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3 Smart Ways Senior Citizens Can Save Money

The Motley Fool logo The Motley Fool 7/13/2015 Matthew Frankel

Senior Couple with Financial Documents. © Getty Images Senior Couple with Financial Documents.

If you're a senior citizen, one of your primary financial goals should be to make sure the money you've saved lasts as long as you do. Of course, the most obvious ways to do this are to save as much as possible before you retire, and to use the money from your nest egg wisely. With that in mind, here are three smart ways you may be able to lower your expenses in retirement, and make your savings last as long as possible.

Take advantage of senior discounts

Don't be afraid to ask for a senior discount when you're out shopping or dining. Many establishments offer senior discounts, and not all of them are advertised.

Just as a reference, according to theseniorlist.com, there are about 100 restaurant, retail, and grocery store chains that offer senior discounts, and some are quite generous. To name just a few, seniors are entitled to

  • 15% off at Belk on the first Tuesday of each month
  • 20% off at Rite Aid on the first Wednesday of each month
  • 10% off at Chick-Fil-A, or a free drink or coffee
  • 10% off at Wendy's
  • 5% off at Kroger one day per week

Finally, keep in mind that this just refers to the discounts offered by large chains. Thousands of local and regional businesses offer senior discounts as well. Many are offered to people as young as 55. So, whether or not you consider yourself to be a "senior citizen" just yet, those 10% and 15% discounts can add up to hundreds or even thousands in savings each year.

Join AARP

You can join AARP as early as age 50 at a cost of just $16 per year, and your membership can pay for itself many times over. For starters, many businesses offer additional discounts to AARP members beyond what is discussed above, such as 25% off at Papa John's and 20% off at Denny's.

Many travel discounts are available, such as 15% off from Starwood Hotels and Resorts and 5% off from Norwegian Cruise Lines. In addition, AARP runs its own travel center in partnership with Expedia, where members can enjoy discounted rental cars, flights, and hotel rooms that aren't available to the general public.

AARP members are entitled to other potentially money-saving resources including:

  • Free tax help -- the AARP Foundation's Tax Aide helps 2.6 million taxpayers with their returns each year
  • Financial planning and estate planning resources
  • Free webinars covering topics such as Social Security and Medicare
  • Member-exclusive insurance programs offered through companies such as The Hartford and New York Life
Consumer spending in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped in July for the first time in six months, a sign households are lagging behind as wages fail to accelerate. © David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Consumer spending in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped in July for the first time in six months, a sign households are lagging behind as wages fail to accelerate.

Spend your money wisely

One of the smartest ways seniors can save money is with some responsible tax planning. Specifically, many seniors have their retirement savings spread among several different types of accounts, and the order in which you tap into these can make a big difference.

Any money you have saved in a traditional (taxable) brokerage account should be the first place you turn to withdraw money to meet your expenses. Tax-advantaged accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs should be left alone for as long as possible in order to take advantage of tax-free compounding (you don't pay capital gains or dividend taxes each year in these accounts).

Once your taxable accounts are exhausted, then and only then does it make sense to tap into retirement accounts. First to go should be your tax-advantaged accounts, such as traditional IRAs and 401(k)s. These have required minimum distributions beginning when you are 70 1/2 years old, and your withdrawals are taxable, so it makes sense to use these next.

Finally, any money you were wise enough to save in Roth accounts should be used last. Roth accounts have no RMD requirements, and all withdrawals after age 59 1/2 are tax-free. So, it makes sense to take advantage of the tax-free growth in your Roth IRA for as long as possible.

The point here is that order matters when it comes to your retirement savings. If you've saved money in several account types, by tapping into your savings in a strategic manner, you can save yourself thousands of dollars in taxes over the course of your retirement.

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