How to Retire on Social Security Alone

Many Americans count on Social Security as their primary source of retirement income.


In Pictures: 10 Places to Retire on Social Security Alone


Continue to work. Even a small amount of extra income could make you much more comfortable in retirement. "Even if you cannot continue at the job that you had, certainly look into part-time work to supplement your income for a few years," says Gianola. "The best solution is to try to get some sort of a paycheck for a few more years, because it will allow you to stash away some extra money." You can work and claim Social Security benefits at the same time, but if you claim early and earn too much, some of your benefit will be temporarily withheld. Workers under their full retirement age, which is typically age 66 or 67, can earn up to $14,160 without penalty in 2011. "If you are 62, you could get a part-time job making $10,000 or $12,000 a year and still get your Social Security checks," says Gianola. After that, 50 cents of each dollar you earn will be deducted from your Social Security payments. The year you reach your full retirement age, the earnings limit jumps to $37,680 and the penalty is decreased to 33 cents withheld from each dollar you earn above the limit. After your full retirement age, there is no reduction in your payments for working and receiving benefits at the same time.

[See How to Save for Retirement on a Low Income.]

Consider your children. Some older adults move in with their children or other relatives to cut costs for both parties. "Some children are buying homes that have a mother-in-law suite and the parents are selling their homes and turning over the proceeds to the child," says Gianola. Approximately 49 million Americans lived in a household that contained at least two adult generations in 2008, up significantly from 28 million people living in multigenerational households in 1980, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data. Curtis wonders if he will one day need help from his two children, who are currently ages 10 and 15. "I have no idea if they will ever be in a position to help me or their mother if we needed it," he says. "I'm not really a person who wants to need to be helped."

Twitter: @aiming2retire