Posted by: coastcontact | October 20, 2013

Saving Money in Retirement

Once retired you now try to find ways to lower your daily living expenses.  After all the typical $1,200 Social Security check won’t meet the needs and wants we all have.

Social Security is a safety net.  It was never meant to be your only source of income in retirement.  The problem is that many people saved too little during their working years to have a significant retirement savings.

That brings us to finding ways to reduce our cost of living.  Even if you own your home and have no mortgage payment, living on Social Security alone will not provide a comfortable living arrangement.

I have considered the options.  I know of only two.  Neither is appealing but both are doable.

  1. Obtain a Reverse Mortgage.  As long as you maintain your home, pay      the property taxes, and fire insurance you can receive a monthly income as      the outstanding mortgage grows.  The      house must be sold once you and your spouse have died.  The difference between the mortgage and      the house’s value will go to your heirs.       The mortgage company has no claim against your heirs if the house      sells for less than the outstanding mortgage.  Reverse mortgages are expensive but will      enable you to live in your home for the rest of your life.
  2. Sell your house and move to a smaller city or      town where home prices are low and live off the income you obtain from      that big house in the city.  The      down side is that small towns may be far away from the places you know and      love.

The 8 Least Expensive Places To Live in the U.S. according to Wall Street Cheat Sheet suggests some possibilities.  They are all small towns that are not located on interstate highways.  My guess is Red-Necks prevail.

The AARP list Retire to a Good Life for Less suggests “10 low-cost cities where you can live in comfort no matter how big (or small) your savings account”  is an unrealistic view of the real world. Your savings do matter no matter where you live.

Brownsville, Texas

Brownsville, TX

I went one step further.  I researched using Google for the BLS cost of living data for 34 “selected urban areas.” The list includes small town I have never heard of and are very remote.  Then downloading the results and
sorting for the Composite Index.  Listing the lowest cost as number  1.  The results are as follows.

The town with the lowest composite cost of living is Harlingen, Texas.  Population 65,679.  Nearest city over 100,000 is Brownsville, Texas.  Brownsville has the third lowest in cost of living.   Its estimated median household income in 2011: $31,850 (it was $24,468 in 2000).  The population has grown by 29% since 2000.  The growth was not brought on by seniors.  Median age is less than 30.  The city is on the border with Mexico.  Harlingen is 26.2 miles north.  UTB is the University of Texas Brownsville and should indicate there is more to the city than low income population.  Low winter temperatures are rarely if ever below 40º F.

Indianapolis, Indiana is number 7 lowest in cost of living.  With population of over 800,000 people it can offer a variety of opportunities and things to do.

Covington, Kentucky is across the Ohio River from Cincinnati and is number 9.

None of these locations match my Mediterranean climate in Los Angeles.  A high cost location (31 highest out of 34).  I grew up here.  My family and friends are here.  Those things are more important to me.



  1. I echo your thoughts of not being able to move, as I also grew up where I live and its where my family and friends are-grew up in the NW and call Portland home. Sadly, the last 3 decades left the majority of us with no way to save money and for many, any they did save they lost in the crash of 2008 and way too many ended up with mortgages that were higher than their house was worth. Yes, SS was not meant to be the only money you had to live on, but for too many, its all they have left. Sure wish there were better answers

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