How Can I Supplement My Social Security Income?
I have been getting Social Security for three years. It just isn’t enough. I don’t know how to live on this income. My children help me but I don’t want to be an expense to them. My husband passed away years ago, so it’s just me. What can I do to make more money?
Connie, I hear you. It’s really tough to try to get by on Social Security as your main, or only, means of support. Even though the government makes cost of living adjustments every year, sometimes it just isn’t enough to cover what you need.
Let’s look at this question from a variety of angles to see if we can help you find some ways to stretch your dollars.
Getting What’s Yours
Now that you’ve been drawing Social Security for several years, it’s likely that most of the decisions that could be made to maximize your monthly checks have already been locked in and are irreversible. It doesn’t hurt, though, to ask a Social Security Administration representative to look over your situation and make sure you aren’t missing out on any benefits, including survivor’s benefits from your husband.
You should also look carefully through any financial papers your husband left behind and contact any long-term employers to see if there are any pension plans or insurance policies that may have been forgotten that you can claim. It’s not uncommon for someone to have multiple small 401Ks from various employers. Do the same, of course, for your own previous employers.
Earning Extra Income
Depending on your health and skills, you can find a lot of different varieties of work, including many things you can do from home. Becoming comfortable using a computer is one of the best things you can do to multiply your job opportunities. Here are a few examples:
- Preply - get paid to provide English conversation practice to internationals by video.
- We Work Remotely - opportunities in customer service, teaching tutoring, data entry, and bookkeeping.
- Fiverr or Upwork - sites for getting temporary work as a writer, graphic designer, accountant, programmer, etc.
- TaskRabbit or Thumbtack - opportunities to work as a housekeeper, handyman, delivery driver, or personal assistant.
Looking at the other side of the equation, you should also make sure your expenses are as low as possible. If you have subscriptions to magazines, newspapers, or online services you aren’t using, cancel them. If you have a cell phone, many people choose to save some money by having their landline disconnected. Look for the best deals on internet providers and other services where you have options.
If you own a car, think about whether you can get a more affordable and reliable one, or if you might be able to do without a car altogether and use an Uber or public transportation, depending on your lifestyle and what is available to you. Being free of a car can release you from major expenses.
Google to see what programs and discounts may be available to seniors and lower-income people in your area. Utility companies sometimes offer reduced rates to vulnerable people. Food banks can provide a huge amount of staples to save substantially on your grocery bill. Make sure you are asking for senior discounts when you shop and dine out. Non-profits and faith-based organizations sometimes provide services to seniors. All of these programs and discounts are intended to help people like you, so don’t hesitate to use them.
Changing Your Living Situation
If you own your home, you could consider renting out one or more rooms, or renting out the basement, attic, or storage units to people needing inexpensive storage. You might also consider a reverse mortgage, where the bank will make monthly payments to you to gradually buy your house.
If you currently live alone, you might consider sharing a living space with a good friend or family member, at your house or theirs. The two of you could rent out or sell the unused house.
Finally, if you live in a place where the cost of living is high, you might consider moving to a different part of your state or a different part of the country where things are more affordable.
No Easy Answers
Unfortunately, there’s not just one easy answer to the question you’ve asked. But on the positive side, there are actually a lot of potential answers, large and small, that you can put together in a way that meets your unique needs.
Fortunately, most of these are under your control. You get to decide your spending habits, where you will live, and what kind of energy you put into finding a good part-time job. You’ve made it this far in your life, so you are a survivor! And you are blessed to have children to help you.
While you don’t want to be a burden to them, financially, I’d encourage you to think more about how you can be a blessing to them, relationally. No doubt they will be glad to help you as you maintain a loving, encouraging relationship with them.