What to Do if You Want to Delay Retirement — but Can’t

Retiring on time isn’t something everyone gets the luxury to do. If you’re behind on savings, you may feel compelled to delay your retirement and work on boosting your nest egg, even if that means having to plug away at a desk job for a few more years.

But what if your plans to delay retirement go awry? You could get laid off and struggle to find a new job. Or, health issues could make it so you’re unable to maintain a steady work schedule.

No matter the circumstances, working longer isn’t always an option for everyone who wants it. If you’re in that boat, here’s how to compensate.

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1. Downsize your home

Even if your home is paid off, it might still be your largest monthly expense. And so if you’re willing to downsize to a smaller space, you might save a lot of money on things like utilities, maintenance, and property taxes. That savings could free up a lot of money for your remaining bills.

Furthermore, if your home is paid off and you downsize, you might end up with some money to pocket in the course of that sale. That’s a sum you can invest and then tap as needed, the same way you might rely on withdrawals from your IRA or 401(k) plan.

2. Relocate someplace with a lower cost of living

If you live in a somewhat expensive corner of the country, relocating to someplace less pricey could help you stretch the limited savings you have. Of course, there are other factors to consider when relocating outside of cost, such as proximity to family or a support system, access to healthcare, local entertainment and amenities, and climate. But if you’re not married to your current city and you know there are cheaper alternatives, it pays to explore them.

3. See if you can hold off on claiming Social Security

If you’ve been forced to retire without such a robust nest egg, you may need to claim Social Security immediately to cover your bills. But if there’s a way you can hold off on filing for benefits for even a few months, you’ll have a chance to grow that income stream for life.

Imagine your full retirement age for Social Security purposes is 67, and your goal is to delay retirement until age 70. If you’re forced out of a job around your 67th birthday and you manage to hold off on claiming Social Security until age 67 1/2, you’ll give your monthly benefit a permanent 4% boost.

So how can you get by without Social Security? Living very frugally might do the trick. Furthermore, if your early retirement stems from job loss, you may be able to get by on a combination of unemployment benefits and severance pay.

Delaying retirement is a great way to compensate for a savings balance you’re not happy with. But if that option is taken away, don’t panic. There are things you can do to salvage your senior years and improve your financial outlook.

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