There is a good chance that most retirees will be single some or part of their retirement. More retirees have elected to never marry, or have experienced a loss of a spouse due to death or divorce.
Retirement becomes a test of self-reliance. As ABC News notes, the Elder Orphan Facebook Group recently polled its 8,500 members about the “safety net” they had and collected 500 responses.
Thirty-five percent said they lacked “friends or family to help them cope with life’s challenges,” and 70 percent had no specific idea of who their caregiver would be in event of mental or physical decline.
What about you?
Think about what you do for your elderly parents or what you have done. Nearly everyone either has or knows someone who made great sacrifices while caring for elderly parents.
Look ahead and consider who or what resource could provide that help to you someday. The answer is often not an easy one.
Money, or the lack of it, is nearly always a problem for single retirees.
Building up retirement savings in a workplace retirement plan and traditional IRA is good because you can lower your taxable income through the pre-tax contributions and position the invested assets with taxes deferred.
You may want to consider partly or fully converting a traditional IRA to a Roth before retiring.
Traditional IRA owners must take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) once they reach age 70-and-a-half, and each RMD is taxed as regular income.
For a single, retired taxpayer, that can be rough: you can find yourself tossed into a higher tax bracket, but without the tax breaks afforded to married couples. Original owners of Roth IRAs never need to take RMDs.
Want a larger monthly Social Security benefit?
Then work longer and wait longer to claim Social Security. If you are divorced and were married for 10 years or longer, you are likely eligible for spousal benefits reflecting your former spouse’s income history.
If your ex-spouse was a comparatively high earner, your total benefits could see a boost.
In retiring solo, you do have a flexibility that married couples do not.
If you feel like moving and downsizing, go right ahead.
If you want to bring in roommates or decide you want to retire to French Polynesia, Chile, or Italy, the only “yes” you need is yours.
If you decide to retire later or earlier, you can make that decision independent of spousal approval. All this freedom is nice, and it is perhaps the greatest retirement perk a single person has.
Just be sure to prepare for the future pragmatically.