Do You Live Social Security Check To Social Security Check?

In light of the current government shutdown, it has come to everyone’s attention that 78% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck. This caused me to wonder if retirees do the same exact thing? Do they live social security check to social security check? Pension check to pension check? Annuity check to annuity check? Investment/Interest/dividend check to investment/interest/dividend check?

Note: Please don’t leave any comments about the government shutdown (they will be deleted). That’s NOT what we are talking about here. We’re talking about being so financially strained, whether working or retired, that your whole world depends on your very next guaranteed check.

I sorta live from my social security/pension/interest check to the next one. I plan my whole month around these checks directly deposited into my account. My payment schedule is strategized against each bill as they becomes due. I don’t see any liquid cash until the end of the month. Granted, yes I have a savings account but ALL that money is earmarked. My financial retirement strategy is based on the combination of Social Security, interest/dividends, a pension and a saving account. If any of these would cease, I’d handle it, but I’d be frantic.

It’s a scary thought. One that up until now, I really never thought about before. Retirees have different needs and goals than a salaried individual, since we know we won’t be working for a living anymore.

It’s not merely those earning low wages who are struggling. CareerBuilder reports that nearly 10 percent of Americans with salaries of $100,000 or more live paycheck to paycheck as well. That means that many workers aren’t able to put anything significant into savings. More than 50 percent of respondents say that they save less than $100 per month. Debt is also a growing issue for workers, CareerBuilder reports. Just more than 70 percent of all respondents say that they’re in debt, and a quarter of workers say they weren’t able to make ends meet at the end of every month of the past year.

Is it any wonder then, why so many retirees have not saved enough money for their own retirements? Social Security, pensions and 401Ks are more vital to a successful retirement then ever before.

While the recommended retirement plan savings amount is up to four times your annual salary, this is not a reality for many Americans. The average income for those in their 40s is around $50,000, but the median retirement savings amount for this age group is $63,000.

retiree on bench
Without a solid retirement plan, many seniors find themselves poor for the first time in their life.

I’ll be honest with you. I was only able to retire a bit younger than most because I made a lot of equity selling houses that I lived in. I didn’t technically ‘save’ money from my salary for retirement. Throughout my working years, I never made more than $28,000 annually (and I have two college degrees!) I was vested with my last employer BUT I was let go after 8 years. My employer would not give me access to my retirement account till I turned 65. I didn’t want my ex-employer handling my retirement fund, so I sued him. My attorney got my retirement account turned over to me and his big legal fee to go along with it. I had to liquidate my retirement account in order to pay him off.

My husband didn’t fare much better than me. He was lucky enough to have a 401K but two of the companies he worked for went out of business. DH was oftentimes without work for years (2.5 years was the longest). We dipped into that 401K to survive. Lots of people do. Thankfully, he has both a pension and social security.

The only reason why DH and I can live a bit comfortably now in dual retirement is because we have a low-cost standard of living, no debt and we stick to a budget. Without a mortgage, car loans, equity loans, lines of credit or consumer debt, we can manage financially on our combination of social security, pension, investment/interest/dividends and savings.  Should any of these income sources be knocked out (and sometimes retirees have suffered guaranteed income losses….think GM) we have material assets we can sell. Or pawn. Should the economy be in a downfall however, cash may not be as readily available as you’d like.

The winning combination then, for a successful retirement is no debt, cash in the bank (at least one whole year’s expenses to fill in should social security sputter) and a low-cost lifestyle IMHO.

You can’t depend on anything other than yourself.

 

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10 comments

  1. My goal is to have a years’ worth of expenses in the bank. I know I would fee secure if I did. It’ll take a bit, but I’m halfway there now. I also have a significant amount of cash in our home safe should something happen to our online systems. It’s the first time in my life I’ve had enough cash stashed for an emergency. I hope I never need it but you just don’t know.
    I’m hoping to have my mortgage paid off in the next 4-5 years, but we owe much less than it’s worth, and if need be I could sell and have a sizeable amount to buy a home outright in another area.
    But you are right, this particular gov’t shutdown has been an eye opener of how little people have saved. I think that could be a good thing so once they get paid again, they may just start putting more money into savings. It’s easy to forget a recession when years have been good. It’s time to do what our grandparents did, save for a rainy day.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Cindi, Thankfully the days of living paycheck to paycheck are way behind me watching my parents struggle to make the pay check stretch to the end of the month . I vowed from my first job, I would always put something in a rainy day fund or future goals. It has served me well. Even though the income sources in retirement are different earmarking some of it for the future is always a great idea. Sincerely, Lara

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    • Lara, it’s revealing how we learn from our parents what we want to learn from them. I always socked away something somewhere ‘just in case’. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Very true – so many people in all walks of lives live paycheck to paycheck. I enjoy reading your thoughts, you always inspire me to pay attention and plan for my future!

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    • We all learn from each other. I’m reading about how others, in just these 32-35 days, lost their credit ratings, got strapped with late fees for missing payments etc. etc and that was only in a month. Scary thoughts if they ever ran into real long term trouble. How they would crumble.
      Thank for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Cindi, I think there is one more very important item to a successful retirement and I was Guilty of it: getting complacent with where your money is sitting. They are your employees making you money and you need to Optimize their productivity. It is so very important to keep ahead of inflation and grow your own paycheck. I do not have cost of living increases on any of my pension checks. So I plan with a 3% inflation rate that I needed to make yearly from passive income. My personal inflation rate in my first twenty years of retirement was always below 2% until I turned 65 and switch from a high deductible company sponsored health plan to Medicare. The added cost spiked my overall expenses to a 10% increase overall. This was because my DH company subsidized 60% of the cost of the old health insurance. I kept the 1%plus invested instead of spending it over the twenty years so I had the money for my new health insurance cost. If I hadn’t taken the long view of future cost I would have felt the pain more of this increase. Lara

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    • Inflation is rearing its ugly head lately. I never had to worry about that before. I just cut back on my expenses and adjusted that way.
      Thanks for the heads up!

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  5. Optimization:my word for 2019. So I have carefully set my Optimizations categories and goals. The categories are:
    1.Happiness and Joy
    2. Health
    3.Wealth
    4. Creative Endeavor
    5. Travel
    6. Wisdom
    For each of these categories I have rated where I stand and what I want to do to optimizations. Lara

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    • HI Lara. That’s a very comprehensive list! Good for you. Thank you so much for sharing. You have many good points to consider.

      Like

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