6 strategies for your clients to reduce how much money they'll need for retirement

By Jim Donelson


When you're discussing retirement savings strategies with your clients, it's important to emphasize that they should save as much as possible for their golden years. Of course, that amount varies greatly from person to person, and regardless of an individual's ability to save, it's always wise to be thrifty, even during retirement. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies available that can help your clients reduce how much money they'll need once they retire and call it a career.

1. Get the home paid off

Whether your client is 30 or 50, have them implement a game plan to pay off their mortgage prior to retirement. Even if they plan to move during retirement, this is a good strategy. If they buy a new home when theirs is paid off, they can avoid a new mortgage, and if they're downsizing, there will be equity on the table.

One option to consider is refinancing into a 15-year loan. In many cases, it is possible to do so without significantly raising the payment. If that's not doable, encourage them to start paying more each month.

2. Eliminate car payments

Though I am personally years away from needing a new set of wheels, I'm already saving for one in a dedicated bank account. When the time comes to make the purchase, I'll pay for my new car in cash, and will therefore avoid paying interest.

Encourage your clients to do the same so that they can always pay for a new car with cash. Proper budgeting to free up money to set aside each month is crucial.

3. Get healthy now, and stay that way

Emphasize the importance of exercise and a healthier diet to your clients. Reducing drinking and smoking and getting on a regimented fitness plan can result in long-term financial gains. According to Fidelity, a retired couple can expect to incur $220,000 worth of expenses for health care alone, but that number can be significantly lessened by staying in optimal physical shape.
4. Enjoy low-cost activities

Trips to Tuscany and motor home treks across the U.S. are fun and exciting, but your clients have a budget to worry about. Extravagant vacations can be taken only if their finances can afford it, but in general, they should look for other low-cost activities. The local library has a wealth of programs available, including exercise clubs and courses on how to navigate a PC, and they also have plenty of DVDs available for free rental. Even inviting the kids over for a potluck can occupy a day of entertainment. Volunteering is also a worthy endeavor that is fun and satisfying. Check serve.gov for more volunteering opportunities.

5. Travel in a budget-friendly style

For local travel, Amtrak offers discounts for seniors, and American Airlines discounts select fares by as much as 50 percent for retirees. Timing is also essential to curb travel costs. For example, October to April is the busiest time of the year for people to travel to Florida, and your clients should avoid such peak times to cut travel costs. For more affordable international travel, your clients can try Costa Rica from May to November, or Sydney in the autumn or spring.

6. Put off applying for Social Security

As you probably know, your Social Security benefit increases by 8 percent each year you delay after full retirement age. Make sure your clients know this. Delaying retirement and working longer can significantly boost Social Security income.

With the unsteady future of traditional retirement programs designed for seniors such as Social Security and Medicare, it's essential that you tread lightly when advising your customers. But if you can impart these ways to reduce how much money will be needed when they finally call it a career, you can alleviate a lot of that uncertainty.

What other tips can you suggest to reduce retirement expenses?