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Whether it’s an online bank offering a higher yield, cutting the cord on your cable or using modern ways that make budgeting easy, every dollar counts, especially if you’re living on a fixed income.
Millions of baby boomers also face the daunting challenge of having to manage their retirement finances in a low-rate environment.
Here are 10 ways people on a fixed income can maximize their savings.
1. Budget to find money
Living on a fixed income means your earning ability is limited. One way to potentially increase the money that you can put toward savings is through the use of budgeting. Making a budget may make it easier to uncover opportunities where you can spend less.
“You’d be shocked at how many of these monthly ongoing subscriptions people have that just don’t use them,” says Tim Kenney, certified financial planner at TK Pacific Wealth. Kenney says he did this himself and found five or six different subscriptions that he just stopped. It’s more important than ever to look these over, since many people have changed spending and entertainment habits since the beginning of the pandemic.
Gym memberships, streaming services, software subscriptions and other monthly or annual subscriptions are bound to come up during the budgeting process. The money saved can go directly toward paying debt, go into an emergency fund or toward another important financial goal.
2. Use technology to track your spending
Some people like having a little help with their budget. And there are many budgeting apps that can pull in your previous expenses to show you where your money is going. You can even sign up for Bankrate’s myMoney to categorize your spending transactions, identify ways to cut back and improve your financial health.
Others might prefer to keep their transactions between them and their financial institution. In that case, you can use a simple piece of paper, a spreadsheet or Bankrate’s home budget calculator to analyze and plan your spending.
With so many products and tools available, it’s probably the best time to track your spending.
3. Price out your expenses
Sure, you’ve been with your insurance company forever. But is it really giving you the best deal? You don’t know unless you periodically compare it to the competition. You could end up saving a bunch of money for about the same coverage.
The same can go for looking at your cable bill. Perhaps cutting the cord and using some of the streaming services out there instead could result in significant monthly savings.
4. Pay off high-interest debt
Paying off credit card debt can help you maximize your savings. The difference between paying 16.28 percent annual percentage rate (APR), the national average variable APR on credit card purchases according to Bankrate, and a high-yield savings account in this low-rate environment is going to make a huge difference.
The average credit card debt for baby boomers was $6,949 in 2019, according to Experian. Paying off that debt, taking advantage of a balance transfer offer on an existing credit card or getting a balance transfer credit card can help you eliminate this debt.
5. Seek out a competitive yield for your savings
A competitive yield today isn’t what it was a few years ago. However, nearly a quarter of Americans weren’t earning any interest on their savings, according to a Bankrate survey published in May 2019. Even though rates have changed since then, zero then is still zero now — unless those people have made a change.
Compare savings rates on Bankrate to find the right account for you.
6. Keep your money safe
Nobody wants to lose money. But those on a fixed income need to make sure their money is kept in a safe place. A savings account at a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) bank helps you know that your money is protected. Just make sure it’s within FDIC insurance limits and guidelines.
7. Explore other options, such as investments, depending on your age
People on a fixed income might not necessarily be at the typical retirement age. Younger retirees, in their mid to late 50s, generally should stay more invested in the market, says Patti Hughes, certified financial planner and CPA, principal of Lake Life Wealth Advisory Group in Chicago.
“They’ve got all that time to grow their assets, so I would say it’s really critical for whoever it is to look at what their time horizon is,” Hughes says.
8. Consider interest checking as a way to boost yield
It’s understandable to think of checking accounts and assume you won’t be earning any interest by having one.
But there are a few checking options worth considering for a high yield. Sometimes they might even have a higher yield than an online savings account. Often the catch with these interest checking accounts is a capped APY that’s only eligible for a certain balance. Money over that balance is likely to earn a significantly lower yield.
These products might also require a certain number of debit card transactions per month and/or a monthly direct deposit in order to earn that high APY on balances below a certain level.
9. Use a CD ladder to diversify your longer-term savings
All you need to do is look at the past year to know that a CD ladder can be a good thing for your savings plan. A few years ago, you could have gotten a two-year CD or a three-year CD with around a 2.5 percent APY. Those yields are no longer available, but you might be happy with the current CD yields later this year.
A short-term CD ladder in this low-rate environment is probably the best strategy. Of course, your purpose for the money and time horizon for needing it should play a factor in this decision.
10. Add a no-penalty CD for in-between money
Those who like the idea of a fixed-rate CD and the flexibility to be able to withdraw from a CD might want to consider a no-penalty CD. These are reasonably competitive with the top yielding savings accounts.
There are still opportunities to save and earn interest
A fixed income and a low-rate environment doesn’t mean that there aren’t some options out there. Cutting expenses and making sure you’re earning a competitive yield in the current environment are things you can do to make sure you’re maximizing your savings.
Even the small victories, such as cutting a monthly expense or earning a little interest, add up over time.