Nearly half of> all baby boomers will face a cash crunch in retirement, according to a recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Boomers net household assets 401(k)s, pensions, homes and other investments, minus their total debt have lost 18% of their value since 2007 and today average roughly $171,000 a person, the EBRI study found.
The upshot of these losses is that boomers between the ages of 56 and 62 now have a 47% chance of falling short on funds to pay for basic retirement costs, according to the EBRI study. Boomers between the ages of 46 and 55 have a 45% chance.
The problem is compounded by lower expected returns on some assets and a weak labor market. Economists have lowered their long-term projections for the stock market since its downturn. High unemployment casts some doubt on boomers ability to re-enter the work force should they need to generate more income.
Boomers appear to be cutting back already. In a 2009 study of their spending habits conducted by MetLife, 65% of respondents reported eating at home more often in 2009 than in 2008, and 5% reported doing so less often. Thirty-seven percent said they were shopping at big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and K-Mart more often, and 15% said they were doing it less often.
Here are six more expenses retirees should consider ditching to help close the gap.
Disability and life insurance
Retirees can save thousands of dollars a year by getting rid of unnecessary insurance policies.
If you had an individual disability policy and now are retired, there is probably no need for it anymore, says James Miller, President of Woodward Financial Advisors.
A retiree who no longer has dependents or has a spouse who could easily support him or herself without the partner s help also should consider cashing out their life insurance policy.
If you are paying these life insurance premiums, ask yourself What would be the financial loss for my family if I die, and how much is that worth? says J. David Lewis, a registered financial advisor.
High investment fees
Investment fees come in many forms, including expense ratios, transactional fees and trading and account costs. Some retirees can cut these fees substantially without upsetting their portfolios or making substantial allocation changes.
Wes Moss, chief investment strategist at Capital Investment Advisors, says a thorough vetting of fees can yield a savings of thousands of dollars a year.
First, retirees should assess whether they are paying too much. Moss recommends keeping total fees as close to 1% of their total portfolio as possible. (People with more than $1 million in investments should expect to pay less than 1%, he says.)
Investment vehicles with lower fees are generally easier to find in retirement because investors tend to allocate more assets to low-fee fixed-income products as they age.
If a consumer believes they are paying too much, Moss suggests he or she ask the advisor for a fee reduction or find a fee-only advisor at NAPFA.org.
A spacious interior and proximity to a good school district may have been important years ago, but for many retirees the costs associated with such a home outweigh the benefits. Even retirees who have paid off their mortgages can benefit by trading down. Expenses tied to the maintenance, upkeep, utilities and taxes for a large house in a prime neighborhood are higher than those of a smaller home in a less expensive area.
Living in a smaller house can shrink costs like air conditioning, lighting and heating the water in the house, says Paul McRandall, consulting senior editor of the National Resource Defense Council s green-living site SimpleSteps.org.
Because smaller homes often have lower assessments, homeowners who trade down also typically save on real estate taxes.
Retirees who live in a pricey city like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami or Honolulu some of the most expensive cities in America, according to Mercer s annual cost of living survey also may consider moving to a cheaper area.
Retirees with a cellphone and a landline might consider ditching one or the other to save hundreds of dollars a year.
John Deyeso, a certified financial planner at Financial Filosophy, recommends getting rid of the landline.
Many retirees resist ditching their landline out of concern over cellphone reception problems, says Richard Eisenberg, a contributing editor for AARP The Magazine. If you're worried about the reception on your cell phone, consider getting a signal booster, he says.
New cellphone customers should make sure to get the lowest priced plan that meets their needs. BillShrink.com offers plan suggestions.
In recent years, more people have begun their retirement with debt, analysts say. The interest payments on that debt can cost them thousands of dollars a year.
If you re not actively paying it off, you need to get on that, says Adam Miller a CFP with ElderAdo Financial. If you have a car paid off, maybe sell it and use that money to pay off debt.
Many financial advisors recommend a strategy of paying as much as possible on the highest interest-rate debts first and minimum payments on all other debts until all are paid.
Inefficient household items
Replacing older, inefficient appliances, insulation and other energy-wasting items can yield big savings on retirees utility bills.
Many utility companies now offer for free or discounted home energy audits to help homeowners and renters assess their power usage. For those who can t afford an audit, the Department of Energy offers guidelines on how to conduct one on your own.
Making the recommended changes from an audit can save as much as $500 a year in energy costs, McRandall says.
Retirees might consider replacing older appliances with new Energy Star models, which meet the government s energy efficiency standards. Many states now offer rebates for purchasing Energy Star appliances.
Any fridge even five years old is at least 50% less efficient, and those dating back to the early 90s can be three times more expensive to run, McRandall says. An energy-efficient fridge will pay for itself within a few years.
Retirees might also consider swapping out an old dishwasher, as well as any incandescent light bulbs in the home. A compact fluorescent bulb, which can last as much as 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb, can save more than $40 in energy costs before it burns out, according to the Department of Energy.