How to Retire Well Without a Plan

While most people understand that planning for retirement is a smart move, that doesn’t make it practical for everyone. In some cases, people reach retirement without a 401(k), IRA, or another kind of savings to help. Luckily, it is possible to retire well without a plan in place in advance. If you don’t have any retirement savings, here’s what you need to know.

Social Security

Social Security often plays a critical role during retirement. Even if you don’t plan for any savings, Social Security gives practically everyone access to some monthly income once they reach the right age.

As of September 2021, the average retirement benefit was just shy of $1,515 per month. While Social Security typically only replaces about 40 percent of pre-retirement earnings, it does give people without any additional retirement savings a predictable influx of cash.

Still, Social Security can typically only be part of the equation. Living on just $1,515 would be difficult, if not impossible, for most. For example, while Medicare Part A is premium-free for almost anyone who contributed to the Medicare system while working, adding in Part B, C, or D can cost several hundred dollars per month. Then, if you have to pay for housing, food, utilities, and transportation, you may not have enough to cover all of your basic needs.

Just keep in mind that what you receive from Social Security varies depending on how much you earn while working. Additionally, when you file for benefits makes a difference. While you may be able to start receiving Social Security at age 62, that typically means receiving a reduced payment.

Depending on your birth year, you may not get your full benefit unless you wait until age 67 to start receiving payments. Additionally, by waiting past your full benefit age, your benefit goes up, reaching its highest amount if you delay until age 70.

The difference between early retirement and delayed retirement can be more than $1,000 per month. As a result, if you want to retire well without a plan, waiting as long as possible – and preferably reaching the peak delayed benefit amount – can work in your favor.


If you’re looking for a way to bring in some money or reduce expenses, getting a roommate could be the answer. Whether you own your home or rent, you could find someone else to move into an extra bedroom, allowing you to either collect rent or split the cost of housing and utilities.

Alternatively, you could forgo a traditional roommate and rent out a room on a short-term rental site like Airbnb if you own your house. If you live in a city frequented by business travelers or tourists, you might be able to secure enough rental income without having to let someone else stay in your home long-term.

Often, the short-term rental route is more practical if you have a room with a separate entrance and its own bathroom. That way, you can maintain a degree of separation. However, that technically isn’t a necessity.


Downsizing gives you the opportunity to reduce your expenses and, if you own your home, free up some cash. By moving into a smaller house or apartment, you can potentially shrink your monthly housing payment, utility bills, and property insurance expenses. Plus, if you sell a home you own and purchase one that costs less, you may have some extra cash that you can direct toward living expenses or debts.

You can also scale back your lifestyle to save money. For example, forgoing cable could help you reduce your monthly expenses. The same goes for cooking meals at home instead of dining out, canceling unnecessary memberships or subscriptions, and similar choices.

If you sell a house and move in with a family member instead of getting a new place, you may end up with quite a nest egg. If so, that may cover any shortfalls, allowing you to live comfortably.

Reverse Mortgage

While a reverse mortgage can be expensive and cumbersome to navigate, it could be an option for accessing some extra cash. It essentially allows you to borrow against the value of your home. However, instead of only being able to access a lump sum, you can request fixed monthly payments. That way, you get fresh income monthly.

With a reverse mortgage, the repayment process varies significantly from a traditional loan. Typically, the entire amount borrowed is owed in full upon the borrower’s death. Since the loans can’t exceed the home’s value, the property can be sold to cover what’s owed. However, you’d also owe the full amount borrowed if you make a permanent move or sell the property, so you’ll want to keep that in mind.

Work Part-Time

If there is only a small financial shortfall, working part-time may let you close the gap. You’ll get a steady influx of money, and you might get access to valuable benefits, too.

There are usually a reasonable number of opportunities available, particularly if you factor in remote jobs. Just make sure to do some calculations to see what sort of pay rate and the number of hours will meet your needs. As you do, account for taxes and other withholdings. That way, you don’t start working only to discover that the amount you’re taking home isn’t enough.

Additionally, consider taking a part-time job that can benefit you in other ways. For example, many retail employees qualify for an employee discount. If you work for a store where you buy your groceries, the employee discount could help you reduce your food costs. As a result, you’ll be able to direct any saved money toward other needs or expenses.

Do you have any tips that can help someone figure out how to retire well without a plan? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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