How Americans Living on Social Security Can Use These Programs to Cover Their Bills

by TK Sanders

Investment specialists originally envisioned the American retirement as three equal legs of a stool: pensions, savings, and Social Security. Few companies besides the government even offer pensions anymore, and savings accounts like a 401(k) can be volatile, since they are tied to reckless, whimsical debt instruments like the fiat-backed stock market.

Social Security is all that remains for many retirees, with many of them relying on the program for up to 90 percent of their retirement income. But the average monthly payment for a household in June of 2021 was just $1,555; so how can recipients really survive on this paltry payout? Cost of living adjustments (COLA) boosted payouts by about 6 percent this year, but many retirees still worry about keeping up with rising costs.

“People are really starting to feel the impact of inflation, especially on everyday things,” said Kristen Holt, a nonprofit debt counselor. “And that’s putting a big strain on people living on a fixed income.”

If you are living exclusively on Social Security payments, here are some methods for improving your day-to-day economic outlook.

Applying for food benefits is an easy way to alleviate your basic cost of living costs. Many seniors do not take advantage of the food benefits available to them; in fact, a study showed that about less than half of eligible seniors use the programs whatsoever.

“For seniors, there tends to be a lot of misunderstanding about the program and a lot of stigma, and unfortunately that stands in the way of people seeking help,” said Josh Protas, vice president of a hunger nonprofit.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offers seniors a $250 monthly food benefit. That’s more than $60 per week in found money for grocery bills, a nice help for any shopper. Besides grocers, online retailers and farmers markets also accept SNAP.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also administers the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. That program offers low-income people over the age of 60 a monthly food package, containing fruits, vegetables, cheeses and more. Medicaid health plans also offer participants specialized food shortage solutions, like Mom’s Meals, or food assistance directly following a hospital stay.

According to their website, Mom’s Meals typically delivers food every two to three weeks. They include dishes like Salisbury steak, pasta and meatballs, and sweet and sour chicken.

Lowering drug costs is a great way for seniors to save money

Taking advantage of lower drug costs is another way for seniors to maximize their Social Security during retirement.

Many seniors are eligible for assistance with their monthly premiums under the Medicare Savings Program, according to Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for a health care nonprofit.

“If you qualify, your premiums, deductibles and copays will be covered,” Donovan said.

Medicare Part D also offers a plan called Extra Help. This benefit, alone, can be worth over $5,000 annually.

Many charitable organizations also exist that are dedicated to improving seniors’ healthcare costs. The National Patient Advocate Foundation has a financial resource directory. There, seniors can search for local aid for everything from dental care to funeral services.