9 Unexpected Expenses for Retirees — And How to Manage Them


So you've made the decision to retire. Congratulations! All that hard work and saving has paid off, and now you're ready to relax.

If you've worked all your life and were diligent about saving, you may have most of your life expenses covered and funds saved for long-term care as you get older. And for the most part, retirees find that their overall expenses decline as they age. But there still could be unexpected costs that you haven't taken into account.

Here are nine things that might hit your wallet harder now that you're retired:

1. Health Insurance

Yes, you may be getting Medicare, but that doesn't cover everything. Many retirees find that to get proper coverage, they will need to pay for a Medicare supplement. And even if you are covered under Medicare Part B, you may have to pay co-payments and deductibles. Older citizens should budget for additional healthcare costs, even if they believe they are fully covered.

2. Childcare

You thought you were done with childrearing? Think again. According to the Census bureau, about 23% of preschoolers are cared for at least part time by a grandparent. Now that you're retired, you are more available to help with occasional babysitting or even full-time childcare for the grandkids. You're doing it out of love, but you may incur expenses ranging from extra food, kids' clothes, furniture, and kids' activities.

If you're worried about the costs, be honest with the children's parents about how much you're spending and ask that they contribute. If the kids have certain favorite foods they like to eat at your house, buy those items in bulk. (My grandmother used to have a seemingly unlimited supply of chicken noodle soup for when I came over.) And don't be afraid to have the kids play with older and used toys, because there's a good chance they won't know the difference.

3. Utilities

When you went to work, there was no need to keep the AC or the furnace going during the day. But now that you're home, you may be adjusting that thermostat to make things more comfortable. (And this is exacerbated by the fact that older people are generally more sensitive to cold.) Plus, you may watch TV, use the computer, and run the appliances more often. All of this can add up to higher utility bills. Consider keeping the house at a slightly warmer temperature in the summer and slightly cooler in winter. You'll get used to it. Also, make the switch to LED light bulbs, and look into finding the most energy-efficient appliances you can buy.

4. Car Insurance

Auto insurance rates generally decline between the ages of 25 and 65, but they increase after that. That's because insurance companies view older drivers as a bigger risk, due to impaired vision, other physical problems, or decline in cognitive function. For older drivers, it pays to shop around for the best rates and even take a driving refresher course to prove you're still good behind the wheel.

5. Car Maintenance and Gas

When you were working, maybe you had a short commute or simply walked to the train station. Now, you're home all day and running to see friends, take care of grandkids, or volunteer. You would be surprised how much more you drive in retired life.

To keep these costs in check, buy a small vehicle that suits your needs or even consider an electric or hybrid car. And when you do drive, plan your errands and trips strategically to cut down on excess mileage. Many retirees are also moving back into cities, where they can get around without a car at all. But be careful; moving to the city can be expensive. Speaking of...

6. Urban Living

The Washington Post reported that between 2000 and 2010, more than a million baby boomers moved to within five miles of a city center. Empty nesters no longer have to concern themselves with yard size, school districts, or other factors that keep them in the suburbs. But city living can be expensive. Housing costs more, and there's a temptation to spend money when you're surrounded by great restaurants, theatres, museums, and shopping. You might offset some of this expense with reduced transportation costs, but it you still may want to monitor your spending.

7. Charitable Giving

Older people tend to be very generous, and use some of their retirement savings to give back to causes that they've always wanted to support. According to Morningstar, charitable giving rates are relatively small and steady up until age 60. After that, giving comprises an increasing percentage of a person's annual expenses — up to 20% for America's oldest citizens. It's great to give, but be sure you can still cover your day-to-day costs and have enough saved for a long life. Consider donating shares of stock instead of cash, as you can avoid capital gains taxes and won't dip into your everyday savings.

8. Lawn Care and Landscaping

You always liked mowing your own lawn and doing your own yard work, but as you've gotten a little older, keeping up with the property isn't as easy as it once once. There's no shame in hiring someone to cut the grass or do some landscaping, but that work isn't free. Getting your lawn mowed might cost you $35–$40 each time, resulting in hundreds of dollars each month. To save money, do as much yard maintenance as you can on your own as long as you feel you are able. When you need help, seek out a neighbor or grandkid who might do it for free or cheap. (Heck, mowing my grandfather's lawn was the first paid gig I ever had.)

9. More Expensive Travel

You saved all your life to finally take a few big trips in retirement. And that's great, but be sure to take into account some extra expenses you might incur as an older citizen. For one thing, travel insurance is more expensive for older folks, because they are statistically more likely to cancel trips due to health-related problems. And even if you do go on a trip, you may find yourself paying extra for transportation or luggage handling when you may have previously taken care of things yourself. Be sure to factor in these extra costs when booking your next adventure.

How is retirement costing you more than you expected?

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