Outliving retirement savings is the biggest fear that Canadians over the age of 50 have, says CARP, a national organization committed to seniors.
With more and more Canadians living pay cheque to pay cheque and many seniors having to work well into their late 60’s or beyond to make ends meet, making every dollar count in retirement is crucial to Canada’s largest segment of the population.
Canadian seniors are learning how to stretch their retirement savings to make ends meet. If you are a senior here are eight ways you can survive on a fixed budget:
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Although you can’t rely solely on your government pension, ensure you’ve applied for all the support you’re eligible to receive. The old age security, Canadian pension plan, and any other benefits available to you through your former employer, provincial and federal governments are a place to start. If you are a veteran check to see if you have any additional benefits available to you upon retirement.
Don’t forget about any term insurance policies that may come due, bonds, or other financial assets you started at a younger age and left to mature.
Geared to income housing options are available to seniors throughout the country, but the waiting lists are long and spots are given to those with the greatest financial need. If you qualify, geared to income housing puts a predetermined percentage of your retirement income towards rent — which means that you’ll be paying only what you can afford, and to some extent you will be protected from large rental increases.
However, geared to income senior housing doesn’t offer any of the perks of assisted living communities, where seniors live together in a caring, community atmosphere. Assisted living communities provide staff who are there to help care for senior’s needs and offer assistance with meals, transportation and sometimes even medication.
Seniors who need this extra support should look for assisted living communities that offer price flexibility options. Price flexibility can take the form of discounts for a la carte dining instead of inclusive meal pricing, or even through subsidies which may be offered in conjunction with government funding. It’s worth it to find out what discounts are available. As with anything retirement-related, research and pre-planning are advisable.
Roommates are another great way to save on housing costs. “The Golden Girls” are a prime example of the cost saving benefits of senior roommates, not to mention the perks of extra emotional support. Of course, it takes the right mix of personalities to make this option work!
Seniors who are socially inclined can participate in meal-sharing options. For example, you and a small group of friends take turns hosting each other for dinner, which means that you each cook one meal for four people once a week instead of a meal for one person four times a week. The cost savings here are significant and the added benefit is that you ensure you get out to socialize and have fun with friends on a regular basis. The trick is to serve meals that are economical to make for a small group. Casseroles, soups and stews are great options.
Seniors who are involved in their local church, legion or other community group can take advantage of organized dinners.
Seniors on their own who have difficulty shopping or cooking can always contact Meals on Wheels for support.
Provincial drug plans like the Trillium Drug Program in Ontario are designed to help seniors cover the cost of medication, something which is not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) or by most employer pension plans after retirement. As Canadians age the costs of prescription medications tend to increase and depending on your overall state of health, can become quite costly.
If your medications are a burden to your budget then ask your pharmacist about options available to you to cut costs. Some drug companies offer discounts to seniors, and in most cases generic prescriptions cost less than the brand name equivalent.
Don’t forget to track all your medical expenses throughout the year. These expenses are claimable at tax time if you have receipts.
You might be surprised at the number of organizations and retailers offering senior discounts. For example, low income seniors can purchase a yearly transit pass in Calgary for just $15! Seniors who don’t qualify as low income pay only $95 for the year, which is still a low price for annual transportation costs. If you use public transportation make sure to keep your receipts. You can claim public transportation costs at tax time.
Zoos, museums, art galleries and movie theatres all offer senior rates. Retailers like Shoppers Drug Mart offer senior discounts to those over 65 years old and senior discount days on the last Thursday of each month.
Seniors who are aware of the discounts in their area can take advantage of the savings, which add up over time.
There are a number of federal and provincial tax programs designed to help seniors with costs like pension income splitting, pension sharing and home renovations. Talk to your accountant to ensure you are taking advantage of all the tax savings that are available to you.
Whether you can teach a class, babysit, sell crafts, work part time in retail, or even work an occasional day or two for your previous employer, earning extra income is a great way to help supplement your cost of living while you’re retired.
Whether you’re a retired nurse who can help administer flu shots in the fall, or a retired accountant who can help neighbours with their tax returns, opportunities are out there for seniors to earn extra income. Just ensure you consider how the extra income you earn will affect your taxes and regular retirement income.
The Government of Canada lists fraud as the number one crime committed against older Canadians. Seniors are targeted more than other segments of the population for a number of reasons:
Unfortunately, seniors are also commonly victims of financial abuse, an abuse that is often perpetrated by loved ones. According to the Government of Canada, “financial abuse of a senior involves the misuse of an older adult’s money or belongings by a person the senior trusts. It is generally defined as an action or a series of actions that occur as part of an ongoing relationship and often happens in connection with other types of abuse.”
For more information about fraud and financial abuse affecting seniors visit:
In what other ways are you able stretch money in your retirement? Do you have any tips or advice for others? Share them with us in the comments below.