Aside from the most obvious benefit of retirement – not having your days eaten up by going to work – retirees can enjoy a number of luxuries that are not generally available to the rest of the population. As with most things of a financial nature, it's a matter of taking the time to familiarize yourself with what programs and incentives are available.
SEE: 5 Ideas To Supplement Your Retirement Income
Retirement Tax Benefits
Retirees have a number of tax benefits or deductions that are available to them. To make the most of these deductions, retirees should carefully examine what they can use as a deduction, or speak to an accountant when putting together a tax return. However, some of the common things that retirees can deduct for are medical or dental expenses, nursing home expenses, investment expenses or expenses associated with selling a home or moving.
Since many people sell a home when they retire, either to move to a retirement community, a smaller home or a new location where they wish to spend their retirement years, this is an important expense to include in income tax returns. Also, just because someone is retired does not mean that they won't have costs associated with investments. Fees paid to accountants, financial planners, banks, brokers or other types of agents qualify as tax deductions. Keep in mind that income earned from investments is still taxed, but this form of income is not subject to the same Social Security or Medicare taxes as income earned from a job or business, so retirees will also enjoy some additional savings here.
Social Security Benefits
Social Security, or a similar form of government benefit program depending upon which country you reside in, is a factor in many people's retirement plans. Luckily, approximately 96% of people qualify for Social Security in the United States. As people progress through their working lives, they gather points toward Social Security based on the amount earned. Once an individual has enough points and reaches a specific age, they can claim Social Security benefits. Benefit amounts can increase depending upon whether a retiree has dependents or a spouse, and Social Security includes some coverage for medical expenses. If you're curious as to how much you'll receive in Social Security benefits, there are calculators available online that can help.
Freedom to Move
In locations where the cost of living is high, retirees are able to relocate to less expensive locations since they aren't tied down to a job. Retirees have the option of moving to locations where the cost of living is much lower and they can stretch their money further. Love the mountains? Try Boone, North Carolina where seniors can enjoy free transportation and community events in a location with a relatively low cost of living. Are you more interested in history? Give State College, Pennsylvania a try. Here, you'll find a large number of historic sites packed into this inexpensive college town. If you actually enjoy the snowy winters, then consider Syracuse, New York. Here you'll find a very low cost of living in a small northern city with extremely low housing costs.
Generally, retirement is tied to age. Because of this, most retirees will naturally fall into the category of senior citizens and will qualify for discount rates. Senior discounts can be found for a wide variety of things, including groceries, gym memberships, restaurants, travel, transportation costs, hotel rooms and entertainment. Some airlines or tour companies even offer discounts to senior citizens, which is certainly a benefit for those retirees who have the cash to travel. There are a large number of websites devoted to educating seniors on what discounts are out there. The money-savvy senior just needs to put in the effort to find out what bargains are available to them. Some senior citizen discounts start as low as 50 years of age, though most begin between 55 and 65 years of age.
SEE: Retirees: Save Money On Your Long-Term Travel
Time Is on Your Side
One thing that retirees definitely have is the luxury of free time. Financially speaking, this is especially useful when it comes to taking the time to examine financial decisions closely and understanding just how each change will affect their money situation. This is also true when it comes to electing politicians, which can also dramatically impact the financial situation of a nation's citizens. People over 45 years of age are statistically more likely to vote than any other segment of the population. In the 2010 election, roughly 60% of people between 65 and 74 voted, compared to around 20% of those between 18 and 24 years of age. This is largely due to the fact that the older segment of the population has both the time and vested interest in ensuring their political and financial needs are met.
Work on Your Own Terms
Since work makes up such a huge part of our lives, there's no doubt that some retirees find it difficult once they are no longer active in the workforce. For some retirees, finding meaning in their retirement may include doing some part-time work or volunteer work to help stimulate their social lives or to stay mentally engaged. For those who have planned carefully, they'll only need to work when and where they want to, on their own terms, which is certainly a major benefit when compared to our active working lives, where some of us may feel tied to our jobs. Aside from the fact that part-time work may help to bring meaning and purpose to many retirees' days, it also adds a boost to their income. If you've saved well for retirement, you may also be able to delay tapping into your Social Security benefits by working part-time. This will help to increase the amount you'll receive from Social Security in later years.
Even if you're no longer a "whipper-snapper," it doesn't necessarily mean that your college years are over. Some colleges and universities offer inexpensive or even free tuition to seniors. There are some limitations placed on the ability to access these programs. Some schools require the course instructor to grant permission, while others require that fee-paying students take priority in registering. Many schools will also require some form of documentation to prove that you are indeed retired or hold a high school diploma. Some schools may also place an income restriction on mature students who wish to receive subsidized or free schooling.
The Bottom Line
Getting the most out of your retirement years depends largely on your ability to plan. Setting goals and sticking to them is of the utmost importance, though it can certainly be a challenge when retirement seems miles away. Do your best to look as far down the line as possible. Save money, take care of your health and consider what you'd like to do to fill your days. Having something exciting to look forward to always makes it easier to make sacrifices earlier on, and there's certainly no shortage of good things to look forward to once the sun has set on your working days.
SEE: 5 Signs It's Time To Retire