These days more Americans are heading into their retirement years on their own. According to the Census Bureau, 35 percent of folks in their 50s were single in 2010, up from 29 percent in 2000. That is partly due to an increase in the divorce rate as well as many people simply deciding to remain single.
The proliferation of “singlehood” creates a need for additional planning to overcome the challenge of not having that extra family income. Being single affects how much you need to save for retirement and how prepared you will need to be for financial emergencies.
Flying solo means you can’t bank on a second retirement plan or an additional Social Security check. Interestingly, the living expenses that one person accrues are more than half of the living expenses of a couple. Why? Because a single person does not necessarily spend less on certain items than a couple, but must cover it with one income.
This means you will also have to save about 15-20 percent more than your married counterpart. Another option is to work at least part-time in retirement. Explore ways to trim expenses, such as moving in with a roommate or family member.
Hope for the best but prepare for the worst-case scenario.
- Having an adequate emergency fund is critical for a single person. If you suddenly get a pink slip or become ill, you don’t have the financial safety net of a family to cushion your fall.
- Know that the right insurance is part of “emergency planning.” You may not have dependents and therefore no need for life insurance, but it’s imperative to have disability insurance and long-term care coverage. Disability insurance replaces a portion of your income, about 50 to 70 percent. If your employer doesn’t offer this, make room in your budget for an individual policy. Long-term care insurance covers the expenses of a nursing home or home health care if needed.
- Enlist your friends to step in when needed. If you became incapacitated or disabled, you would want your bills to be paid, your plants watered and your cats fed. You can appoint someone you trust, in your power of attorney, to step in and help make financial and medical decisions when you no longer can.
Singles face more challenges than married couples because they have to rely only on themselves financially. This is especially true as singles age, their health deteriorates and their income declines.
To those who choose to remain single, being on their own is synonymous with freedom. But freedom comes with responsibility and, ironically, many singles, especially those without kids, tend to spend more than married couples because they don’t have the same urgency to save. This is exactly why it is even more important for the single person to have a plan. If you equate being single with being self-sufficient, then take responsibility now in order to live out your retirement years with ease and dignity.
Mystified by money and want to improve your financial effectiveness? Denisa Tova CFP®, CDFA, MBA is a Colorado Springs-based Certified Financial Planner and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. Contact her at DenisaTova.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.