Retirement Planning for Singles
There is a growing trend among the nation’s
retirees: unplanned singlehood
A March 2012 report by the BMO Retirement Institute, “Single
in Retirement,” offers interesting analysis of the number of Americans who
live alone in their golden years, and it offers some advice on how to deal with
Predictably, according to a 2011 U.S. Census Bureau report,
43% of people ages 65 and over are single. Their marital status is attributable
to the death of their spouse (63% of older singles), divorce (28%), or having
never married (9%). The percent of older singles is almost certain to rise as
baby boomers reach retirement age, especially among women, who tend to outlive
men by a large margin and whose salaries and pensions tend to be lower than
those of men.
Single retirees have a 40-50% higher cost of living
compared to married couples, and single women tend to have half the money saved
for retirement than that of couples in the same age bracket. Trying to maintain the same standard of living on one
person’s pension instead of two can be daunting. There are also potentially
additional expenses that a newly single person can incur when a spouse is no
longer there to help with cooking, cleaning, household maintenance or other
Planning Is Key
For a working-age single person, planning for retirement is
at least as important as it is for a married couple. Regardless of marital
status, taking a realistic look at your financial situation can be the first
step toward having confidence in your financial stability going into retirement.
Many people are understandably reluctant to discuss or even think about the
possibility of facing retirement alone, but starting the planning process is
essential to ensure that your golden years aren’t burdened with constant
The BMO report includes these recommendations:
Plan for retirement as early as possible. Without
another source of financial support to cushion them, planning for probabilities
and eventualities becomes paramount.
Build and sustain wealth. With retirements extending
well past the 10-year mark that was typical a generation or two ago, the
financial pressure of retirement has increased. Not surprisingly, many retirees
experience a loss of wealth throughout their retirement years, and that loss is
even more pronounced among single retirees.
Get a clear picture of income and expenses.
every pension scenario (whether a private pension or Social Security) favors a
person who is or was married. At the same time, single people spend a larger
percentage of their income, compared to a couple, on housing-related expenses.
Those and other factors create an income-expense squeeze that can be especially
harsh for singles.
Focus on social and emotional well-being.
identity loss and loneliness are normal for all retirees, and it can be even
more stressful when you go through it alone. Many studies show that depression
can be averted by taking an active role in the community and staying socially
connected. Furthermore, these behaviors can have a direct, positive impact on
Devise a comprehensive health strategy (including
end-of-life decision making). Lacking the extra financial resources and personal
care a spouse can provide, single retirees may have a greater need to plan for
the probability of health care expenses.
Talk to Someone (Soon)
Even if you are already feeling financial stress while
still working, don’t let the scenario described deter you from preparing for
single retirement. Any positive steps you take now are likely to improve your
situation later. Seeking guidance from a qualified advisor who can analyze your
needs and suggest possible options is a good way to start – and to gain new hope
for a good life in retirement.