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Retiring On Social Security Only

Personally I think it is possible. I am doing it! I would love to hear your opinions and stories.

  • I kept my life simple for several years before retiring
  • Have continued to keep it simple
  • Live one day at a time
  • Do a lot of free activities like walking in different neighborhoods. I tend to get bored with the same route every time and over the famous nature trails filled with doggies and rude folks. Luv my doggies, but was stressing out from some of their owners who felt I had no business being on the trail/lol. So now I pick a busy spot to park like Walmart and walk the neighborhood in different locations. I now look forward to picking a spot to walk and thoroughly enjoying my exploring.
  • Living in a cute studio apartment, but actively looking for a Tiny Cottage to rent. Missing my peace and quiet. Have never been one for apartments.
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Periodic Contributor

Right on....the idea is to keep it simple. That doesn't mean 'not living' either...I simply means to live within your means, use free entertainment ( I do bird watching and photography)...    It seems that all of these articles about 'needing' 80% of your pre-retirement income is hogwash.  You simply nest down to where SS fits perfectly like you have. I have too. Now, I am lucky in that we have a house all paid for and ready to move in as we bought it 8 years ago and have rented it out since as it paid down a ton of the mortgage. Now when we want to move in, we have the mortgage down to a few hundred a month, and live in a 1400 sq ft two bedroom. A nice brick home in the SW in a Spanish territorial style house. The point I am making is whether you live in a house or a condo or an apt, you can live cheap and on SS. I live off my SS income and leave a very small 'tax footprint'. If I want to spend anything, I pull from the bank. We have one car, a nice house....and we enjoy the simple things in life. Anyone can do that as you live in a non-materiaistic manner

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Honored Social Butterfly

I think being able to retire on Social Security "ONLY" - depends on what that amount may be and IF there are fall back funds available if there is an emergency situation.

Many people seem to take this living on Social Security "ONLY" as a reference to having nothing else to fall back on if the need arises.

According to SSA the average benefit in 2021 is: 

Screenshot_2021-03-15 Effect of COLA on Average Social Security Benefits.png

 

SSA: Effects of COLA on Average SS Benefits 

 

As an average - that means some make more and some make less.  The average is certainly not much -  but it is those who make less with little else to fall back on that worries me.

 

Cost rise - Medicare Part B premiums / either a Medicare Supplemental policy or a Medicare Advantage plan often increase in cost or out of pocket expenses.  If you have a car and drive, there is maintenance and repairs and insurance cost that also rise.  Home insurance, property taxes, high cost for just regular periodic repairs & maintenance - roof, HVAC, etc.  for those who own their own home and escalating rent for those who don't.  If there are pets - vet bills and keeping them healthy too.   Then there maybe other cost too - life insurance, LTC insurance if you do have other assets to protect, and we cannot discount the upwards movement in food prices.   The price of medication that one may have to take either currently or down the road.

 

I am fortunate - I do have a lot of expenses that I could cut if I desired - large house, big yard - but those are lifestyle choices that I find hard to give up + I enjoy them - but I do have other income than my SS benefit, a bit higher than average.  My life is pretty simple - I traveled so much during my working career / saw the world - that is something that I don't want to do in retirement.  I have out lived all my pets and don't want another unless it can outlive me - (so maybe a parrot)  😀  I get my daily work out just walking my house and yard.

 

Sure, I think, it might be possible to purely live of one's SS benefit - frugally, as both of the to-date posters have indicated - at least, for a while, but with those added retirement savings that can get you through in a pinch -   If there are no other savings, a person could go downhill real fast with unexpected cost and be financially in the hole real fast with little way to dig out - amking for a snowball effect.  I guess I am just not one that just lives for today; I have never been that way  - I have to plan for the future as least as much as I can - without knowing what the future will bring.  So with that in mind, I live frugally and on my benefit as much as I can - I want for nothing but just keeping up with those things that are demands (as differing from wants) - I think it would be hard to just live off my SS benefit day in and day out.

 

I often think about couples that are drawing their retirement SS and they are trying to live off of just those amounts with little, if any, to fall back on in other available funds.  Again, they maybe doing OK, living frugally.  Then One dies and the SS income is almost cut in half because even though the widow/widower will get the higher benefit, they do not continue to get both.  The surviving spouse has to start making some pretty big financial decisions.

 

Sorry for the long post - it was a little R & R - now back to my taxes  ☹️

 

 

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Periodic Contributor

I think it is important to have money in the bank besides SS. If that is the case, sure....as I do, one can live strictly off SS. You have a small tax footprint and yet I have dollars in the bank. It works well.     But if one has just SS, I still believe you can live okay but, you are just 'one sickness' or the like away from huge problems, unless you can afford the best medicare in the land.   

 

I have a small house, live off my SS and pay all of my bills from SS. My money in the bank is just that. I use it when I want. Of course, that means that people have to plan for retirement and not just think SS is 'it'....they have to save all along. If you have SS and have even a 100,000 in the bank, you most likely are okay, if you live right

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Contributor

  • Indeed, those living on ss alone, and have no backup are indeed 1 calamity away from dire straits. I have an in-law in that unfortunate position, and with failing health that requires care. She couldn't keep up her mortgage payments, as one costly incident after another kept draining her budget. Ended up selling it as a distressed sale, can't get housing assistance for 2 years as she sold her home rather than lose it to forclosure. She is now dependant on family to save her from homelessness and care. Her ss is too small to keep a roof over her head, pay for her food, utilities, and medical care. 

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Contributor

I made a decision in my 20s about my future: I decided that I could work to retire with money or enjoy the money I made throughout my working years and retire on Social Security. I chose the latter. Throughout my working years I changed jobs as I pleased, took time off when I wanted to travel, and lived as cheaply as possible, usually sharing apartments with others. I saved no money. I made sure I had health insurance and when my back went out at 55, I had back surgery and then retired on disability.

 

I live in Northern California, not an inexpensive place. However, because California possesses one of the best "safety net" governments, I have been able to live on Social Security by subsidizing everything I can. I live in a nice, two-bedroom, federally subsidized apartment in a small town. Because I am a low-income person I am able to get my health insurance subsidized, all my utilities subsidized and food stamps. I have an economic, reliable used car and don't drive a lot of miles. I occasionally work small jobs to make extra money for travels or other entertainment and live quite simply. My life is fulfilled through time spent with friends and family and I continue to learn and challenge myself through online programs and content. I love music and am a volunteer DJ at a local public radio station and that's my passion. It is a good life.

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Periodic Contributor

I had everything paid off too, now if we could just get the greedy utilities to tow the line or the county assessor to not raise our taxes by subterfuge, we might be able to make it! I am almost to the point where I will have to sell off my collectibles or sit in the park and play guitar in front of an open guitar case! I don't go anywhere as I am a retired truck driver and have all ready been there! Can't afford a long vacation as it is!

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Gold Conversationalist

It’s not that bad. Especially if you dumpster dive for several meals every week.

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Regular Contributor

I think retiring on social security only means there are no fall back funds.  Most people have retirement benefits from a job.  I am a social security only person.  I moved where most of my family live.  My daughter helped me find an affordable rent apt in a 48 unit complex for people over 62.  I was told how to sign up for low income rent (took 2 yrs) .Need patience but it was worth.it. If you are only going to have social security, you are not living high off the hog.  People could live on a lot less if they needed to. I Have family near by that take me shopping and to the doctor(I don't drive)sicillian

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Newbie

I think retiring on Social Security only is very doable. My house and car are paid for. I manage my spending and budget for insurance and taxes my 2 largest bills as well as put back 200-300 per month for "unforseen' expenses. If the county I live in would stop raising my taxes I could travel twice a year with that money. And I do have some money saved for emergencies.

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Gold Conversationalist

It’s not that bad. Especially if you dumpster dive for several meals every week.

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Bronze Conversationalist

lol @2Papa 

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Periodic Contributor

Surviving on "just" Social Security requires an emergency fund and planning. In 2019, I had to retire a few years earlier than expected and as a widow. My SS check is midway between average and maximum benefits. During the last year I worked, I researched and planned what changes I would need to make to live comfortably on my SS check. The last few years I worked, I contributed as much money as I could possibly afford to my 401k. Some things I did to make my budget balance:

1. I replaced my cable TV with an antenna and a device that will record from the antenna. It cost me the equivalent of 2 months of cable fees to buy the electronics. I pay for Disney+ and PBS passport. Youtube videos are free and there are several "free with ads" streaming services that I use. I found I could live without watching ACC basketball. Savings= $90/month. 

2. I disconnected my landline, saving $40/month. I switched my cell service to Consumer Cellular to save another $40/month. Savings= $80/month.

3. When I was working, I was spending maybe $120/month on restaurant food. The group I was meeting for breakfast on Saturday is planning to only meet twice a month, once we can meet again. Savings = $90

4. My public library provides access to online e-books and movies. I still buy 2 e-books/yr from my fave authors ongoing series. My eyesight problem precludes me from buying magazines or physical books anymore. Having that access to e-books keeps me occupied, so I don't need the cable TV.  My plan for retirement was to read as much as I want. 

5. I decreased my gift budget by half. Savings= ~$500/year

6. I decreased my charitable giving by half also. Savings= at least $400/year

7. Since I don't work, my car insurance, gasoline and car maintenance costs decreased. Not sure how much that saves me. 

8. Refinancing the house and using equity to pay off the car saved me $500/month.

9. Not working also decreased how much laundry I do by at least half and decreased my clothing purchases. Don't know how much that saves me. 

10. The Federal Government and my state don't tax my Social Security income. I don't withdraw enough money from my retirement savings to pay taxes on it. When I was working I paid about $9k in income taxes per year. Savings= ~$750/month

11. With Medicare, Medicare Supplement & Part D, I spend $50 more per month than when I worked. BUT I don't have a $3500 deductible like I did on my employer's health insurance. 

12. I have time to cook, so I spend less on groceries. When I worked I didn't cook much, but bought packaged and frozen meals. My grocery budget is down by ~$150/month.

 

These are some of the ways I've managed to live on my Social Security check. I had hoped to do a little traveling, but COVID interfered with that. Maybe in 2021 that will happen. 

Bronze Conversationalist

Hi @wendykw I appreciate you stopping by to join our discussion 🙂

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Silver Conversationalist

@wendykw 

 

I am in awe. Of your planning and perseverance. You are an inspiration to me and, I am sure, many others!

Contributor

I made a decision in my 20s about my future: I decided that I could work to retire with money or enjoy the money I made throughout my working years and retire on Social Security. I chose the latter. Throughout my working years I changed jobs as I pleased, took time off when I wanted to travel, and lived as cheaply as possible, usually sharing apartments with others. I saved no money. I made sure I had health insurance and when my back went out at 55, I had back surgery and then retired on disability.

 

I live in Northern California, not an inexpensive place. However, because California possesses one of the best "safety net" governments, I have been able to live on Social Security by subsidizing everything I can. I live in a nice, two-bedroom, federally subsidized apartment in a small town. Because I am a low-income person I am able to get my health insurance subsidized, all my utilities subsidized and food stamps. I have an economic, reliable used car and don't drive a lot of miles. I occasionally work small jobs to make extra money for travels or other entertainment and live quite simply. My life is fulfilled through time spent with friends and family and I continue to learn and challenge myself through online programs and content. I love music and am a volunteer DJ at a local public radio station and that's my passion. It is a good life.

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Bronze Conversationalist

Hi @krippey I appreciate you for stopping by to join our discussion 😉

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Honored Social Butterfly

I think being able to retire on Social Security "ONLY" - depends on what that amount may be and IF there are fall back funds available if there is an emergency situation.

Many people seem to take this living on Social Security "ONLY" as a reference to having nothing else to fall back on if the need arises.

According to SSA the average benefit in 2021 is: 

Screenshot_2021-03-15 Effect of COLA on Average Social Security Benefits.png

 

SSA: Effects of COLA on Average SS Benefits 

 

As an average - that means some make more and some make less.  The average is certainly not much -  but it is those who make less with little else to fall back on that worries me.

 

Cost rise - Medicare Part B premiums / either a Medicare Supplemental policy or a Medicare Advantage plan often increase in cost or out of pocket expenses.  If you have a car and drive, there is maintenance and repairs and insurance cost that also rise.  Home insurance, property taxes, high cost for just regular periodic repairs & maintenance - roof, HVAC, etc.  for those who own their own home and escalating rent for those who don't.  If there are pets - vet bills and keeping them healthy too.   Then there maybe other cost too - life insurance, LTC insurance if you do have other assets to protect, and we cannot discount the upwards movement in food prices.   The price of medication that one may have to take either currently or down the road.

 

I am fortunate - I do have a lot of expenses that I could cut if I desired - large house, big yard - but those are lifestyle choices that I find hard to give up + I enjoy them - but I do have other income than my SS benefit, a bit higher than average.  My life is pretty simple - I traveled so much during my working career / saw the world - that is something that I don't want to do in retirement.  I have out lived all my pets and don't want another unless it can outlive me - (so maybe a parrot)  😀  I get my daily work out just walking my house and yard.

 

Sure, I think, it might be possible to purely live of one's SS benefit - frugally, as both of the to-date posters have indicated - at least, for a while, but with those added retirement savings that can get you through in a pinch -   If there are no other savings, a person could go downhill real fast with unexpected cost and be financially in the hole real fast with little way to dig out - amking for a snowball effect.  I guess I am just not one that just lives for today; I have never been that way  - I have to plan for the future as least as much as I can - without knowing what the future will bring.  So with that in mind, I live frugally and on my benefit as much as I can - I want for nothing but just keeping up with those things that are demands (as differing from wants) - I think it would be hard to just live off my SS benefit day in and day out.

 

I often think about couples that are drawing their retirement SS and they are trying to live off of just those amounts with little, if any, to fall back on in other available funds.  Again, they maybe doing OK, living frugally.  Then One dies and the SS income is almost cut in half because even though the widow/widower will get the higher benefit, they do not continue to get both.  The surviving spouse has to start making some pretty big financial decisions.

 

Sorry for the long post - it was a little R & R - now back to my taxes  ☹️

 

 

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Regular Contributor

I think retiring on social security only means there are no fall back funds.  Most people have retirement benefits from a job.  I am a social security only person.  I moved where most of my family live.  My daughter helped me find an affordable rent apt in a 48 unit complex for people over 62.  I was told how to sign up for low income rent (took 2 yrs) .Need patience but it was worth.it. If you are only going to have social security, you are not living high off the hog.  People could live on a lot less if they needed to. I Have family near by that take me shopping and to the doctor(I don't drive)sicillian

View solution in original post

Newbie

I think retiring on Social Security only is very doable. My house and car are paid for. I manage my spending and budget for insurance and taxes my 2 largest bills as well as put back 200-300 per month for "unforseen' expenses. If the county I live in would stop raising my taxes I could travel twice a year with that money. And I do have some money saved for emergencies.

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Bronze Conversationalist

Hi @Mareco I see you have the AARP newbie title, welcome and thanks for stopping by to join our discussion 🙂 🙂

Bronze Conversationalist

Hi @red39muztang yes, family is important. Unfortunately my only child lives in Florida, use to live here in Virginia. But she keeps a long-distance EYE on me 🤗 I appreciate you making time to join our discussion 🙂

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Periodic Contributor

I think it is important to have money in the bank besides SS. If that is the case, sure....as I do, one can live strictly off SS. You have a small tax footprint and yet I have dollars in the bank. It works well.     But if one has just SS, I still believe you can live okay but, you are just 'one sickness' or the like away from huge problems, unless you can afford the best medicare in the land.   

 

I have a small house, live off my SS and pay all of my bills from SS. My money in the bank is just that. I use it when I want. Of course, that means that people have to plan for retirement and not just think SS is 'it'....they have to save all along. If you have SS and have even a 100,000 in the bank, you most likely are okay, if you live right

View solution in original post

Contributor

  • Indeed, those living on ss alone, and have no backup are indeed 1 calamity away from dire straits. I have an in-law in that unfortunate position, and with failing health that requires care. She couldn't keep up her mortgage payments, as one costly incident after another kept draining her budget. Ended up selling it as a distressed sale, can't get housing assistance for 2 years as she sold her home rather than lose it to forclosure. She is now dependant on family to save her from homelessness and care. Her ss is too small to keep a roof over her head, pay for her food, utilities, and medical care. 

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Bronze Conversationalist

So TRUE what you stated @desrtwin1 I am so VERY GRATEFUL for my local Bradley Free Clinic. I get my free medical and prescriptions there. Last year got my flu and shingles vaccine and will again this year. They did offer covid vaccine, but I had already received mine through the Rescue Mission where I take care of their planters for free. Fingers, toes, eyes crossed I do not develop any major medical issues. Just high blood pressure at age 63.

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Bronze Conversationalist

Great insights @lmans and depending at what age we die, there is no need to give up our independence. Life is unpredictable but enjoyable if we do our part and plan as much as we can.

Bronze Conversationalist

@GailL1  thank you for sharing and I agree, you have to live life your way. I make sure I save each month for a rainy day. Lol, Firestone is my second home as my 2006 Hyundai Elantra ages

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Periodic Contributor

Right on....the idea is to keep it simple. That doesn't mean 'not living' either...I simply means to live within your means, use free entertainment ( I do bird watching and photography)...    It seems that all of these articles about 'needing' 80% of your pre-retirement income is hogwash.  You simply nest down to where SS fits perfectly like you have. I have too. Now, I am lucky in that we have a house all paid for and ready to move in as we bought it 8 years ago and have rented it out since as it paid down a ton of the mortgage. Now when we want to move in, we have the mortgage down to a few hundred a month, and live in a 1400 sq ft two bedroom. A nice brick home in the SW in a Spanish territorial style house. The point I am making is whether you live in a house or a condo or an apt, you can live cheap and on SS. I live off my SS income and leave a very small 'tax footprint'. If I want to spend anything, I pull from the bank. We have one car, a nice house....and we enjoy the simple things in life. Anyone can do that as you live in a non-materiaistic manner

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Periodic Contributor

I had everything paid off too, now if we could just get the greedy utilities to tow the line or the county assessor to not raise our taxes by subterfuge, we might be able to make it! I am almost to the point where I will have to sell off my collectibles or sit in the park and play guitar in front of an open guitar case! I don't go anywhere as I am a retired truck driver and have all ready been there! Can't afford a long vacation as it is!

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Bronze Conversationalist

I am DREADING summer which will be here shortly here in Virginia @VirginiaH672218 I cannot afford the air in my studio apartment but did use some of my 3rd stimulus check to fix the air in my 2006 Hyundai Elantra 🙂 I use 2 fans in apartment. 1 huge floor and a smaller one for showers. Lol, between the famous hot flashes and the HEAT from JUNE TO SEPTEMBER, I am so glad I moved from FLORIDA in 2015. Use to luv the heat. Now I cry/lol.

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Bronze Conversationalist

@lmans thank you for sharing your story. Luv your rental property set up!

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