Traveling After Retirement? One Way to Cut Expenses

You may find your living expenses go up when you retire instead of going down. Here is one way you can travel at a significant discount to what most travelers will pay–courtesy of Uncle Sam.

There are certainly pros and cons of being retired. It is likely your income will go down unless you decide to go back to work by taking another job. Many retirees assume their expenses will go down as well. You won’t have to buy gas to commute to work; you won’t have to wear suits or skirts to work and you can “dress down” as you see fit; your dry cleaning bill will go down and, perhaps, you won’t be buying lunch at the small eateries near your office every afternoon.

But, to the surprise of many retirees, their expenses actually go up instead of down. So, with a lower income and higher expenses, the outcome is predictable. You may find yourself looking for ways to spend less money.

Hopefully, you have arranged to pay off your mortgage before you retire. The only advantage of carrying a mortgage and investing the rest of your money is to try to get a better return than the interest you are paying to your lender. In retirement, a maximum potential return is no longer the goal. Instead, you need to preserve what you have. Many retirees will achieve this by selling their house in a more expensive housing market and then buying a house in a less expensive area since you will not have to be close to your job.

One of the biggest reasons for spending more money in retirement is that you have more time to do things. Working for Uncle Sam, you may have planned your two-week vacation in advance. But, when you are no longer trudging into work each day, you may find you have the time to have a much longer vacation. More time means you can also spend considerably more money than when you were working. One article recently suggested that a person retiring will need 135% of the income the same person had before retirement in order to live the life they would like to have after leaving the world of work.

If you are like many retiring federal employees, you will want to take advantage of your new found freedom in order to travel. Here is one benefit offered by the federal government to retirees you may want to take advantage of to save a few dollars on your trip. Actually, you don’t have to be retired. You just have to be 62 or older and, presumably, getting closer to retirement even if you are still working.

The National Park Service will sell you a lifetime pass for getting into the national parks around the United States for a one-time fee of $10. I bought one of these passes at the Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Compared to the $80 per year that is normally charged for a pass, this is a very good deal that you will want to take advantage of if you plan on visiting some of the national parks that can be the highlight of any vacation.

Here is how you can get one:

You can pick up this lifetime pass at a federal recreation site or through the mail using this application form. The cost of obtaining a Senior Pass through the mail is twenty dollars ($20). $10 is for the Senior Pass and $10 is for processing the application. You will have to provide proof of your age and residency or citizenship.

The benefit of the pass may go beyond just a discount on getting into our national parks. The pass will also provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, launching your new boat, and specialized interpretive services.

Moreover, the pass is good for more than just getting into our national parks. The Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation honor the Senior Pass at places where entrance or amenity Fees are charged.

Enjoy your retirement. Live you life the way you want to—keeping in mind that your lifestyle choices have to be in line with your income and your assets. In the scheme of things, saving a few hundred dollars on entrance fees to visit some of the most beautiful land in America may not seem like much but it will give you a good start and an incentive to hit the road and enjoy your retirement while you are still relatively young and healthy.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47