A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, retirees could live off the interest from their CDs and bonds. A lot has changed since then. With interest rates now at historical lows, retirees are feeling the pinch.

This doesn’t mean retirement is out of reach. Only we need to plan a little smarter and harder.

Here are three examples of how to boost retirement income.

1. Start with reducing your expenses.

My clients make a list of all expenses. Line by line, each expense is then scrutinized. I ask them, is there a way to reduce the expense? Can you live without it or on a smaller scale? Cable bills, cellphone bills, subscription services, all of these add up.

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Other expenses are not so obvious. Cash allowances to adult children are a common budget leak. Retired parents need to have a heart-to-heart with their adult children on how their gifts could potentially negatively impact Mom and Dad’s retirement.

Also, review and request insurance proposals for health, home and auto. I usually find new insurance vendors with better offers. Or, if it makes sense, try increasing the deductible. Increasing deductibles can save you money on premiums. This assumes you have the cash to meet the higher deductible when you file an insurance claim.

If you are still paying for life insurance, does that still make sense? If the mortgage is paid off and kids out of college, perhaps reallocating premium dollars to long-term care insurance might make more sense.

2. Next, find ways to reduce your taxes.

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Scour your income tax returns for leakage. Are you offsetting income with losses? Taxpayers can use $3,000 of investment losses – if a stock or mutual fund lost money – against ordinary income. If you give to charity, are you giving in the most tax favorable way? Donating a high-flying stock may make more sense than giving cash. Donating stock to a qualified charity gets you out of the stock position without incurring taxes from selling. This way your cash, which you would have donated, is instead preserved for your living expenses.

For those with consulting or self-employment income, are you saving in a tax-favorable retirement account? Contributions to a Self-employed (SEP) IRA are tax-deductible, reducing your taxable income and increasing savings for future retirement needs.

3. Focus on total portfolio income.

Many retirees have interest and dividends reinvested back into the portfolio. Instead, try having all portfolio income paid out to you. Each week my retired clients receive a physical check or a wire to their bank account from the interest and dividends generated from their portfolios. The advantage is clients never touch their principal. The downside is the portfolio may not grow as much if dividends were reinvested. That is a trade-off. Many retirees prefer to take the income instead of touching principal.

The key to all of this to understand is that the old way of retirement income planning – company-provided pensions, high-interest CDs or working longer – is unfortunately not as reliable as it used to be. Today, retirees must work a little smarter and harder.

If you are feeling uncertain about your retirement income plan, I encourage you to speak with a qualified, experienced financial adviser. Sometimes the answers are right in front of clients, they just need someone to help point them out.

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