Retirees need to budget carefully to stay within their fixed income. If the value of their investments sinks after retirement, seniors often have little choice but to spend less or return to the workforce. But there are plenty of ways to make a little of extra cash without having to deal with an alarm clock and a commute. Here are a few creative ways to boost your retirement income.
Sell your stuff. Retirees have a lifetime's worth of accumulated clothes, books, and furniture. Make some quick cash by holding a garage sale or selling your stuff on eBay or Craigslist. Take clothes to a consignment shop and a box of books to your nearest used book store. Downsizing from two cars to one can also give your monthly budget a significant one-time boost. Savvy sellers can purchase underpriced used goods and resell them at a higher rate.
Market your skills. Whether you know how to hem and alter clothing, research family genealogy, or troubleshoot computers, someone in your neighborhood is likely to pay for your skills. Put an ad in your local newspaper, hang a flier on a community bulletin board, or offer your services online.
Get a higher interest rate. As you age, you'll want to keep a significant amount of your savings outside of the stock market. Shop around for the best interest rate on certificates of deposit, bonds, and savings accounts. Consider an online saving account, which will likely offer a higher interest rate than the brick-and-mortar variety.
Prune your investments. Review your investment portfolio and get rid of funds that consistently perform poorly. Also, "identify investments that have high expenses and transfer that money into a comparable investment that has lower management fees and expenses," says Eric Tyson, a financial planner and coauthor of Personal Finance For Seniors For Dummies.
Maximize Social Security. The age you sign up for Social Security can make a big difference in the size of your checks. For Americans born in 1943 or later, Social Security payments increase by 8 percent for each year you delay claiming between ages 62 and 70. "If you have good health, you will generally be better not taking the benefits early," says Tyson. "If you have a health problem or have some reason to believe you won't have a long life expectancy, that might be a reason to take Social Security a little bit earlier." Retirees who have already claimed their benefits still have an opportunity to boost their checks. Seniors who pay back the entire amount received without interest can then reclaim at the higher rate.
Utilize Medicare benefits. Sign up for Medicare Part B at age 65 to avoid a 10 percent premium increase for each year of delayed enrollment. Shop around annually for the most economical Medicare Part D prescription drug plan that meets your medication needs. And take advantage of the new services Medicare will soon begin covering. Beneficiaries will no longer have to pay any out-of-pocket costs for most preventive care, including an annual wellness visit beginning in January 2011.
Get a rewards credit card. You're going to continue to spend on food, clothing, and gas. You might as well get a credit card that pays you 1 to 2 percent cash back on your everyday purchases. "If you look around, you can find a no fee card that gives you some benefit," says Tyson. But he cautions: "A lot of the rewards card sock you with annual fees and get you some other way." Of course, if you carry a credit card balance, the extra cash will be lost.
Consult. Put your lifetime of accumulated experience to work by taking on consulting work. "By the time you are in your 50s, you probably know people from a variety of companies based on where you've been," says Mark Miller, publisher of RetirementRevised.com and author of The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security: Practical Strategies for Money, Work, and Living. "You can go out and do project-based stuff. It is a way to gain flexibility and set you own schedule and work from a home office."