Updated: May 18, 2023

Fixing Everything Else

Getting a late start on retirement means changing your financial life. But it also means changing your life itself.
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Getting a late start on retirement means changing your financial life. But it also means changing your life itself.

Older folks without savings are flirting with disaster. And taking the steps we outlined earlier will only help lessen the likelihood of catastrophe. If you really want to ensure that your retirement is not a time of unceasing difficulty, you’ll need to change more than your money habits.

1. Get healthy -- Overweight? Smoking? Not exercising? Sure. You might be able to get away with some of those things in your 40s and 50s, but now is the time to get your health squared away.

The core of late-retirement planning is that you’re going to keep working through your 60s (and probably for at least a year or two in your 70s.)

Unhealthy people can’t work when they’re old.

They can’t.

Stop living like you’re immune to the laws of time, disease and nutrition.

In fact, it’s probably wise to consider drastic steps now to get your health in order.

Don’t just stop smoking -- become an exercise fanatic. Don’t just lose weight -- follow Bill Clinton’s lead and go vegan.

Your goal is not just to stay alive, it’s to stay very, very healthy so that you can work long enough that you don’t wind up very, very poor.

2. Change where you’ll live -- Your goal should be to find a place where you can live and work and not spend much money for as long as you possibly can.

If you live in New York or San Francisco or some other expensive town, it’s time to head elsewhere. By the same token, if you live in rural America or in a small community, it’s also time to move.

You should find a place that a) has an adequate number of jobs b) has an adequate public-transportation system (you may wind up working longer than you can safely drive) c) isn’t too pricey.

One place to start is with AARP’s list of 10 places where you can live on $100 a day.  (You’ll need to earn $36,500 a year before taxes to get by.) Pittsburgh and Omaha are both on that list. You’ll likely find work on a bus route in either community.

3. Change how you live -- For many people, retirement seems to come in two stages. First, there’s a period of relative independence. You have your own home, your own car, etc. Then, after a number of years, you move to someplace with less independence. You head to an assisted-living facility.

If you’re serious about last-minute retirement planning, you may want to combine those two stages.

Consider living in a group setting long before you have to do so. Share a home with another couple (or two.) What are your siblings and college roommates planning for retirement? You lived with them once, you could do so again. Pool your resources to cut costs.

Or, if independence is extraordinarily important to you, try a hybrid approach: get a tiny home near other tiny homes and share resources.

Once again AARP may be on to something -- look into pocket communities.