How to retire with no savings

by Pop on March 27, 2011

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Thousands of Americans are doing it.

Have you read the news lately? Soon-to-be retirees have saved almost nothing for retirement. No doubt that means we’ll soon have homeless Baby Boomers begging for change on the subways!

Ok, the second part might not happen. But given the press that this recent Employee Benefit Research Institute report has gotten, you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

Make no mistake, the numbers are terrible. Only 44% of Americans have more than $25,000 in savings. About 54% of workers older than 45 have more than $25k. And of actual retirees, only 46% have more than $25k in savings.

Using the rule of thumb that you can draw down 4% of your nest egg in retirement’s first year—faulty, but it’s a starting point—$25,000 in savings gives you about $1,000 in income. With Social Security, you’re probably talking $14,000 per year, which is puts you in the ballpark of the incomes in countries like Libya and Panama, depending on how you’re making your comparison.

And yet, these soon-to-be retirees and actual retirees are in the United States. Which begs the question: How are they doing it? And is life really so bad for poor retired people?

The life of a retired non-saver

First, let’s look at actual incomes of retirees as clues. A 2005 report by the Census found that the median income of someone aged 65 and older in 2003 was about $24,000—or $29,000 in today’s dollars. That’s a pretty severe drop off from the median $49,000 income that people aged 55 to 64 had.

Those age 65+ are also taking less of an income as they age. The same report found that the median household took about $33k in income between 65 and 69, but by age 75, the median household had an income of only $19,000.

About 17% of those 65+ live in or close to poverty, which is about the same as the population as a whole, but that was skewed by those over age 75. The real old-timers had a near poverty rate of almost 20%.

But on average, their living arrangements were fine according to the report…most had furnaces, A/C, a full kitchen, etc.

No, you’re not working until you die.

You might have heard somebody say something to the effect of “I’m probably going to work until I die”. Either that’s been a conscious choice (no point in saving!) or it’s a “reality” they’ve come to as 65 neared and they hadn’t saved nearly enough.

Except that’s not what actually happens. According to the Labor Department, fewer than one in five workers over age 65 have a job or are looking for work. Once you get to age 75, only 7% or so fits that profile. Slightly sadder, most of that 7% is looking for work but doesn’t actually have a job.

Age discrimination might be part of it. But so could mental or physical disabilities and the generally weak job market right now.

Whatever it is, most Americans older than 65 are unable or unwilling to hold down a job as they age.

Quick! Picture your perfect retirement.

Close? No? Well, when you ask people to picture a perfect retirement, most people have at least something related to travel.

Unfortunately, retirees aren’t actually doing it, at least not any more than the rest of us.

According to the Labor Dept., older Americans (65+) spent about 400 hours—or 16 days—on average on “Other Leisure” time, which basically includes anything that’s not T.V., socializing, relaxing, and reading. Even if all of that leisure time was devoted to travel, that’s not any more than the three weeks of vacation you’re probably earning by the age of 30. So much for that round-the-world trip!

So what are they spending time doing? They’re watching T.V.—about 4.4 hours of it per day. That’s quite a bit higher than the 3.3 hours Americans of all ages watch on a weekend day. By comparison, the older Americans spent less than an hour per day on average with friends.

So, let’s try that again. Quick! Picture your probable retirement!

You can file that under Sad, but True.

It’s not about “Your Number”. It’s about how you want to live.

Once you hit age 50, your chances of being jobless start to rise rapidly. You don’t get to choose when you retire. The job market or your ailing body will decide for you. Most retired Americans are getting by on incomes that you’d probably consider appropriate for the Third World. And even if they wanted to work until they died, they can’t.

Social Security allows them to live adequately, but not richly, and certainly not in the ways you dream about.

That’s why you’re saving for retirement. It’s not so you can retire. It’s so your retirement looks more like white beaches and blue skies than Monday Night RAW.


{ 116 comments… read them below or add one }

Jacq March 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm

This is actually reality when I look at most retired people that I know that didn’t have high incomes and even some of those that did. They scheduled their lives around their “shows”, some live dangerously and play bingo or go visiting at the seniors center. Yet they seem content.
Having said that, they weren’t a generation that really traveled that much to begin with. They did stuff like gardening. I also note that the older I get, the less patience I have for travel. And the local beaches don’t look that different than the ones in the Caribbean – well, maybe a bit different, but it can be a hassle getting there. :-)

Phil March 28, 2011 at 3:28 am

It’s estimated that from the time one retires at 65, through roughly 85 years of age, one will spend something like $275,000.00 for *personal* medical cost output. Where is that money going to come from?

We are looking at nothing short of a national crisis coming our way – yet we’re also looking at 76 million Americans who are part of the Baby Boom having a major impact on policy, going forward. Retirement as we have portrayed it is probably overrated. It seems boring and unsustainable in so many ways. I look for a *lot* of new developments and social innovations that will keep relatively “poor” retirees from living “poor”. Sure, maybe one will not be able to afford diners out and travel, but what’s wrong with cooking bulk food? It’s healthier!

I think we’re going to see lots of seniors renting houses and sharing rooms – taking care of one another. I see a large number of retirees emigrating from America – i.e. going where their dollar takes them farther.

I will say this for America; we have lived large for the last 60 years, but that is *over*. Sure, the rich will continue to enjoy the overt fruits of capital accumulation, but most Americans are going to begin to find new ways to happiness other than consumption. These changes will be gradual, but just watch this happen as Baby Boomers and underemployed young people by the 10′s of millions adapt to new realities. Work and consumption have always been overrated. Enjoy your life! Live a measured existence and be kind to others, and yourself. Take care of health. Eschew the garbage that most “food” companies call food.

Get some movement in your life! Clean the house; tend the garden; go for a walk with a friend or family member. Try learning to cook simple, nutiritious meals. Enjoy! Yes, change and adaptation are not always easy, but something tells me that Americans are not going to lie down and give up because they don’t have the requisite $5M that the experts say they need to retire.

Alex March 28, 2011 at 9:05 am

This brings up an interesting point for young workers (under 40?). If Social Security goes away like everyone is predicting, how will we save enough to retire with the current underemployment crisis?
Added to that, those of us that were dumping money into our retirement plans prior to 2008 really haven’t seen any growth to our portfolios, meaning that the average annual returns that we had always heard about just aren’t there.
Maybe the low interest rates we have on our home loans will balance that out, but I’m thinking not.

Linda July 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Whatever your savings and your retirement end up being, the secret is learning to live within those means and enjoy what it brings you. Yes, being impoverished seems possible for many. But just like when we were young and had no money, we learned how to get all of the good deals in life. It is amazing what you can figure out if you have to. I make it like a game and have taught my daughter the same. Why would you ever pay full price for clothing when if you wait a month or so you can by everything for a quarter of the cost. Why would you eat an expensive dinner when you can eat the same food at lunch for half the cost? It is the same food and always better prices. Why would you take the dog to the vet on Tuesday when you can take them on Wednesday with the half price senior discount? I love when I can actually reach a senior price….I am still a little bit young. But the national parks service offers a life time admittance to everything for 10 dollars once you reach 62. If you have ever been in the military or have been married to someone who has things, including medical, life insurance, education, etc., are available at a much discounted rate if not free.

I think that seniors, because they do have all that time, must become resourceful. I attend a local junior college to take painting and with that student body card comes a reduction in prices at the local university performing arts. I have seen Cats, Stomp, Tap Dogs, ballets, symphonies, and operas all for $10.00 a ticket. So once again, one must learn how to do things in new ways. It really is amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it.

Iris July 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm

The key is to live each day as if it’s your last!…You can live comfortably once you’ve retired if you realize that you can’t live like you did when you were working…It’s a simpler life style, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!…I do what I want to do, when I want to do it…Free to be me!…I love it!

Sharon July 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm

What thoughtful and enlightening comments. Well done! As a working 60-something, I am grateful to have a job and to work for a company that has respect for the older worker (one of my co-workers is 80), but I realize that the time may come, possibly suddenly, that my income will go away and I do not feel prepared. After being laid off for a year, it was especially sweet to be back to work. All your comments have given me new encouragement and ideas for how to figure things out. The year I was home gave me a taste of what retirement may be like – limited money but more time and freedom. I loved it in some ways, not in others. But at least we’re thinking and preparing more. Thank God for all you have and be willing to share with those less fortunate, and it will come back to you.

Steve Richey July 3, 2011 at 4:28 pm

The article missed the target by a lot. Most people who retire will have very limited money. Americans don’t save and they pretend the future will be good, even without money. Most will have a difficult time after retirement. Many will dread the end of the month when their small incomes will be spent.

The key to surviving after retirement is to take action now. Find something you can do that will earn you another $1,000 a month. Plan now, buy what you will need now, get ready, time is passing, the future will arrive, be prepared.

I know countless people who are over the retirement age who make a good income. One man repairs dentile eqipment, another sharpens knives and saws, one paints garage doors, one woman makes Barbie doll clothes, several have looms and they make rugs, one man does graffiti removal, and the list is endless. I know one woman who makes over $100,000 a year selling other junk other people throw away. They bring it to her, she puts it in her shop, others come in to buy it.

Just because you have retired, is not game over. It does not mean, sleep long, which most older people can’t do, and watch television, which will ruin your body and your mind. What it does mean is you are no longer able or wanted to work for most companies. What you are able to do is work for yourself. You just have to choose work you can do, even if you’re becoming physically less able.

We all have brains. Few use them. If you’re getting ready to retire, start using your brain now, and prepare for the day you get your last work check.

C’mon. We’re Americans. Who ever said when you retire, life wil be rosey. That’s never been so. The truth is, you always have a chance to make income as long as you are willing to look for and find what you can provide and people will pay for. Even if you’re in some isolated cabin in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a forest, get yourself a computer, get on the internet, sell something in the woods around you… People in Oregon make a lot of money selling Holly Berry Wreaths, mushrooms, pine cones, or make something from the never ending supply of wood around them.

It just takes some thought, some planning, and action.

Earleen Snider July 3, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I read this interesting article to my retired husband. We are sitting in our paid for fifth wheel as we travel to Minnesota. We have a nice home that is also paid for. My husband does a few audits to insure a little extra money so we can live out our chosen life style. I had a very successful career and my husband worked for a company for 35 years which left him with a very healthy 401K. My husband oftens expresses concern that we will out live our money, interpreted means, not be able to keep up our usual life style. After reading this article to him, I reminded him how blessed we are and I do not wish to hear him express another word of worry. I am really concerned for the baby boomers coming on. I think they are really going to be in trouble to say nothing of those coming after them.

David Crawford July 3, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I just filed for early retirement. No home, no savings to speak of and really nothing of any real value. No stocks or bonds, realestate investments just what’s in my checking account. I get a small VA disability check and an old age pension check from the state (which ends when Social Security kicks in).
I left work in 2006 rented my home in Florida and moved in with my daughter to help raise her children. I housing market took my equity and finally my home after filing for bankruptcy. So at 62 I’m more or less debt free, not quite broke and I’ll be leaving soon to go back to Florida. Yes, I’m concerned but I’ll stand a better chance of getting a job, at my age, back in Florida where I still have friends and places I can stay. So, you can just sit back and worry until it’s time to check out or enjoy what you have and look for a new fun filled adventure. I’m thinking fun is my best option after all I’m not getting any younger!

m.louise July 3, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Mr. Crawford, I hear you…I am in the exact same spot! I had a home with over $100,000 in equity only to see it all disappear in the economic downturn. I made the mistake of taking out a second that came due before I was prepared to pay it off and nobody was giving loans to homeowners at the height of the economic downturn. I was forced into bankruptcy and moved into an older rental owned by my bankruptcy lawyer’s family. I live alone and my house was a major source of my income as I had an art studio and used to rent rooms to local college students. I took Social Security early at age 62 to help with house repairs and know now that was a big mistake! However, there are programs that help Seniors, more than you probably know about. I live in an oil rich community that is building low cost apartments for baby boomer seniors now. The problem is many of these programs are being cut because California is on the verge of bankruptcy and has to cut back all but the most essential services to the public. My rent was raised this month but because I have a good relationship with the owners they gave me a seven month reprieve until Social Security increases my check by the amount of the increase. It is not easy to live so close to the wire but as you probably read, there are many of us doing it and I will add this…a good hobby will carry you through the worst of times. I paint and have found resources online that have given me information I didn’t get in art school. So with more time to do research comes new opportunities for growth. Seniors need to be made aware of the riches of the cyberspace world…to learn and gain new ideas and experiences unlike anything that was known before. If you don’t have a good computer and if you haven’t discovered social networking and Google, you don’t know what you are missing!

Adrienne Savoy July 3, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I am reading this article and I want to applaud those who understand the true meaning of life. Having money is not the key to happiness. The reason we live in such a frenzy about having more than enough is due to greed. They never learned to enjoy life unless they were spending money. I am 44 year of age and we need very little money to have a good time in my family. We go outdoors, ride bikes, swim at the local pool, bar-b-que, and hang out with other family. Save money for need, not greed.
P.S. Take those lavish vacations while you are still working and put them on dvd, watch them on TV during retirement! Haha LOL

M. Whitt July 3, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I laughed when I read this article. I was a hard working person, had 5 yrs. of sick leave and vacation built up until I ended up on disability due to a a accident. I get less then $600. a month in retirement disability and it is TAXED. WHY??? Medicare takes out another $110. month for the insurance part B that I don’t need. Have my own policy that I pay over $400. month for and all the savings I had INVESTED in the stock market , which was enough to take care of me till I died ( because us older retiree’s all knew to save.) All was taken by the bums that caused the bank scandals. One of the biggest problems that I see , is that the COST OF LIVING has gone up in my opinion by approx. 90% if you include oil, food, drugs, in the past 2 years. No one of any age can survive this unless your a billionair. So go ahead and put out all these reports about how we spend our time and remember, it’s the cost of living and no matter how much you try and get ahead unless the govt. stops all the giving of our moneys ( that we all earn )to other countries and start taking care of our own country all future generations will end up with the same fate just a new twist on it. The reason we can’t take vacations, hang around home, etc is due to these things and maybe it was something we WANTED to do but were to busy working to save for retirement and raise out kids who are now writing these articles.

Loral July 3, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I’m one of those women who was a stay at home mom, dreamed of retirement with my spouse who had a great government job and the potential retirement that came with it. And then I found myself a single parent at age 39. no savings, no retirement, just wondering where the next rent payment was coming from. I saved like crazy, foregoing many desires to add to my personal retirement, which was then pretty much wiped out when the market crashed. Over half my investments were in Enron. But as many writers said, there are resources out there. I was lucky enough to join the Army reserve, for extra income. The result – I have medical coverage I otherwise would lack, and a small pension which suppliments my Social Security, which I had to take early. But I learned through those tough years how to squeeze a nickel, and that there is a big difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. I’m a healthy 75, and reading other’s comments I am encouraged to live a little dangerously and I’m planning one of those vacations I never seemed to have time or money for.

Don H. Perkins July 3, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I am a senior citizen at columbia heritage res. atlanta ga. Articles and information very helpful. I fall in category of having a vocation and avocation through out my life until retirement. My career was built on the tools I was able to make a living and what I truly loved. Electrical industry and music. This has follwed me until the present. I basically exist financialy from social security and a pension . The Lord has kept me and I still do the things I loved from my youth. piano/bass/ and tecnology

Kathy July 3, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I’ve read what others have written, in my case I’m still working and getting closer to the 60 mark. I have a retirement plan with my job it’s not a 401, I can’t touch it until I retire. I own my mobile home and my car, I have no credit cards and am in debt to no one. I live within my means and I do take a couple of vacations a year, sometimes I stay with family or friends, other times I stay in a tent, the only luxery I give myself is a air mattress. I have money saved in a savings account and majority of my money is kept in a safe deposit box at the bank, I don’t totally have faith in banks anymore. I know there is the federal reserve insurance, the problem is the United STates is broke. I have fun with my life, it doesn’t take a large chunk of money to survive on, that’s the problem with the majority of people here in the U.S. they want to buy beyond their mean. For fun I watch the sunset or the sunrise and spend time with family and friends, read books and spend time on the computer reading articles. I’m also a college student and eventually I will be a director of a Historical musuem, for I never plan on retiring it would drive me insane.

B.R.Shaw July 3, 2011 at 10:22 pm

When I was younger I had an older friend that told me that Social Security was an illegal tax. Social Security has been rolled into the General Fund so it seems that is correct. I work with several “senior” citizens and one of their major concerns is the fact that everything is going up but their income… and we are in the midst of economic downturn?

Roberta July 3, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Having grown up wondering if we would have enough food that day, I have been ultra conservative in my living style. Sort of too scared to spend my hard earned money. At 62, I was ‘retired’ by a serious auto accident; but after 7 months recuperating, I managed to push myself back to part time work . It was very difficult, but today at age 68 I still work 2 days per week in sales [gives me dental & vision plans] plus 1 day per quarter as a substitute teacher [to keep my certification going].
My large home is paid for and I rent the mother-in-law part of my home. I planted many fruit trees 15 years age when I bought this my 1st home. In this tropical climate, the trees now supply me with a different fruit each month. My mini garden is being converted to very large tree pots [less bending] which supply me with some greens, tomatoes, pineapples, green peppers and the like. Between the garden, trees, rental, part time work and Social Security, I have not had to touch my savings which I will need to replace my car and my roof when the times arrive. I enjoy exercise, monthly trips, and various classes at the senior centers in the area. I use my computer a lot and just upgraded to a new one. I have made many friends at various church singles groups and the senior centers. Life is good!
I agree– NOW is the time to cut back, buy with rental income in mind, plant a small garden & fruit trees, work part time… keep on keeping on and enjoy!!

Fahrender July 4, 2011 at 1:13 am

I’m 74, in good health, and have a half-time job in a country in Europe. I realized at age 53 that I’d better start saving some money having never done so previously. I began investing in the stock market. In the ensuing years I made some and lost some (about 35% of it in 2008-09). I have less than $200k. I’m not even on the books in the U.S. health care system. I’ll survive reasonably well if I stay healthy. That could change any day of courser but I exercise almost every day to do what I can to stay fit. I continue to work to minimize the likelihood of becoming a burden on my children who have had to scrapple far harder than I have to make a living due to the changing economic environment. I was born at the right time and I have had more than my share of luck in some other ways. About the article I have only two things to say:
1. Change nothing about Social Security except raise the bloody withholding tax as needed and increase the minimum age for receiving benefits as needed.
2. Take your #1@xing television sets to the top of the highest building you can find and toss them off of it. 99% of TV is mind-numbing poison. Almost five hours a day watching it? Appalling! Spend half of that time reading something enlightening and the other half walking or some other beneficial exercise.

Robert E. Tolbert July 4, 2011 at 1:18 am

Hey guys (and gals):
Thanks for sharing your comments; you are an inspiration…

mary July 4, 2011 at 1:40 am

Hi, Glad to hear most of you are doing great. I also just retired at age 62, I am unable to draw social security, I was told I need 10 more quarters. We were self employed for 40 years. My husband is unable to draw social security, he is still employed ( under 40k per year). I really would like to supplement my income with on line work, have research it; most seem to be scams. Is anyone out there working from home working on line with their computers(surveys or ??) making money. Thanks for your input.

Tim Giangiobbe July 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Until they live the indecency of not having a functional safety they willnot understand.What makes this a crime is many of these homeless baby boomers worked for many years and now have these conditions due to lack of a healthy SRO stock in most urban settings.San Francisco has such a severe SRO shortage it will take a declaration of emergency to intervene at this point to catch up with the need of supportive housing.The Social Security Act of 1935 has failed mentally disturbed homeless baby boomers when the outreach is left up to local and non profits to intervene.The gentleman who shuffled to his death and died on Nov 29th 2010 at 520 Montgomery st will not be forgotten.He died in a doorway in a box when winter came early.PEACE

Tim Giangiobbe July 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm

The Main reason for failing at intervention is the lack of total funding and authority to get the job done at any level.The numbers counted are probably half the actual amount of homeless.There are too many homeless who blend in well during the day in coffee shops and such.I KNOW from personal experience.

Richard Sparks December 31, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I am one of the countless Americans approaching retirement age without retirement savings. The cost of health care, a family illness, and the general cost of living have made it impossible to accumulate any genuine savings. The “American Dream” is nothing more than a myth that keeps the broad, and relatively poor, mass of this country silent — they are co-opted by a system of belief in a society without “class” and in which poverty is the responsibility of the poor. Similarly, poverty in retirement is therefore the responsibility of those who simply could not save enough. This is absurd. Even more absurd, is that anyone who dares comment on this is arguing for “class” warfare. My response? So what. Why not? It is time for a change, and real change does not come easily, or through the ballot box. After years of hard work, I am no longer wish to live in a society in which our value is measured by our worth as consumers. Rather than whining about the plight of our failing middle class, I suggest we take responsibility for ourselves, even as we near the crest of retirement, and begin a discussion about how to effect real change.

Michael January 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I am a new senior – 62. During my working years I hit the $100M mark. I was very successful. My now “ex” and I did not save a dime. But because I worked all my life I now live on $1645 per month SS. In 3 years after splitting my pensions I will get another $700 per month. I own a little mobile home and my van. I have no debt. I am low maintenance but I am not “poor!” I save a little each month, and most if all I am very happy. I live up to my own expectations and seek no one’s approval for my happiness.

Anne July 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm

At the verge of 50, nothing is as I thought it would be. I was a stay-at-home mother, and loved the challenge of living on my husband’s paycheck as I prepared the home for our son, sang, and taught music. But when I had my son, I got a rare muscular-dystrophy. I only had a 50% to 25% chance of living without steroids, chemo, etc… Just as it went into partial remission, my husband got cancer, and doctors missed it until it spread… Over 17 years, instead of having vacations and fun, I fought doctors and studied enough to diagnose our issues. It was the only way to get the doctors to run tests (sadly positive)… We “spent” so much. Life, as well as money.

Last year, he passed, leaving me and my 17-year-old–after 10 years defying doctor’s expectations. I am disabled, but can’t get disability because I’m a widow under 50 who was a home maker. Ed died so young, he left a pension of less than $1,000 per month (less than our premiums!). For another year, Social Security will help because my son is in high school, but after that–we don’t know…

Barb August 19, 2012 at 1:12 am

wow!! Nice to read such candid and open stories from you all that shared.

It is a scarey place to be when retirement age looms immediately in front of me and no financial resources at all except the Canadian pensions. I did get a lot ideas, tho’ from individuals as to income-generating options. And keep busy at the same time!

I’m learning to ‘enjoy’ my life and be grateful for what I do have.

The younger people certainly are feeling the financial crunch and I feel for them as they ‘grow’ into accepting that their financial circumstance is probably not going to get better.

God help us all as we go into what seems a new era of always trying to attain that self-sufficiency and make it a goal for what we really need – shelter, warmth, food, and health.

Barb September 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I am 64 and running scared. Alone,having worked very hard over 30 years and not being able to save much I am just so scared. I have a small savings ,my salary didn’t give me the luxury to save more. I have a college degree,am a healthcare professional and never lived above my means. Many years ago I had to go bankrupt but I picked up, found a job,saved money bought a house and opened a small business . I was so proud having accomplished all this by myself! Finally I saw the light,I had hope for my future. Now the bad economy has caused me to close my business,the equity in my home has dwindled and my investments hit hard. I am still working but my hours have been cut and as I look for another job I find no response to my inquries. I don’t list dates on my resume anymore. Still no responses. I am independent and pay my health ins which leaves me little for the bills let alone food,gas,etc. I should be disabled for these past few years due to back and neck pain but I can’t afford to not work. It is so hard but there is no choice. Ya never know whats coming and it sure comes fast! Good luck to all of you guys in the same boat. God bless you!

outraged March 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

Not yet convinced that failure is baked into the voluntary, self-directed, commercially run retirement plans system?

Consider what would have to happen for it to work for you. First, figure out when you and your spouse will be laid off or be too sick to work. Second, figure out when you will die. Third, understand that you need to save 7 percent of every dollar you earn. (Didn’t start doing that when you were 25 and you are 55 now? Just save 30 percent of every dollar.) Fourth, earn at least 3 percent above inflation on your investments, every year. (Easy. Just find the best funds for the lowest price and have them optimally allocated.) Fifth, do not withdraw any funds when you lose your job, have a health problem, get divorced, buy a house or send a kid to college. Sixth, time your retirement account withdrawals so the last cent is spent the day you die.

John December 3, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Close to being 65 and was thinking about retirement before reading all these depressing stories. Think I will suck it up and hang on to my job a while longer.

Marianne Jacob January 6, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Thank you John!! You made me laugh because I feel the exact same way!!! I’m 57 and have a ways to go but if I had my druthers I’d retire today. Well we know THAT’S not gonna happen. I’ve tried to save over the years but either a man or job loss took my money so it’s like I’m starting all over. I’m sick of the 8-5 game and I think it’s harder for women because other women make it difficult for us with the gossip and catty crap. So yea, I’ll be working for a bit longer myself short of a freakin’ miracle.

cherion March 24, 2014 at 12:20 am

Nice to see a place where people can share about this. I’m 55 and didn’t start to even think or save until age 47. My fault I wish I had and tell young people to do it even just little over time is easier than a lot in a short period of time. I started when ING offered me $40.00 dollars to open a savings account. Since then I have managed to save $40,000. I know its not nearly where I should be and when I read where I’m suppose to be it gets depressing. But I figure just do what you can because its better than nothing. I have even opened up other bank accounts when they offer to give you money to put into your account.. In fact, any unexpected money goes in like a $100.00 check from a class action suit I recently got. Then that money can earn some to. Not much but trying to do what I can. There can be some ways like wherever you can cut back on like a cell phone bill take that extra money you were use to paying and put it in the bank. Open some CD’s that earn some interest. In fact I would be interested in any tips others have to save and then that money goes to the bank. Even some research studies will pay you to take them.

Maritza in California June 4, 2014 at 11:58 pm

I’m 62 and contemplating retiring by year’s end when I’m 63. I live a simple lifestyle within my means. It will be very tight to live on my social security pension plus my modest 401k. Many of the comments previous posted have given me ideas for having an extra income. But first I need to figure out all the ins and outs of retirement. Until then, may God bless all retirees!

Robert June 21, 2014 at 7:54 am

At age 62, I am worried. Good health, good job, never thought much about a specific age for retirement other than considering something in the 66-68 range. I had $160,000 in retirement accounts ten years ago, but due to job loss and other major unforseen life expenses, I had to draw about $90,000 of that for ‘life support’ when my income had dropped for awhile. I had about 4 years when jobs did not have an in-house retirement program, but the other life transitions I was handling didn’t allow me to put anything away. I’m now scrambling to look at some alternatives for putting away some major funds and consider working at least another 10 years. My current job enables me to contribute about 10% of my income to retirement. All of this is ongoing cause for sleep loss, worry, anxiety.

Brenda June 22, 2014 at 9:21 pm

After looking at all the stories here I find that I’m in the same boat . Divorced after 30yrs of marriage. Little savings, but I do get a pension check each month from my ex-pension. I’m 53 I have a job that I enjoy and the pay is ok. Just thinking maybe I should open an ira account while I can . Where I work they don t offer any retirement plan… I live WAY below my means. Lost my home had to file bankruptcy BUT I”M still standing…. Have no credit cards balance, rent is cheap a $200 car payment no cable bill . SO I have a few extra $$$ at the end of the month where should I open an IRA or am I to old to open one.

TwoYellowDogs.Terri August 29, 2014 at 2:23 am

My husband and I retired (or better put, up and quit our jobs–with a plan) Sept 2012, 2 yrs ago now at 55 (he) and 53 (me). We took financial planning classes BEFORE we got married 20 yrs ago. We both learned as young people to not live beyond our means–but lived well (in our opinions); we took the attitude all the years we worked to not throw $$ away (and saved as much $$ as we could for retirement); followed all the smart advice out there (like be sure to match company 401K matching, etc., get a retirement planner (which I had before I married my husband)). We were working in very high stress jobs for far too many years and knew we needed to get out before we went insane. Deciding WHAT THE NUMBER IS (i.e. how much money is enough to retire) was hard. We are not rich. We still live within our means and I count pennies like I always did since a young woman. I had several surgeries before retirement; health issues. I had always been active/healthy–but was in pain and limited physically. Before retiring, we purchase and paid off a small RV-knowing we wanted to do some USA travel. We decided to retire early, while we had some sanity left, some level of our marriage left (the work stress was taking it’s toll on us), and he still very healthy, my health ok. We knew we would still count our pennies. After two years, we are still trying to piece together the damage done to our marriage while we were working those high stress jobs that changed us. I am grateful he and I worked hard to plan for retirement financially. My health has been a set back, not only for feeling good physically, but also having a positive mental outlook. Many of the posts I read here really hit the nail on the head. You don’t need to just know the magic number… but WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO THAT YOU LOVE when you don’t have a traditional job to go to each day. I’ve struggled down my retirement path… but the secret is to find your happiness, and I am sure it is NOT about money. I am glad that we are working together for our happiness, and it is not about money. We took a 3 mth trip across USA, and manymany small trips/camping in our RV, plus one special SCUBA trip per year. We still strive to live below our budget; my job is to find ways to not spend money, but still have lots of fun things to do. (Here’s a tip: go volunteer and most all local museums, botanic gardens, have FREE DAYS. Go on the free days; go often.) I guess I lost my point, but it really is about being happy. I’ve spent too much time watching TV over the last year, and now working on getting back outside, reading, and exercising more. (Our luxury spending is gym membership for both of us). I’ve always been a driven, busy person, so retirement was rather a shock–even though I had to get out of my stressful job… Finding happiness in what you do every day is the key… plan way ahead (over 30 yrs for me) so you don’t overly worry for money in retirement, so you can focus on what makes you happy. We are blessed our health issues (so far) have not been devistating like some of the stories I read in the posts here. Count your blessings; remain in the present, plan for the future, and learn from the past.

Brenda Johnston September 2, 2014 at 10:41 pm

After reading your post Brenda your life sounds a lot like mine. I’m 53 divorced and recieveing a part of the ex’s pension. Have a job that doesn’t pay the best but I do enjoy it. So when my time comes to retire I’m praying that my s.s check along with the ex,s pension and my IRA I’ll be OK’ . I lost my home but I’m still standing, I’m planing on moving some where I’ll never have to see snow again , but for now I’ll save save and hope for the best’

Cherion October 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Coming across this web site again and didn’t realize it was about 9 months ago I first posted and the best realization is that I’ve increased my savings by $10,000 since then as it is at $50,000 now. That is encouraging to me as I had no idea I put that much more away. Basically I think it was just working more which kinda gets to me at times. No vacations. I have worked almost every Sat. this year some all day. I have designated that money for savings and budget the other pay for my bills. I also I’m self-employed and one of my providers pays me less then others and I almost quit them but rethought that and said I will do the work for less and put that into savings as I will probably be glad for that in the future. I also put $5.00 for everyday I work into an account and $50.00 per month since I got my car paid off (which probably could do more). I keep my food budget down and haven’t really bought much of anything except a bicycle which after paid is free exercise and recreation. Whenever anything breaks and I have to replace it I borrow from myself (interest free!) and pay it back each week. Also some interest on CD”s (not much) mainly work so I would encourage anyone who feels worried get some extra work at work or another part-time job and put it away. You will feel good. I just figured the amount I would get from Social Security at 70 if I make it and what extra I think I need per month and so far into 6 years post retirement. If I get my student loan paid I will be even better off.

Tim Giangiobbe November 8, 2014 at 1:12 am

I have personally done real well since I last posted. I have a nice studio apt in San Francisco and have some heart aching memories that I must still share. f was one of the lucky ones because when the resources became available for veterans I acted quickly and had a relatively short wait in comparison to stories I have heard.
I have been going to college again updating my degree and making medical and dental appointments now so when I go back to work I will have no interference.
I am treating the safety net properly using it to find more resources and flourish.
My personal nightmare was short compared to the horror so may are still living on the streets of san Francisco. Lately I have also been compelled to compile my experiences and share them .
My Story is called Kindness Kills Apathy Implied Social Genocide In The US Empire . I am determined to teach enough to love to hopefully change enough minds that bring real change.
Until The FEDS have a doctor work “on the streets ” doing interviews and assessments on the spot nothing will ever change.
You cannot get a mentally disturbed citizen to jump through all the hoops I jumped through before I was awarded my Veterans Housing.
THEREFORE it is no less than Implied Social Genocide Using Apathy .
refer to Maslows Hierarchy of Needs if you need any quick educational reference .

Victoria January 20, 2015 at 3:09 pm

WHO I AM. . . Single woman since 1995. At 60 yrs old, in 2008, I was laid off from my 18 yr job in the Building Industry. Went on unemployment and finally got a job 8 months later as a personal assistant and general manager of an out repair business. Boss was an exocentric. I was laid off Dec 2012 at age 65 (6 months from my 66th birthday).This screwed up my retirement Plan A to retire in Dec 2013. Went on unemployment & started retirement Plan B. I had already downsized home rental to a 1 bedrm 630 sq ft duplex for $200 less than previous rental. I had paid off my car, most bills, quit smoking, got new cell phone with $35 unlimited plan, bought TV antenna for local channels to avoid cable bill, lowered car insurance, & had 1 more year to complete Plan A, Dec 2013, which now is Plan B ( always have a Plan B). Closed out my small retirement account, paid off my debt, set aside $ for taxes & deposited the rest into my grandsons savings. Enrolled in Kaiser Senior Advantage HMO $41 a month, includes Medicare Part D & supplement Medicare A & B. My 2 successful children will be helping out also. SS yearly Income $16k. I have a budget I stick to as much as possible which includes food, weekly cash and gas. I live simply when it comes to clothes, activities and entertainment. I own a Kindle for reading, Smart TV for online movies etc ($7.99 for Netflix) and have a library card. I spend time with 2 yr old grandson who lives close, visit friends, explore interests I never had time for in my busy working/living life: painting, arts & crafts, gardening meditation, repurposing things, Tia Chi, volunteering, and reading. I am also a Breast Cancer survivor since 2012. It is possible to set aside all the material things, high cost travel, social ‘shoulds & shouldn’ts’ that are not realistic and discover who you really are instead of who you were told to be & what to believe which will keep you busy for the rest of YOUR life. Whether lower, middle or upper class lifestyle, you can change to a much more fulfilling life on a reasonable budget that fits your $ resources in retirement. Enjoy and may you find inner Peace and Happiness♥ 1/20/15

Monica February 15, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Wow… believe it or not I am jealous of many of your situations. Married young, had kids, divorced x 2. Some education but not enough. So I find myself at 55 1/2 making about $38,000 a year….not much after insurance & tax, then renting out my apartment’s 2nd bedroom & bathroom. I’m highly qualified at what I do but it doesn’t pay much. Now they have created levels of what I do… 2 levels possible higher than I am that would pay more. I have applied for at least 20 and get nothing when I used to get any job I applied for. Younger, way less qualified people get the jobs. #1 ISSUE I HAVE IS THAT AT OUR AGE, NEW EMPLOYMENT IS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE. I’M STUCK. As a single mom I was a little better off because of child support & tax breaks. Now there is nothing to help. Nothing. I make too much for reduced housing or assistance but barely enough to squeak by in the economy I live in. I pay more taxes than most and I have the same bills others do. Single people are screwed. #2 IT IS AND WAS A JOKE TO EVEN CONSIDER SAVING FOR RETIREMENT. REALLY? WHERE WOULD THAT MONEY COME FROM? I know I’m not the only one. Everyone is so surprised so many haven’t saved, but the average guy or gal doesn’t have ANY extra. We shop at Wally World, don’t go on vacation, don’t have cable, & the list goes on. I have a paid off car that I pray every day it doesn’t break down. Soooo…… to the point. When the average person like me thinks of retiring, the idea of driving off a cliff is much more appealing. I’ve checked the cheapest cities to live in. …no jobs. I will have social security & a couple hundred bucks from a pension to live on a month. About HALF of what I bring home after taxes & insurance & HSA now. For the life of me I don’t know what this group of us is going to do. Are the streets going to be filled with homeless seniors? Weird stuff goes thru my mind like living in a storage shed, buying a van & living down by the river, getting a beater RV after selling everything & living in a Walmart parking lot, trying to get a “tiny house” (but there is nowhere zoned for those, which is crap by the greedy), & a million other less appealing thoughts. I’m just saying, there is about to be a HUGE AMERICAN CRISIS no matter what the reason was for everyone not to have saved, and I wonder what we are going to do. The problem will touch everyone in some way.

jerry March 2, 2015 at 9:54 pm

I am unique. I am only 41 yrs old. My generation is not a millennial nor a baby boomer. We are X’ers and have been passed over. But so what. I am 100% debt free. I have about 22K in savings. Plus another $10K in silver bullion when our currency becomes worthless due to gov’t spending programs. The cash is NOT in a bank and it is hidden. I make only $8.75 pr hr.stocking shelves since the illegals are the ones getting the jobs around here. My car is 19 yrs old and has 226K miles on it. I also have my first child on the way since I date younger women. Am I scared? HELL NO. Why? I think outside the box. How you may ask?
I get an Obama phone with assurance wireless. I get Medicaid which is actually the best policy I have ever gotten. I have never had an employer offer a 401K. Pensions are for older generations not offered to me. I learned auto mechanics in community college and went locally. No debt upon graduation and they set you up at a car dealer while you attended. Not going to college and getting into heavy debt to support ex hippie overpaid liberal baby boomer professors was the BEST decision I ever made!
I fix my own cars. I shop at wal mart. I have guns for protection and plenty of ammo stored. I also live in Detroit. Yes Detroit. I have a parking garage with an iron gate, installed by myself. I paid only $18K for the building. I have barbed wire on the roof as well as spot lights that run on motion detectors. I also have a CCTV system by all entrances.
Inside I have all the conviences of home. Nice kitchen and bathrooms that I did myself. Cable TV, hd plasma 48 inch I also have solar panels and stocked water since the city of Detroit has power and water outages fairly often. I only pay only a few hundred bucks per yr in taxes.
Move to cheap areas. Learn to fix things, learn from history, stay debt free, improvise, adapt and overcome! And my child will be our retirement salary. Until then it is nice to get food stamps, wic, Medicaid, and general assistance. We do have to pay for private school when the time comes though. Not everything is nice.

Lopaka Lolo May 21, 2015 at 6:10 am

It’s May 21′ 2015 as I’m sitting here reading all these stories. Some of them sound like my turns in the road and others are not but my sympathy goes out to them as well. I turned 75 this year (where did those years go?). I have been married three times, happily for the most part but then something went south.
I have been some what of a gypsy all my life, a risk taker drawn to the unknown and the thrill of conquering it.
I remember when I turned 60 and thinking that I only had 5 years left to do something about retirement and that’s when things got scary. All my working life, I was not fortunate to have the required number of years to be retirement vested. Working in the world of Aerospace (feast or famine) I could never seem to stay with a company due to layoffs. I would quickly find other jobs but they would always turn out the same way. I finally got a small pension out of the last company after begging them and convincing them that I had been with the company, laid off (their funding cut backs, not my fault), and returning to the company for the required number of years to qualify.
I now have that small pension, social security and a decent nest egg to supplement that income which gives me about $3,000 a month to live on until age 80 or slightly beyond. (Just guessing).
When I retired, I had a neat little home in Alabama with mortgage payments of $800 a month plus utilities and a paid for car that needed maintenance now and then. I also acquired a new puppy for a companion. With the small pension and social security, and before the supplement nest egg, there wasn’t enough left to go around, so I sold the house, everything in it and my dog and I got on a plane for Asia and the Far East. I have been an ex-pat over here for 11 years but now I am totally burned out and looking for an affordable place to go. I was born and raised in the Northeast and I rule out anywhere that it’s cold and snows for nearly half a year. I lived in northern, central and Southern California, loved the weather but it has become too rich for my pocket. I lived in Hawaii for nine years, loved it but ditto on California, too rich for me. I also don’t care for a rainy, damp and cloudy areas as I love the outdoors and those climates are too depressing. What is happening here is that I am limiting myself to fewer choices in the U.S. The ideal situation would be to meet a female companion about the same age, with similar likes that is sort of in the same boat as I am and we could pool our resources and live in a nicer area then we could otherwise alone. This would solve two problems – financial and loneliness. My companion puppy grew up and passed away at age 13 this past March.
Another option would be the ex-pat route to South America and Panama comes to mind for several plus side reasons. The one thing that concerns me about this is my age. At 75 – can I still cut the mustard. I am in good health, enjoy the outdoors and exercise but there is no guarantees how long that will go on. Likewise, along with the age consideration, there are things to be concerned about such as distance, hospitals, airports and family.
I would be interested to see any comments on this last part because I’m trying to rationalize between a sane mind and ego or an old guy that doesn’t want to throw in the towel.
Thanks in advance for your input.

Sivad63 May 26, 2015 at 12:09 am

Thank you everyone who has contributed with a comment, and in your own way enlightened me on the subject of retirement economics. I am a 52 year-old single woman who adopted a 3 year-old relative when she was born.
I am very fortunate to have always held a job in the past 36 years, since I came to this country. I divorced after my 3rd child was born, then obtained a 4-year degree in I.T. while working full time, but have lived under a great deal of stress for most of my working career. My health has suffered and I ended up with a bad case of the shingles, then surgery, and now just plain exhaustion with no apparent cause.
Being a single parent has not been easy, but as of 2015 two of my children have followed my footsteps and now have great careers. I have managed to put away enough money to support myself for the next 5 years, but I have an internal conflict when it comes to making the decision to retire. At times I feel like a total coward. I believe I can re-invent myself. I have considered buying and selling used cars, in the past I have bought and sold property and used that money to put my kids thru college, so I know I can do it on my own. I have given myself 30 days from today to make that decision, or set aside the idea temporarily.
Maybe I can start selling used cars on the weekend, to see if I can really make the extra money, consistently, that will allow me to retire.
As you can see even with little savings it is hard to leave the safety net that employment provides.

Cherion June 7, 2015 at 11:12 pm

Third post here and still trying to increase savings but getting difficult this year. Less work for me this year.. So not saving as much and even fear I may have to dip into retirement savings at $57.000 now. So heard about a place where I live that you can donate plasma and they pay you and give bonsues. So I m doing that and as they put the money on a debit card just letting that build up so if I need it I can use that versus retirement savings. One thing I did was get my mortgage insurance lowered and got back about $500.00 and it alsolowers my monthly morgtage, got my utilities reduced and my insurance company sent me $900.0n debit card I can use for dental and vision. So all this extra money is going into savings too. I know it can seem hopeless and wished I would’ve paid more attention when younger. But would’ve could’ves don’t help and I figure some is better than none. So again get creative, Get the ball rolling and more ideas will come. I just hope work picks up. I knew 2015 was going to be a tougher year for me so I worked a lot in 2014 and 2014. Just want to keep the money in the bank tough.

Jeannie D June 10, 2015 at 10:08 pm

OK…The article title is “How to Retire With No Savings”. I read a lot of statistics about how people don’t have enough money, can’t find work and live at or below the poverty level but NOWHERE in this article does it say HOW to retire with no savings…Thanks for the big waste of time.

Croaker July 27, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Seriously! Retirement is scary…not really. Its just a new phase of life where you may or may not be able to provide for yourself. For me, I’m 66 and draw a federal annuity ($2,700 a month) plus social security ($2,140) and veterans disability ($1,800) for a total of $6,640 monthly or $79,680 a year. I didn’t save much when I worked except for TSP which I used to pay for kids college and to marry off 3 girls. But, I seem to do okay on a little less than $80,000 per year.

Mindyour Own Business August 20, 2015 at 4:23 pm

This doesn’t say crap.

Tim Giangiobbe November 23, 2015 at 1:22 am

I left a message about four years ago about a man who died in a doorway after shuffling around with dementia . The FIFTH year anniversary is a couple days away . This gentleman died when winter came early.
They found him curled up in a box
This heartless situation will only get worse
Unless major changes are made in our Safety Net
I have been blessed with HUDVASH housing because Veterans have hope
This man died hopeless
Too many citizens have lost HOPE after working hard their entire life
Because they cannot afford to retire
in high rent areas like San Francisco
I am going to leave flowers in the doorway where a man died five years ago on November 29th
He did not see the absurdly high rents coming and ended up homeless and passed away quickly after not preparing for an early winter
IT IS HEARTLESS and happening in THE US Empire daily
it is no less than Implied Social Genocide , Apathy at its worse
Every Big City has these citizens LINGERING TO DEATH
Time for a real change

Dog lover December 15, 2015 at 6:41 pm

It seems with so many people in the same boat, there would be a way to band together. I like this idea for housing.
Social security would go much farther if expenses were shared.

Cherion January 2, 2016 at 3:03 pm

That is a horrible story Tim. That breaks my heart. Very kind of you to put flowers there in his honor even though it was less honorable way to pass. There for the Grace of God. I try as hard as I can to save so I m not in that situation. With virtually no family I could be. 2015 started slow for me and I was afraid I may have to dip into retirement savings. However, it picked up in March and was busy throughout year until holidays hit. Did my best to sock away and decrease expenses to help. I would like to see some suggestions from others on here on creative ways to save and cut back. I have donated plasma, cut expenses on insurance and utilities, lower heat, make own meals, still drive at or slightly below speed limit to save gas (even though gas is lower), take advantage of coupons and discounts, put change into a jar, getting debt down etc. Now at 57 with $63,000 for nest egg plus social security. Hope to work until 70 so taking care of health by trying to do regular exercise and eat well. Being self-employed it is hard to know what to expect for income. Hopefully 2016 will bring in regular work for me. Happy New Year!

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