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What Retirement Without Savings Looks Like

By Paul Sisolak, GOBankingRates.com (TNS)

In a perfect world, the perfect retirement is where life begins. But for people like Debra Leigh Scott, there’s the very bleak possibility that retirement is where life might end.

“Suicide is my retirement plan,” Scott, a 60-year-old adjunct professor, said in an interview with Vitae, an online career hub operated by The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Unless you have a spouse or partner, you’re looking at dire poverty in old age. In addition to poverty, you’re looking at getting no additional work because of your age, or you’re looking at dropping dead in the classroom.”

Scott, a divorced mother of two grown children, has been teaching for over a quarter century but never received the tenured position she hoped for. After years of financial struggles — including the loss of a home — she has no money saved for retirement.

Fewer Americans than ever before are adequately prepared financially to retire. In a survey earlier this year by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald and Associates, 28 percent of respondents said they have less than $1,000 in savings and investments poised for retirement. A 2014 Federal Reserve survey paints a more discouraging picture: 31 percent of non-retired respondents have zero retirement savings — 19 percent of them ages 55 to 64.

Scott’s story is a real-life reminder that paints a painful portrait most people would rather avoid. With their golden years well ahead of them, many people assume there will be enough money stored up to retire without a hitch. And they don’t even want to think about considering the alternative. But for many adults behind on retirement savings, they might be unaware of the realities of retiring without enough money in the bank.

If that money isn’t there by the time you retire, that ideal retirement — world travel, time spent with family, and a life of leisure, relaxation and hobbies — will have to come with some major downgrades to compensate for your lack of savings.

YOU’LL NEED TO LIVE OFF YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
The average Social Security check for retirees is $1,287. “Social Security can help boomers make ends meet during their golden years, but for many, it won’t be enough,” wrote Donna Fuscaldo of Fox Business. If you’re single and qualify for Supplemental Security Income, you might be able to barely live off Social Security and SSI, but if you have any extenuating expenses, like a mortgage or supporting adult children returning to the nest, you cannot.

YOU MIGHT HAVE TO GET A ROOMMATE
Steve Vernon of CBS MoneyWatch offered the example of a single, 65-year-old woman with a $50,000 annual salary — and no savings or assets to invest — looking to retire. “To help cover her living expenses, one option she may want to consider is the ‘Golden Girls’ solution of sharing living quarters with other people in her situation,” he wrote. “If she owns her house, she may want to consider renting a room to bring in more income.”

YOU’LL HAVE TO ALTER YOUR LIFESTYLE AND SPENDING
If Vernon’s hypothetical retiree wants to retire full time at age 70, “she’ll need to focus on buying ‘just enough’ to meet her needs and be happy. Most likely this will be a struggle, unless she has paid off the mortgage on her house, which will make things a little easier,” he wrote.

YOU’LL NEED TO CONSIDER DOWNSIZING
Selling your big house or car and downgrading to smaller, more affordable living arrangements and transportation can save money. If every decade of your working life has been to dream bigger and bigger, however, scaling down smaller and smaller in retirement might seem a bit anticlimactic.

Trying to retire without any savings in the bank can be difficult, and that difficulty is compounded by other factors senior citizens need to keep in mind as they age, like health issues and mobility. If saving money is not possible for you, retirement doesn’t have to pass you by. There are plenty of government-assisted and nonprofit programs that can help you, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Medicare, senior housing help from Housing and Urban Development and other resources.
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Paul Sisolak writes for GOBankingRates.com (), a leading portal for personal finance news and features, offering visitors the latest information on everything from interest rates to strategies on saving money, managing a budget and getting out of debt.

Photo: Beware. 401(k) 2012 via Flickr

5 Exotic Places You Can Visit For $10 A Day Or Less

Paul Sisolak, GOBankingRates.com (TNS)

When you combine all of the expenses that go into travel, like airfare, hotels, food, sightseeing and more, the idea of picking up and exploring different corners of the world can seem too expensive for the budget-conscious adventurer. The good news is that some of the most exotic and unique international locations can sometimes be the most affordable.

Off the beaten tourist path, visitors can immerse themselves in new destinations without spending a fortune. Before planning your next global trek, read on to find out how these travelers saved money while vacationing around the world on mere dollars per day.

CAMBODIA
Visiting this Southeast Asian gem is so cost-effective that it must be experienced to be believed. “Cambodia is the land of $2 dorm beds, 50-cent beers and cheap food,” according to HostelBookers. Even after factoring in costs like admission to Angkor Wat, you’d be hard-pressed to spend more than $20 a day here, according to the travel site.

When traveler Wes Rogers took a tour of Cambodia, a $5-per-night rate afforded him guesthouse accommodations with amenities comparable to a high-end hotel. But it was dining where he saved the most money. “With food carts and noodle/curry houses abounding, eating great food cheap was the easiest part,” he said.

“I concluded it was cheaper to eat out in Asia than to cook at home — by far,” said Rogers. “For simplicity’s sake, I’d say I’d spend $1 per meal, sometimes $2 for dinner. At the end of the day, you’d have a couple bucks left for a few beers,” he said. “Not a bad life for $10 a day in some fantastic, exotic locations.”

LAOS
Laos is another Southeast Asian locale where lodging can be found for under $10 and food and drink for only a dollar or two, according to HostelBookers. “Laos is where you get the most bang for your buck,” said Alex Gordon, a realtor from Oregon who traveled to Laos. “When you get to a new town, find out where other backpackers may stay — or where a local would recommend to a backpacker — and hoof it around the area,” he said. “You’re going to find some awesome guesthouses for dirt cheap and likely more friendly (than hotels).”

For food and beverage, eat and drink as the locals do, Gordon suggested. “Eat where you see the locals eating,” Gordon said. “These are poor countries, so you won’t find some Thai scarfing down pizza. Rice and chicken can be found cheap if you find the right spot.”

JAMAICA
“Buying locally can stretch your budget,” said Keisha Blair, who traveled cheaply in premium-priced, tropical Jamaica during a sabbatical. “I found that when I purchased imported foods, my food bill was astronomical. Five dollars to $10 per day is doable.”

Blair recommended travelers cook their own food. The easiest way is to simply lodge where the food is. “Choose to stay in a location where you can shop at the local market for fresh fruits and vegetables to prepare at home,” she said. “Local fruits and vegetables that are in season are extremely cheap.” Blair also noted that selecting affordable transportation and rooming with family or friends are key to living the island life on a tight budget.

CHINA
The Chinese countryside is a beautiful destination with many opportunities for savings, according to Thrillist, such as rooms for less than $20 a day, food for $2 to $5 per meal and local city transportation for less than a dollar.

Brett War managed to rent an apartment in Shenzhen for less than $5 per day and recommended staying away from developing cities like Shanghai or Hong Kong if your budget is limited. Instead, opt for places like Lijiang, Dali, Kunming, Guilin and Sichuan. Maximize your savings by rooming in hostels, not hotels, by booking cheaper flight plans through Chinese, not American, travel sites, and by avoiding vacations during Chinese holidays.

Unlike in the West, everything is negotiable in China, according to War. “When buying souvenirs, barter down to half the price,” he said. “In China, no price is fixed, and if they don’t accept your recommended price, walk away. They will usually stop you and accept your proposal.”

FIJI
Fiji is a South Pacific country of more than 300 islands with a reputation for seeming expensive, according to Thrillist. The site recommends skipping the $1,000-a-night resorts for dorm rooms, hostels or all-inclusive guesthouses that go for $25 a night instead.

Beaches are free, traveling the island is cheap and you can find beautiful, low-cost sites to enjoy, such as the Taveuni waterfalls or the Nadi open-air souvenir market.

Paul Sisolak writes for GOBankingRates.com (http://www.gobankingrates.com), a leading portal for personal finance news and features, offering visitors the latest information on everything from interest rates to strategies on saving money, managing a budget and getting out of debt.

Photo: Laos is dirt cheap, and is one of the best bangs for your buck if you’re looking to visit Southeast Asia. (Khánh Hmoong via Flickr)