What if Your Retirement Income Isn’t Enough?

Before panicking, we need to know exactly how much is coming in and how much is going out.

Money you receive: This consists of your social security, any pension (if you have one) and interest income. It also includes what you can take out each year from your investments. See How much $ can you withdraw each year without running out?

Money you will spend: See You need just 3 numbers to Budget Expenses for Retirement. 

The result: Can you live on the net of these two? If so, congratulations! If not, read on…

What can you do if you don’t like your numbers?

You’ve looked at the numbers and you don’t (or won’t) have enough coming in to cover your expenses. But… at least you now know how much you will be in the hole. Now you can make an informed decision to do one or more of the following:

  • Before you retire
    • Stay employed longer than you planned, and/or
    • Cut your current spending
  • After you retire
    • Plan to have a part-time job, and/or
    • Cut your spending

Other than winning the lottery or robbing a bank — I think these are our only four options. If you know of another, please let us know(!)


Stay employed longer than you planned

Often this option is taken from our control, due to age discrimination in the workplace or due to health problems. But… if you can stay employed it is the best of all solutions for a financially easier retirement. You earn more money, you get more social security credits, you pay off your mortgage, and you can put more into savings — win, win, win. Even just another six months can make a real difference.

The biggest win of all is if you can stay employed after age 70. You will not only have your salary, but you can also get your maximum social security payments. I’ve been able to do this for 1-1/2 years now, and it has been wonderful for rapidly paying down my mortgage, car, and RV, plus paying into my IRA. Yes, taxes are taken out of it, but the net can still be a substantial bonus.

Cut your spending before you retire

This is a wonderful strategy (if hard to make yourself stick to!) because it helps your retirement in two different ways.

  1. It lets you save more money before you retire (and thus have more you can withdraw each month of retirement), and
  2. It lets you discover which of your expenditures are easy (or easy-ish!) to do without and which are not.


Plan to have a part-time job in retirement

The bad news about part-time jobs is that they typically pay very little. If you find you must work for low wages, try to work in an environment that gives you some emotional satisfaction. For example, at a bookstore, clothing store, jewelry, toys, feed lot, hardware — anything where you have an interest. Sometimes we just miss talking to other people — so these jobs can give you contact as well as a little extra money.

If you can set it up with your employer before you retire, some companies are happy to have employees working part time in their “retirement.” These jobs typically pay more. You can substitute teach, fill in for employees on vacation, or take something previously farmed out to a service firm and cover it yourself.

If you have specialized skills, you can contact a temp agency — where you could work or not on your schedule in accounting, HR, clerical, databases, etc.

Or… if you’re a professional, you could start your own one-person service business. The kind where you spend almost nothing to launch — but can pull in some decent money for the hours worked. (See Discover if your new biz idea will succeed — BEFORE you launch.)

Living on less if you’ve already retired

This is not a topic I know very well, because I’m still a couple of years from retiring. (And perhaps in denial that I will need to do this!) But you will probably be as impressed as I was with the following wonderful blog post.  A Satisfying Retirement with Limited Resources – Can it Work?

Added note on 10/15/2018: A second great blog post on getting by with less that you may wish to check out.


Author bio
Jen008_smallMarlene Jensen is a 71-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, medications, and bath tubs you walk into.

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