It is no secret that the financial crunch of the last decade has hit seniors, particularly retirees, quite hard. We won’t belabour the details such as fixed pensions, inflation, and the like, as they have been discussed ad nauseum in myriad other forums. Rather, we will endeavour to find a few creative means by which seniors can either cut their expenses or supplement their incomes in order to make retirement as delightful as it appears on the adverts for financial planning companies. Let’s start with ways to save money.
Move to a smaller house or flat
The best time to downsize your living quarters is actually before you retire. By doing so, you will be in a better position to afford the seemingly endless costs that always arise during the moving process.
• Down payments that would eat up all your savings are easier to handle if you still have a paycheck coming in, rather than a monthly pension that is always less than you had hoped for, much less needed to provide whatever “lifestyle” you’ve dreamed about.
• New furniture that fits your new, smaller space and allows you a minimally clear path to walk through without tripping over something and suffering that most dreaded curse of the elderly, the broken hip. A smaller couch is also less appealing to any extended lodgers. Keep reading.
• Moving costs are going to hit you like a five-tonne lorry, and make you wish that you had been able to earn the hourly rate you will pay for labourers to move all the essential and non-essential items that you have obtained (hoarded) over the years. Forget the notion of renting the truck and moving yourself. What had once amounted to a day-long lark with cheerful friends in years past has evolved into weeks of torture that will have you dreaming of large insurance policies and accidental fires, long before the task is completed. Not to mention being a clear invitation to the above-mentioned curse.
There is another reason, typically unspoken in conversations other than with your spouse, for moving to a smaller place. If you live in a tiny house or flat, your adult children won’t be as likely to ask to move back in with you. And we all know that good intentions aside, having one or more of those adult boomerang kids back in the house is not only expensive, but conducive to fantasies such as disappearing without leaving a forwarding address. And don’t buy into any guilt that might rear its head for not providing your adult children a free place to live. You are likely a member of the baby boomer generation, so hold fast to your love of all things natural, and remind yourself as necessary that it is nature’s way for all creatures to push their offspring from the nest, den, or pack once they’ve reached maturity. You are merely holding true to your values.
Rekindle a loving relationship with good old English wool
Unless you are fortunate enough to find a well-insulated, energy-efficient new home, you will find yourself piling on additional layers of clothing, rather than turning up the thermostat even a couple of very expensive degrees. Old people don’t wear heavy sweaters and scarves to be fashionable, you know. They wear them because coal, gas, and electricity are too expensive. And to seniors, warm is the new cool.
In addition to cutting back on expenses, you may also find yourself looking for means of supplementing your meager pension. You might find the task of competing against younger people in an already tight job market discouraging, but if you use your imagination, you can actually earn a few extra pounds without having to face the humiliation of job hunting. Leave that to the young people. Here are but a few suggestions that you might consider.
• Sell the right to use your old photographs to an online agency such as Fotolia, who will in turn sell temporary rights to graphic designers, magazines, and dailies. You might be surprised to find that even that picture of your late, eccentric (and highly inebriated) uncle on New Years, clad in a pair of boxer shorts and a lampshade can draw a tidy sum. Just make certain he has no other living relatives who might want in on the bounty.
• Become a product reviewer. While you won’t actually earn any cash writing reviews for products, there are companies that serve as clearing houses for product manufacturer reviews. By signing on with online companies such as Toluna, you will be given free stuff that you’d be likely to purchase anyway, in exchange for penning an “objective” review that the company can use in its adverts. And getting free stuff is like getting cash, isn’t it?
• Recycle aluminum and tin cans. Most baby boomers’ first experience with entrepreneurship was by picking up pop bottles and turning them in to grocers for a few pence apiece, thereby earning enough money for a soda or some sweet treat. The surge in green consciousness of late has led to many people re-emerging into this childhood practice. If you have a recycling center nearby, a few hours’ leisurely stroll, pushing a borrowed cart or lugging a large trash bag can earn you a few pounds. If you are particularly committed and industrious, dress shabbily and adopt a forlorn demeanour, and you might find that the donations you receive will surpass the money you get from the cans themselves. Just be sure to avoid other similar entrepreneurs’ turf while plying your new trade.
Of course, if you prefer, you can always take more traditional measures to cut your expenses and/or increase your income. We’ll not judge you for doing so, as each of us has our own path to forge, and none is better or worse than any other, so long as it is legal and nobody gets hurt or swindled. Which brings to mind a cardinal rule: Avoid Multi Level Marketing (MLM) money-making schemes unless you value the few pounds you will make more than you value your friends.
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