Anybody living on Social Security only?

Kathleen8B_FLMarch 9, 2006

If so, how do you do it? How do you handle health care costs?

DH and I are both 50ish and nowhere near retirement (we plan to retire at 63, when we can begin drawing SS). So far, my 14 years with the state will earn me a pitiful $500 per month pension. Other than that, we need to save, save, save (no other pensions, inheritances, etc.).

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Hi Kathleen8b,
Tried it - didn't work out! I'm 62. Working part time and receiving annuity interest, along with Social Security, help me meet the increasing health insurance costs and other living expenses. I'm looking forward to getting on Medicare (I think!). You are very wise to start planning now. IRA's, annunities, CD's and investments will help secure your future and make your retirement a little easier. Saving now is very important. $500 per month doesn't cover much... Save, save, save!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2006 at 3:21PM
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Thanks for your response--I have started maxing out my 403B but DH does not feel the urgency I feel! He's OK with what I'm doing, but doesn't want to be part of the planning.

I am thinking it would be more realistic for me to cut back to part time in my early 60s and not actually retire until I qualify for Medicare at 65 (might be 66 or 67 by that time).

    Bookmark   March 12, 2006 at 3:46PM
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You save ,save. save but who is to say you will live that long.You must learn how to live off your pension and your sociel security.Do all your traveling and fun things now.When you get older you will be too tired to pick up a suitcase and drag it half the lenght of the airport.I know of what I speak.When I was younger and old man gave me this advice.I took it and now I'm just happy to get up in the morning and look outside.yes I still take trips(busrides) and do other fun things.I also have a partime job just to keep up with things.As you get older your needs are not the same.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 9:47AM
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goldy, that is pretty much the way I feel about traveling and seeing the world as in fun things...I have been there and done that enough that now in retirement, I want to enjoy the peace and quiet of the home and property here in TX. We are going on a cruise this spring but not one that requires a ton of walking or touring etc...(Alaska) I especially hate the idea of paying thousands of dollars to travel on a luxurious ocean liner and go to a country that is practically third world thank you...

The original question...We currently are pretty much living on SS income....We are something like $350 in the red for the year but that will probably balance our as the year Progresses...I have been stocking my freezer etc so the food costs have been a bit high as recorded ...but as I said, they reflect some stocking up etc...We have some investment income that we can draw on if we need to do so..We have Medicare coverage...A, Band D and a medigap policy...We are at the moment researching home health care and long term health care...Haven't decided what to do with that yet but will continue to research until we decide what to do...

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 11:55AM
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kathleen - we are 60 and approaching retirement. Due to economics of the 80's we were late in saving but have tried to make up for it best we could. Fortunate to have lived here for several years. My MIL, at 84, lives on her SS, in Sr housing. She tithes on it also. Actually I think where one lives makes a huge difference in how well they will manage on SS. My DH and I don't forsee our being able to live solely on SS. We have tried to make preparations such as paying off our home and adding to savings, 401K, etc. However, we see inflation, utilities, and medical costs rising and additional insurance expensive. If you can, get hubby to watch a show like Suze Orman, stating that you want his opinion on her comments.

ruthie - as you compare costs, also look into the past to see the longevity of your parents, and also to the future of your income ("we are $350 in red") - many people purchase Long Term health care only to NOT be able to afford it by the time it is needed.

Donovan - thanks for also posting your link. I enjoyed reading a few articles and poetry, liking "Blackie and Bear"; but relating to Writer's Block. I am an artist and perhaps I should re-write it substituting painting for writing! Only for myself would I do that, so I hope you don't mind that I printed yours out to keep handily near my easel.

goldie, we did most of our traveling in our younger years also. That doesn't preclude our travel later, but I am happy to sit on my deck with a cup of coffee, dogs by myside, as I stare at nature's wonderous beauty. I no longer work, thanks to DH's planning,but DH does. He thinks I should spend my days painting!!


    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 1:28PM
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I live on Social Security and I work part time. I do not work in the summer.I cannot complain. Life is good.I do try to help others,and that has been a blessing.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 10:37PM
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If you are a couple and don't have a great deal of savings or income, you need to check into a division of assets before you take on the expense of long term care insurance. I saw an estate attorney when my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and found that it was very fair to the spouse. I got my pick of the cars and the home and half the savings. If we had $19,000 or less the well spouse got to keep it and the one needing the care home went on medicaid as soon as he went into the care home. None of the income was not taken if it was below a certain amount.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 3:34PM
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My mother died a year ago, at age 85.

She'd lived for 25 years on her widow's social security from my dad. Not only that, but she ammassed enough savings, that when she died, she left an estate of about $200,000.

How did she do it? She had medicare, of course, and AARP supplemental insurance. She moved from her house (investing the profit of the sale) into a subsidized senior citizen tower where ones' rent was based on their income (she paid about $280/month rent for an apt. that would have cost $1200 in any commercial building). She lived in NJ, where seniors under a certain income level (she qualified easily) got all their prescriptions for only a $5 co-pay for a 3 month supply. Otherwise, she was pretty frugal--always cut her own hair, didn't buy herself a lot of luxories, nor give expensive gifts.

Of course, that was all possible for the older generation. We, who are just now reaching retirement age, know that we will NEVER be able to retire. It's just not going to be possible. SS is close to being a thing of the past. Congress is talking about nationalizing or putting huge, whopping taxes on individual retirement savings (and that WILL happen--it's happened in other countries already)--so one cannot count on their savings being there when needed (do you really think our over-extended government is going to overlook that huge, available resource???).

My personal feeling is that the best retirement plan these days is to keep oneself healthy and able to work, and to have the kind of job that one can continue to do well into their 70's, 80's, and older, if necessary. Self-sufficiency, in other words.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 9:12PM
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Sounds good but how do you keep yourself healthy? No one would be sick if we knew how to keep healthy.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 4:51PM
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Greetings stargazer, and others,

"No one would be sick if we knew how to keep healthy".

Oh ... don't say.


Overeating (when 3/4 of the world is hungry).

Wrong kinds of food (a four-letter word seems to fit).

Pursuing sports where one risks serious, possibly permanent injury - even potential death.

Speeding, passing on curves, hilltops, running yellow/red traffic control signals, crossing double yellow lines on the highway. Cell phone while wheels rolling (even the hands-free ones distract one).

Over-drinking (and drinking and driving).

Agreeing to marry a domineering, controlling spouse.

Avoiding regular physical check-ups. Neglect of body and teeth.

Drug abuse (including over-use of the prescription kind).

Being content with "good enough" rather than seeking excellence in all things in our lives: e.g. Pilot Sullenberger, who brought down the airliner in what has been called, "The Miracle on the Hudson", and his staff, with no loss of life.

..... (add to the list, as you think of items, please)




Good wishes for high-level health throughout your life, everyone, and taking care of yourself so that you enjoy excellent health till 80 and beyond.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 3:46AM
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I guess we should start blaming people who have diabetes, MS, alzheimers and cancer, for living an unhealthy lifestyle.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 4:02AM
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I guess we should start blaming people who have diabetes, MS, Alzheimer and cancer, for living an unhealthy lifestyle.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 4:03AM
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Hi stargazer,

My point was that most of us don't live as well as we know.

Most of the issues to which you refer have much to do with genes, only marginally related to lifestyle, it seems to me.

I think that, with all of the exotic chemicals that they're continually discovering, some of them bound to be human-unfriendly, we'll have more cancer to deal with in future.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 1:02AM
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I know that joyful, but it's all a part of being healthy. If we live long enough we will all probably have cancer. I found this article very interesting.

Man, Environment And Life Expectancy   
By Edward Grimsley 

In the beginning, the air and all the rivers, lakes, and oceans were clean and pure. And darkness was upon the face of the deep much of the time. 

Man spent most of his time looking for food and shelter, and shivering, clothing made from fig leaves not being very warm. Finally, he learned that animals were useful not only as food but also to provide clothing and shelter, since their pelts and hides could be used for cloaks and tents and so forth. He became a hunter and hunted all the time without a twinge of remorse, since there was no animal\-rights movement to tell him he was doing wrong. 

So he roamed the earth, searching for food and shelter, breathing the pure air and drinking the pure water. He had plenty of room to roam, for the Earth was not crowded in those pristine and prehistoric days. The average life span, you see, was only 18 years. 

Man limited his activity to the daylight hours, of course, since he had no light strong enough to dispel the darkness that covered the face of the deep several hours of each day. He was in bed by sundown, which means that he spent much of his short life in unconscious sleep. 

Over the centuries, life changed. Man discovered the fire, which provided heat and light. True, it burned forests, and occasionally human beings, but people decided the advantages of fire more than offset its dangers. Through the years, more and more people began to live in permanent villages, towns, and cities. They dumped their garbage into the streets and nearby streams and rivers. Thus they invented pollution. 

And life expectancy rose, reaching 30 years by Roman Times. 

Man continued to develop and change. Eventually he invented candles. Then he discovered that lamps fueled by oil, from whatever source, produced stronger light than candles. Since whales were a good sourced of lamp oil, people killed a lot of whales in those days. But there was less darkness upon the face of the deep. People could even see to read at night. Hardly anyone spoke out in defense of whales. 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, man moved into the Industrial Age. This featured factories that filled the air with black smoke and poured new pollutants into the rivers and lakes. Man breathed poison 24 hours a day. 

His live expectancy jumped to about 40 years. 

Miracle followed miracle. The industrial revolution led to the internal combustion engine in automobiles. Soon there were millions of these vehicles running about the globe spewing fumes into the air. Somebody invented cigarettes. With factory smokestacks, cigarettes, and automobiles filling the air with foul particles, lungs didnt know what fresh air felt like. Since the internal combustion engines and the factory furnaces and the power generators needed fuel, man drilled for oil and transported it hither and yon. Now and then he spilled some, polluting the rivers, lakes, and oceans. 

And his life expectancy soared beyond 60 years. 

And so it has gone most of this century. Good lighting provided by generators powered by coal, oil and nuclear energy has dispelled much of the darkness from the face of the deep, which means people no longer have to lie down when the sun does. Factories have produced machines that have made life easier and richer than prehistoric man ever thought it could be. Once forced to spend most of his waking moments merely to obtain the necessities of life, man now has leisure time in abundance. He can play at home or, if he chooses, hop aboard an airplane and fly to another playground on the other side of the globe in a matter of hours. 

And his life expectancy is about 75 years. 

From all this, it would appear that pollution is manÂs best friend, since the dirtier the environment, the longer he lives, and the more he prospers. Pollution actually is a very bad thing, however as the experts have been telling us for days in observance of the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. Civilization is doomed, they warn, unless people cleanup the air and water, stop smoking cigarettes, stop cutting down old trees, save the spotted owl, and recycle everything. 

Exactly how man can restore the purity of the air and waters and preserve the forests while retaining all the benefits of industrialization and technological progress is not clear. But future generations probably will have time to figure it out. Experts predict that babies born in this highly polluted year of 1990 may live an average of 110 years. 

Distributed by Heritage Features Syndicate. 
    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 5:34PM
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It is so very rare for anyone to provoke an argument on any of these forums, I want to be careful how I respond to this. I can't resist responding, however, because the person who wrote it focused only on the facts that supported his/her theory.

Basically, the rebuttal is that during the same span of time, there were huge medical and scientific advances that directly led to longer lifespans. The article also ignores the fact that in third world countries, where conditions are not as sanitary, the average life span is much shorter.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 8:00PM
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Sooo...I'm wondering about the value of this forum. No one who has posted talks about living on SS alone, they're all complaining about how their additional income doesn't help them meet their bills. How do these posts help those of us who will actually be living on SS alone?

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 1:57PM
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If you think you are going to be retiring on SS alone, you should prepare yourself for a subsistance level of living. I'm serious about this, SS was NEVER intended to be more than 1/3 of your retirement income. As a 'pay as you go' system, it will require some adjustments to continue financial stability.

Even with that we are still WAY ahead of many industrialized countries; the average age in the US is younger, due to immigration, and the economy more resilient (even if it may not feel that way right now). China's population, for example, is aging far more rapidly, and their 'one family, one child' policy is going to bite them hard in the next twenty years. That's one of the biggest reasons they have tried to accumulate such large reserves; they have almost no elder care or healthcare system and know they're going to have to implement costly government programs.

I am currently participating in a discussion on one of the AARP forums where we were asked to give our thoughts on how someone with a portfolio of $150K in assets would use that to transition from working to steady retirement income. I said in my estimation it would be virtually impossible to live in any large city with such a minimal amount of assets. The person "X" would need at least a paid-for home, a relatively new car, full Social Security and some sort of healthcare policy to supplement Medicare.

My father and mother existed on SS only (they were divorced). Dad lived with his widowed sister, mom lived in senior public housing. Dad died first, by the time mom was in housing my brother and I were able to send her $100/mo each. She was very modest in her expenditures - loved to sew so she was always dressed 'to the nines' and took pleasure in cooking economical, healthy meals.

She had spent a lot of money in previous years while working, but she enjoyed life to its fullest. Not just traveling, but meeting people - she was highly social and ebullient. Interestingly enough, she had just as much fun when she was poor, as when she had money. It was her attitude towards life that was striking; she made mistakes but didn't dwell on them. She adjusted and did the best she could to always remain independent. She was grateful for the funds we sent, but they weren't a necessity in her budgeting.

I learned a lot from watching her. Money's nice to have, and because she didn't plan very well for her old age, I made sure we planned a LOT better. But I also learned that the really important things in life can't be purchased; living life to its fullest means appreciating the big and the small things.

Anyone in their 50's who hasn't started some serious financial planning with a trusted, registered/certified advisor that has fiduciary responsibility, needs to begin that planning ASAP. Be prepared to cut back sizably on expenses in order to max savings and retirement contributions. It's good discipline for retirement, when you'll have less income than you enjoy now.

If you are in your 60's, unless you are extremely healthy, extremely lucky in your job skills and local job market, you have very few options for expanding your asset portfolio unless you have an inheritance coming. You are going to have to scale down your expectations and decide what's the biggest financial risks to plan for. You're not going to be able to plan for everything, maybe not even for the majority of risks. But defining goals and disaster scenarios are issues that need to be faced, because sticking your head in the sand isn't going to help.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 3:04PM
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Today is my 69th birthday, and I have not taken any social security yet. I want it to build up to the max so I can live off social security. It makes me nervous to hear the politicians talking about cutting back entitlements. I hope the checks keep coming and I am around to cash them.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 3:26PM
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Happy Birthday. You've got a year to mull things over... after age 70 there is no further increase in benefits -aside from any cola granted to adjust for cost of living. However, it's not the folks already in the system or those who will be shortly that have the biggest worries about any tinkering with SS. It's the 55 (I think) and younger who may be seeing only 80% of what the payouts are now. Social Security is not going to go away and privatizing it would be an incalculable blunder.

I took SS a year early - when I went in to sign up for Medicare in Nov. of 2010, I figured let's go for SS as well; why not get slightly less for longer. It would be a tight, absolutely no frills existence, but I could conceiveably live on SS alone if I had to. House is mortgage free, no car debt, 0 credit card debt, did exensive traveling when I was working so would have to consider that as been there, done that. I'd have to do my own lawn mowing and snow blowing. Gift giving and charitable contributions would suffer.

What would blow your plan out of the water is an unexpected expense that you had no way of anticipating and making arrangements for - even the continuous little increases in utilities and virtually all goods and services would have an impact.

Since you haven't provided much detail, I'm assuming your future attempt at living on SS alone is just a grand experiment and that you probably have some degree of massed assets to fall back on.

I feel fortunate that I do have assets - I began planning with the first paycheck I ever got; retired at 55 with a pension and health benefits and was even an heir a few times. None the less, how much will ever be enough is a point to debate.

Too bad these forums are slow - there are a lot of people out there who would have ideas to share.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 5:44PM
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Posters who are not sticking to the question are only mocking the folks who have serious concerns about learning what they can do to manage with what they have...and live happily and securely. It is what it is. Rather than saving for retirement, I raised one of my grandchildren, which everyone knows is costly. People who did not save are not necessarily irresponsible or spendthrifts. Sometimes life is just like that.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:53AM
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