4 Tips on How to Live a Fulfilling but Frugal Life Throughout Retirement

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you're retired or will be soon, you've likely thought about a post-career household budget.

If you haven't, you should. A study from Pew Research points out the Great Recession eroded 20 years of household income growth, and almost half of Americans say they now spend more than they make. That's not exactly a recipe for success for retirees.

Fortunately, there are ways to live frugally and still achieve a high level of financial wellness, says Scott Smith, president of Salt Lake City-based CreditRepair.com. "Frugality is a matter of interpretation — to live frugally, one doesn't need to give up everything and live like a hermit," Smith says. "Instead, living a thrifty yet fabulous life in retirement is possible through a little extra discipline and attention to detail."

Smith and other financial experts offer retirees some much-needed "frugal living" advice to spend modestly but still maintain a good quality of living in their golden years.

For example, Smith recommends looking closely at spending patterns in retirement, using a budget reassessment model. "Retirees should track their spending on necessities — mortgage, electric bill, food, etc. — and recreation as well," he says. "Tallying monthly spending will help to plan for an adjusted income and identify where spending habits may need adjustment."

He also recommends paying down as much debt as possible. "Generally speaking, some debt can be a good thing," Smith says. "Holding a certain amount of debt and making regular payments helps people keep their credit scores current and healthy. However, paying down more 'expensive debt' will help save money in the future." For example, a credit card balance with a 20% interest rate can be expensive over time — paying this down will free up money that will otherwise be lost to interest accrual, Smith adds.

Geography matters, too. Jackie Lange lived and worked in Texas during her career years, but she's since moved to Panama to cut costs, and it's proving to be a savvy move. "I moved to Panama five years ago," she says. "I live on a fraction of what my costs were in Texas. For example, my cellphone bill in Panama is $10.37 per month, but in Texas I paid $200 a month. Additionally, I pay $2,400 a year for international health insurance, which covers me in Panama, the USA and worldwide. And because I live in the highlands of Panama, I don't need an air conditioner or heater, therefore my electric bill is $30 a month, versus the $300 a month I paid in Texas."

It's also good budgeting policy to stay busy — that way you're not tempted to go on any impulse-driven spending sprees. "Find a free hobby or volunteer work that gets you out of the house three to four days a week," advises Jillian C. Nel, a financial planner at Houston-based Legacy Asset Management.

"When you are retired, everyday is Saturday, the day most people spend the bulk of their discretionary dollars," Nel says. "Twiddling your thumbs at home can lead to spur-of-the-moment shopping trips or going online to discover an ad...for vacationing in Mexico."

"Plus, getting out of the house and having responsibilities will also lengthen your life," Nel says. 

— Written By Brian O'Connell For MainStreet

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