting and sealing your own deck every summer. The great thing about being retired is having more free time on your hands, so as long as you're physically able to tend to these tasks, there's no need to spend money hiring someone else.

5. Take advantage of senior discounts

One nice part of getting older is becoming eligible for senior discounts. And make no mistake about it -- there are plenty of perks you're entitled to once you reach a certain age. For one thing, you might score discounted admission to museums and other attractions. Additionally, many dining establishments offer early bird specials to older patrons who are willing to eat before the crowds roll in. Finally, you might score discounts on travel, whether it's reduced train fares or lodging. It pays to explore the senior discounts you're entitled to, and if you join an organization like AARP, you'll probably have an easier time navigating them.

Retirement can be a financially trying period of life, even if you've saved well for it during your career. To avoid stress later in life, take steps to lower the cost of your retirement. If you plan wisely, you can spend less as a senior without sacrificing the lifestyle you've been dreaming of.

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