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7 realistic strategies for retirement

If the advice from financial experts has you worried that you'll need to work forever, take heart. Your golden years may not be as expensive as you've been led to expect.

By MSN Smart Spending editor Sep 3, 2013 1:12PM

This post comes from Tom Sightings at partner site U.S. News & World Report.

USNews logoDon't let financial experts scare you. It's in their interest to persuade you to save more money than you really need and hand over your nest egg for them to handle. Then they can skim off 1% or 2% as a profit every year.

Portrait of smiling senior couple on bicycles © Robert Daly, OJO Images, Getty ImagesDo you need 100% of your preretirement income to retire? That may be an option for corporate executives who leave work with golden parachutes. But it's not realistic for most of us, nor need it be. You can retire on a lot less, and most of us do. As a recent retiree told me, "I have half the income. But I also have half the stress, and I'm twice as happy."

Here are seven ideas to help you put together a strategy for retirement:

1. Assess where you stand. Count up your assets. As a benchmark, Fidelity Investments reports that with the past year's stock market increase, the average pre-retiree now has a balance of $250,000 in a retirement plan. If you have a pension, it's probably worth more than that. Then look at your debts. Is your mortgage paid off, or nearly so? Now is not the time to take on new debt. If you need to get a big loan to buy a new car, keep the old one and fix it up instead.

2. Downsize your housing. Some people hang on to their old suburban home in case the kids want to move back in. But this is a "what if," while the expense of carrying a home is a certainty. If your retirement budget is limited, then move to a smaller place in a less-expensive neighborhood, with lower taxes and less maintenance. Don't put off the move because the real estate market is shaky. You may sell your old home for less, but you will also pay less for a new place.

3. Don't subsidize your kids' lifestyles. The old saying tells us to give our children roots and wings: Roots to know where home is and wings to fly away. It may be hard to say no to your children. But it doesn't really help anyone to let them settle into their old bedroom after college. They need to find their own apartment, cook their own food and learn to live on their own. If you do decide a child can live at home, make them pay rent and share other costs. It's only fair to both you and your other children.

4. Share and share alike. An alternative to having your kids move in with you is to move in with your kids. Then you should pay rent, but it's less expensive than carrying your own place. If you're single, consider sharing a home with a friend or sibling. Two can certainly live cheaper than one. Maybe you can also share a computer, TV or car. Living with someone offers companionship as well.

5. Go international. At the other end of the spectrum, some people have pulled up stakes and moved to another country. There are retirement enclaves in Latin America, from Mexico to Costa Rica to Ecuador. Some Americans retire to the land of their grandparents, in Italy or Ireland, where they enjoy support from family members. Some people tout the attractions of Malaysia and Thailand. These countries are relatively safe, the cost of living is low and local people respect the elderly. Retiring overseas requires a lot of research, but it's an option more people are considering.

6. Search out free entertainment. If you want to live in London or cruise the Mediterranean, you'll need 100 percent of your pre-retirement income. But most people don't do that. Your own hometown offers low-cost entertainment options, from summer concerts to fall festivals to senior exercise classes in the winter. Check out the library for free seminars, book clubs, movies and lectures. Your church, veterans association or social club can provide many rewarding activities for your leisure time, all at little or no cost.

7. Take advantage of senior citizen discounts. Join AARP for discounts as well as supplemental medical insurance. Drive over to town hall and find out about real estate tax breaks, as well as other senior citizen discounts. While you're there, check out senior programs like free transportation, low-cost meals and health and medical services. Many municipalities offer programs that are underutilized simply because people don't know about them, or are too embarrassed to ask. But let's get real. The services are available, so take advantage of them.

More from U.S. News & World Report:

Sep 3, 2013 7:53PM
If  you   paid off your house  you are  well on  your way.   To managing  on   your SS  income.  Not everyone  will  manage    especially   if they are  still paying a mortgage,  college expenses, and  a huge credit card debt.     We started  years ago,   pay  off the CC,  paid  off the house,  paid off the cars.  Take a reality check  on  our expenses  and cut back  where we could.   The result  we  live well  on  our SS,   one check  covers the  expenses,  The other  covers  the   property taxes,  gifts  and   travel expenses.   We   paid cash  for a nice  Class B RV  so  that we can  travel  leisurely.   The reslut   is   we exchanged a 400  mile per week  commute    for   maybe 50  miles per week  on  the car  and   10,000  miles on  the RV  ( which  is very fuel  efficient).  I realize  not everyone can   do   what we did  but  retirement takes planning  and  some   moderation   in spending   for years  before retiring  and a savings  plan.  
Sep 4, 2013 12:22AM
Pension.  Social Security.  Personal Savings.  You maximize each to the best of your ability and then live with the result!
Sep 4, 2013 11:38AM
Wow great to see an article not scaring the crap out of people.
Sep 3, 2013 8:33PM
do not join AARP.....their ideologies are totally against the US...worker....join AMAC....same choices and privately other words not going to the trough and taking the US for a ride.
Sep 4, 2013 1:54PM
The AARP offers nothing except to sell your name on a mailing list. For Medicare folks the supplemental plans are really the same and AARP makes money by recommending insurance, hearing aids and even cell phone service. In my own case I moved to Central America and have a required healthcare plan for $60 a month it supplies most drugs, hospital and doctors for that price. Many people make the mistake of buying property here, I rent a house with security, pool, utilities, internet and pay  under $400 a month. I save part of my Social Security and all of my pension every month. I deny myself nothing I truly want and take care of my needs very well. The idea you must own your own home is a myth. Cash is easier to move and no real estate sales to stress you out.
Sep 7, 2013 8:03AM
Good information. I recently found the retirement site Retirement And Good Living that also provides information on various retirement topics including finance, health, retirement locations and more. Worth checking out.
Sep 4, 2013 2:16PM
Sep 4, 2013 2:37PM

Working for a living isn`t enough.You need to be in the market.The market is up 90%

with Obama.Our right wing media doesn`t mention the good things going on.

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