Precision isn’t always possible for retirement planning. That doesn’t mean you have to wing it and hope your savings don’t expire before you do.

Looking at the income, living expenses and life spans of today’s retirees can help you make the right financial moves so your golden years aren’t tarnished by a shortfall.

What’s an ‘average’ retirement cost?

Government and Gallup data reveal a lot about what retirement is like for Americans today.

It starts at age 61, even though many tell Gal­lup they planned to work long­er. And based on some morbid math — the av­er­age remaining life ex­pec­tan­cy  of someone who’s made it to their early 60s (23.3 years), according to the Centers for Disease Con­trol and Prevention — you should plan to be re­tired for at least a few decades.

Your mileage may vary based on things such as your work, diet, family health history and participation in extreme sports leagues.

The average budget for a retiree, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, provides even more color on what to expect when you’re expecting to retire. Older households, defined as ones headed by someone 65 or older, spend $46,000 annually, versus the $57,000 average spent by all U.S. households com­bined. The top three month­ly expenses for those 65 and older are housing ($1,322), health care ($500) and food ($484).

On average, about half of a retired household’s income comes from Social Sec­urity and private and gov­ernment pensions, ac­cord­ing to the BLS, with per­son­al savings and in­vest­ment and rental in­come providing 6.9%.

Find out how long your money will last

An online retirement cal­culator can project a more accurate picture of your retirement readiness. It will use your current sa­ving, spending and in­vest­ment profile and some rules of thumb about his­tor­ical investment re­turns, reasonable with­draw­al rates and, yes, life expectancy. (Most cal­cu­la­tors assume people will live into their 90s.)

What if the calculator shows that at the rate you’re going, you’ll out­live your retirement sa­vings? If you’re not yet re­tired, one of the best moves is post­poning your re­tire­ment party. This strategy is especially valuable for those in their peak earning years.

Besides reducing the num­ber of years you’ll need to live off your sa­vings, working longer allows more time for your in­vest­ments to grow. Plus, the additional time con­trib­u­ting to Social Security could mean a bigger ben­ef­its paycheck down the road. Every year you post­pone filing for Social Sec­ur­ity after your full-benefit retirement age (66 or 67 for most people), your fu­ture monthly benefits check grows by as much as 8% per year until you turn 70.

How to pad your paycheck in retirement

If you’re already retired and un-retiring or waiting to file for Social Security aren’t feasible, there are other ways to make up for the shortfall between retirement income and expenses.

• Leverage your home. If you have substantial equity in your home, a re­verse mortgage can turn this asset into income. You’ll receive a regular check as long as you’re liv­ing in the house. When you exit the premises to move else­where or on to the great beyond, the checks stop and your estate must repay the loan.

• Shop for an immediate an­nuity. Though an­nu­it­ies are complex in­stru­ments — they’re essentially in­vestments baked into an insurance policy — pay­ing a lump sum upfront to get a guaranteed month­ly payment for life may provide the income stability you need.

• Withdraw less money during down years. A com­mon rule of thumb among fi­nan­cial pros is the 4% rule, which is based on re­search in all market con­ditions that shows a re­tiree can withdraw that amount annually from a port­folio invested half in stocks and half in bonds with­out depleting their fi­nan­cial reserves before they die. If you can be flex­ible and withdraw less, for example, when mar­ket returns are lower than expected or you’ve got reserves from pre­vious years’ with­draw­als, your money can last longer.

• Seek assistance. There are government, nonprofit and for-profit programs that provide benefits to strug­gling seniors. The Na­tion­al Council on Aging ( helps the 60-plus set navigate things such as Supplemental Sec­ur­ity Income, Medicaid, debt management pro­grams and subsidized hous­ing.

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