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10 Things You Should Do If You Didn't Save for Retirement

If you're nearing retirement, you might be looking for ways to maximize your reduced income to cover your future expenses. The reality of retirement is that as you age and costs rise, your retirement benefit or social security may not sustain your future standard of living. So, how do you survive financially if you didn't plan for retirement, and what remedies are there? From putting your unique skills to use to investing in low-cost index funds, here are a few things you can do with a fixed income and limited savings in retirement.

What Do You Do If You Have No Money Saved for Retirement?

Consider a Reverse Mortgage

Retiring with a mortgage payment is a fixed cost that will not go away until you pay off your mortgage. If your retirement income doesn't pay your mortgage, you can consider a reverse mortgage to make ends meet. With a reverse mortgage, you will be responsible for paying your property taxes and homeowners insurance only. A reverse mortgage can help you bridge the income gap until you no longer live in the home or in the event your heirs inherit your home. Your heirs will then be responsible for paying off the remaining balance of the borrowed money, interest, and fees associated with your reverse mortgage.

Annette Harris, Founder, Harris Financial Coaching

Put Your Unique Skills to Use

I know many people who had careers that weren't as fulfilling as they had hoped because they weren't doing what they loved or were best at. Eventually, after their careers were over, they had more time to hone their skills and figured out how to make money from them.

I knew someone whose diversion from a stressful job was playing guitar - and he got pretty good at it after a while. He lived in Florida, and a buddy of his who played drums suggested that he jam with his three-person band at a local beachside bar. He knew the songs and sat in. He loved it so much that he started tagging along for other gigs. He connected with other local musicians and played live music at various places in and around town every week - and managed to make a good income doing it.

He didn't have the portfolio he wanted upon retirement, but it turned out that he didn't need one. He made more money playing Jimmy Buffet and Eagles songs than he ever imagined, and it still supports him.

Brittany Dolin, Co-founder, Pocketbook Agency

Look for Costs to Cut

If you haven't planned for retirement and are worried about how you'll support yourself financially, the first step is to look at your expenses and see if there are any areas you can cut back on. If you're living paycheck to paycheck, it's important to make sure you're not spending more than you can afford and leaving yourself with little room to save.

Make sure you're not spending more than you can afford on things like cable, cell phone plans, and dining out. By looking at your expenses and making some cuts where you can, you may be able to save enough to put aside money for retirement.

Matthew Ramirez, CEO, Rephrasely

Research and Use Available Resources

Having experience in financial planning, one piece of advice I would give someone looking to survive financially in retirement without having planned for it is to use the resources available to them.

Many people are pleasantly surprised at how many options exist that offer assistance with rent/mortgage payments, bill payments, and so on. This could be anything from government-funded grants and loans to charities or lenders specializing in this area.

Understanding and accessing these resources can be difficult. Still, it is worth putting the time into researching them, as they could go a long way in helping you get through a difficult financial situation.

Lorien Strydom, Executive Country Manager,

Sell Some of Your Assets

If you have a home, you may need to sell it. If you've had your home for a while, its value has probably increased. The same goes for any valuable assets, such as furniture or a vehicle, you may not need anymore. Then you may have enough money to afford to rent a modest apartment.

Drew Sherman, Director of Marketing and Communications, Carvaygo

Invest in Real Estate

One uncommon thing someone could do to survive financially if they didn't plan for retirement is to invest in real estate.

By utilizing the current home's equity or purchasing a single or multi-family investment property and renting it out, they can generate income that helps fund their retirement instead of Social Security and other benefits. With this strategy, they would also build wealth that can ultimately be tapped into later when needed, either as immediate cash flow from rental income or from selling the property later.

Carly Hill, Operations Manager,

Generate Passive Income

There are plenty of ways to generate passive income- money you make while devoting yourself to the business.

Maybe you can rent your spare room on Airbnb and collect the fees, or maybe you invest in dividend-paying stocks. Perhaps you could even start a blog and use Google AdSense to make money from the ads on your site.

Whatever passive income ideas you have in mind, it's worth looking into them to see if they're right for you. As long as you have income coming in, you can cover your expenses and have plenty left over for savings.

Luciano Colos, Founder and CEO, PitchGrade

Keep Your Income Coming as Long as Possible

Working until retirement (or even past it) isn't necessarily ideal, but it has one significant benefit that no retirement plan can replace: saving.

Of course, retirement can be comfortable if you've diligently saved money and carefully managed your finances - but if you haven't had a retirement account or couldn't save for retirement properly, extending your work life as much as possible may be your best bet.

Building up a cushion of savings over many years of hard work is probably still the most reliable way to ensure financial stability in retirement age; after all, there's nothing quite like having an emergency fund made of cold, hard cash to get through difficult times.

Piotrek Sosnowski, Chief People and Culture Officer, HiJunior

Prioritize Your Health and Fitness

Although often ignored, the gym can be the single most important tool to help you survive financially in lieu of retirement savings.

A 2022 European Journal of Aging study reported that working life expectancy is strongly underpinned by general, physical, and cognitive health, regardless of occupation. Consequently, staying in great physical shape is essential to career longevity, even in white-collar work. Resistance training and moderate-vigorous physical activity both show significant anti-aging properties and are essential to preventing muscle wasting and cognitive decline.

By prioritizing your health and getting sufficient exercise, you will likely significantly extend your working life expectancy, giving you more time to save for retirement.

Ben Schwencke, Business Psychologist, Test Partnership

Invest in a Diversified Portfolio of Low-cost Index Funds

If someone didn't plan for retirement, I'd advise them to invest in a diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds. This type of investment strategy provides a low-cost way to achieve broad market exposure, which can help an individual achieve better returns over the long term.

In addition, index funds are typically composed of thousands of different securities, providing greater diversification than an individual stock picker could achieve. Also, index funds are passively managed, so they generally have much lower fees than actively managed funds, which can help individuals maximize their investment returns.

Investing in a diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds is one of the best things someone can do to survive financially if they didn't plan for retirement.

Shaun Connell, CEO, and Founder, Learn Financial Strategy

What's Next?

If you haven't planned for retirement, it's not too late. If you work for an employer, find out what retirement benefits are available to you and if you're eligible for increasing your retirement contributions. You may also be eligible for catch-up contributions to your retirement plan if you're over 50. Plan for your retirement now so you don't have to scramble later.

Contact trusted resources like a financial coach, counselor, or advisor for assistance in planning and understanding your retirement benefits.

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