Key Takeaways

  • According to the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, one-third of senior households has no money left over each month or is in debt after meeting essential expenses. 

  • Learning how to budget, apply for benefits, and manage your finances can help you stay secure and independent longer.

  • Use these five money management tips to help boost your income and savings.

In past generations, older adults looked to retire with three sources of income: savings, pensions, and Social Security. But with the decline of company pensions and financial markets taking a hit during economic downturns, many seniors face less income than anticipated in retirement.

Here are five money management tips to boost your income and savings.

1. Consider delaying retirement

By delaying the age you start to receive Social Security benefits, you can increase your benefit amount. Waiting until age 70 or later to take Social Security will provide a significant increase in your monthly payment.

2. Returning to work

Even if you’ve already stopped working and started getting Social Security, a part or full-time job can help offset extra expenses. Mature workers aged 55+ with very limited or no income might also consider the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). SCSEP provides training and part-time community service work that for most people leads to full-time jobs.

3. Other programs

Depending on income, you might be eligible for help from public and private programs that help pay for health care, prescriptions, food, utilities and more. Start by taking NCOA’s free questionnaire to see if you qualify for any of these programs.

4. Consider leveraging home equity

There are several ways to do this:

  • A home equity loan, sometimes called a second mortgage, provides a lump sum of money with a fixed repayment schedule. This type of loan could be a good choice if you have a home improvement project or to consolidate debt.
  • A HELOC provides money when you need extra cash and requires only the interest on the borrowed amount be paid. HELOCs make sense for a “rainy day” fund or cash to pay for major purchases. Learn more about home equity loans and HELOCs from the Federal Trade Commission.
  • A reverse mortgage is a type of home loan that allows seniors to convert the equity in their home to cash to meet a wide range of financial needs. With a reverse mortgage, the lender pays you. The homeowner makes no payments, and all interest is added to the loan. A reverse mortgage must be repaid when moving or selling the property (or the last borrower does) or by your heirs upon your death.

To get unbiased information about reverse mortgages, read Use Your Home to Stay at Home©, the official booklet approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Before agreeing to a reverse mortgage, you will be required to get counseling from a government-approved organization like NCOA.

5. Get financial help from family

To pay for medical bills or caregiver expenses, family support might be a helpful way to preserve finances. Adult children need to be careful that these extra costs do not disrupt their financial plans and their ability to save for their own retirement. It is difficult but important for families to discuss finances and options realistically.

The government has made it less costly for families to pay medical bills or elder care if the taxpayer can claim an elderly relative is a dependent. This can make it easier to support older relatives who want to stay at home and may help to ease the burden that caregiving can place on the family.

To get recommendations on options that can help increase your income, take our Retirement Income Breakdown, and receive a personalized report.