When we talk about retirement planning, we consistently stress the idea that no one should rely on Social Security to completely fund their retirement. And yet, 31 percent of working Americans have accumulated 0 dollars in savings. Many others have saved very little. And so, it appears that a number of households expect to rely upon Social Security benefits in retirement.

What would that look like? And is it even possible to live entirely on your benefit check? The average Social Security benefit is $1,543, or $18,516 a year. For a married couple, both drawing the average benefit, that equals $37,032 annually. Here’s how you might stretch your budget to live on Social Security…

Retire later. You can claim your full benefit amount at age 66 or 67, depending upon when you were born. But for each year you wait to file your claim, your monthly benefit will grow (up to age 70).

Relocate. You can take your Social Security benefits anywhere that you choose to move. So why not stretch your budget by choosing a geographic area with a lower cost of living? Consider factors such as the average rent, availability of public transportation, and even climate which can lead to lower utility bills.

Share expenses. If you have extra rooms in your home, rent them out to other retirees. Sharing expenses means you reduce your rent or mortgage payment, share the burden of taxes, and split the cost of utilities and HOA fees. Everyone wins!

Pay off your debts before retirement. Your budget will be stretched enough, so don’t bring old debts into your retirement years. If it means working a bit longer to pay off debts before retiring, it is usually worth the small sacrifice.

Evaluate your Medicare options carefully. Medicare plans are structured to provide for different budget needs, so investigate your options carefully. Some Advantage plans provide for additional coverage like prescription drugs, dental, and vision, and can help you manage your out-of-pocket expenses.

Apply for help. Many retirees qualify for public assistance such as food stamps, but either don’t know about the programs or feel too proud to apply.

It might be possible to live on Social Security, but most retirees would rather live without such severe constraints. Stay in touch with us as you plan for retirement, and we will help you explore alternate means of establishing retirement income.