Of course, some women have always been single, have never had kids, have never had time out of the workforce and have been receiving regular promotions and pay rises which they immediately invested, so we can't lump all single women together, financially. But the majority of single women that I come across are divorced and, for those of us who are divorced, divorce and the costs associated with it - such as those incurred in dividing up assets and setting up another home - can wipe out any nest eggs and savings that would normally have been intended for retirement.
I think, because we now know that women live approximately 7 years longer than men and generally have less money invested for retirement, many of us do worry that the money will run out and we'll become a bag-lady (although I don't think you necessarily need to be single to worry about that - I read somewhere that every woman, no matter how wealthy, has a fear of becoming a bag lady!)
I think many single women worry about how and where they'll live in retirement. Through my work with people who are retiring I know that, whoever we are, male or female, married or single, we all want the same thing - we all want to go on living in our own homes, independently, for as long as we possibly can (and then we want to die in our sleep in our own bed, preferably without being ill first or, at worst after a very short illness). I think that, as we get older, many of us single women have worries about our ability to do all that - it might not be something that keeps us awake at night but it's still there in the back of our minds. For example: I'm single. I've never had a broody moment in my life, hence, I have no kids. I also have no nieces or nephews, so, potentially, I don't have anyone to keep an eye on me when I get old. I'm acutely aware of the need to do everything I can, now, to avoid the dreaded nursing home when I get old - things like eating my 5 fruit and veggies every day, exercising for at least half an hour 6 days a week, keeping an eye on my weight and not over-indulging my sweet tooth. Obviously there are still no guarantees that I'll manage to avoid a nursing home, no matter what I do to stay healthy, but at least I'll know that I did everything I could.
Another theory I have on this theme of the impact that being single has on retirement - and I have no real evidence of this - but I think that the amount of acceptance that women have about being single may also have some bearing on retirement success. I think we all know women who still have some of that 'Some day my prince will come' thing going on - they're still hoping that some man will swoop in and rescue them, so they don't bother too much about rescuing themselves.
One of the questions I ask on the discussion forum on my membership site is 'How single are you?'. I imagine a continuum, with 'single but with a companion' at one end and 'single and not looking' at the other, and then there are various stages in between such as 'Single and desperate to find someone', or 'Single and looking' or 'Single and keeping an eye open' and the stage I'm in, which is 'Single and likely to remain so' (unless, of course, Edward Norton decides that he'd prefer an older woman and turns up on my doorstep looking for me). I haven't completely closed that door but I love my life the way it is, I'm quite happy to be single for the rest of it, and I find that a lot of my members are of the same opinion.
So, as I said previously, I have no real evidence of this, but I suspect that women who are more accepting of their single status - those who are happy to be single for the rest of their life if needs be - are more likely to just get on with it. They know that there are certain experiences that they want to have in retirement and they have that 'if it's to be, it's up to me' attitude.
So, to end on a happy note after all that talk about poverty and being single for ever, I read an article from AARP magazine entitled "The Secret Lives of Single Women" which said that 63 percent of single women who live alone say they think of their older years as a time to pursue their dreams and do things they've always wanted to do. It went on to say that 80 percent of single women agree that as they get older, they feel more free to be themselves
I think that we single women have become well used to finding solutions to our problems on our own - we've had to do. We've had to learn to become resourceful and I think that that resourcefulness will sustain us in retirement. It may involve us working longer than we'd hoped, we might have to get part-time jobs, we might have to be more frugal than we'd hoped or to move somewhere where it's cheaper to live, we might be renting out our spare rooms, or tapping our home equity, we might be looking for some sort of 'golden-girls-style' living arrangement, or living with our kds or elderly parents in some sort of multi-generational household... but we'll make it work. As one woman said: "I know it's going to work out, I'm not sure how and it's probably not going to be in the conventional way, but it's going to work out."
If you're a single woman who is contemplating retirement, you might enjoy being a member of our free membership site: The Association of Retired Single Women. All you need to become a member is the determination to get the retirement you deserve, an enquiring mind and a willingness to share your thoughts and observations with the other single women on this site. Join us today!
In a recent interview, I was asked the following question:
What are your best tips for single women who want to plan their retirement?
This was my answer:
1. If you haven't done so already, start to think about what a successful retirement would look and feel like for you. What do you think are the component parts of a successful retirement? Write them all down. Try to define your successful retirement in a paragraph.
2. If you haven't done it already, make your bucket list of things that you want to be, do, have and experience before you kick the bucket. Then plan to do them. And, more importantly, take the necessary action steps. Is there anything you can be doing right now to prepare so you can hit the ground running once you retire?
3. Make a list of the things that make you most happy and then plan to do them as often as possible - daily if you can.
4. Do what women are best at - continue to cultivate supportive relationships - get out there, make new friends of all ages, seek out old friends (that's never been so easy with sites such as Friends Reunited, Genes Reunited, Facebook, etc). Build a mutually-supportive network around yourself.
5. If you tend to mainly socialise with people that you work with, start thinking about the people you want to continue to have a relationship with once you retire, and give some thought to the ways in which you could do that. I think it's worth pointing out that, if you want to remain in contact with colleagues and friends from work, you need to be prepared to do most of the work involved in staying in touch yourself - even if it feels like you're the only one making the phone calls and suggesting the meet-ups. Life moves on and, even though people start off with the best intentions of keeping in touch, it doesn't always work out that way.
6. Consider whether you have enough hobbies, interests and activities to keep you occupied. Retirement frees up between 2,000 and 3,000 hours a year, after you add in the time you spend commuting, thinking about and working on work-related activities at home and physically getting ready for work each day. Do you have a nice mix of activities that you can do both alone and with other people? If you live alone, like your own company and prefer solitary activities such as reading and gardening, there can be a tendency to become isolated in retirement. If you're aware that you have these traits (and I definitely do) you might want to consider making regular efforts to get out to meet up with existing friends and make some new ones.
7. If you haven't done so already, start to think about how (and where) you want to live in retirement. Do you want to stay put or is a move on the cards? If you want to relocate, you might want to consider looking for some place that's considered to be particularly single-friendly with lots of things to do, and many opportunities to get involved. What factors are important to you when considering where to live? What sort of community do you want to belong to? What features of a neighbourhood would be essential and what features would be desirable? These are all things to be considered.
8. Get a fee-based, certified, financial adviser/manager that you trust, that you can relate to and whom you feel understands the unique financial needs and circumstances of women. Check in with them on a regular basis to make sure that your money is still invested in the best way that will meet your needs.
9. If you're getting close to retirement, try living on your estimated retirement income now to see how you get on with that. Then, if you find out you're going to struggle, you can do something now before it's too late - for example, you can look for a part-time job or move somewhere cheaper.
10. Visualize your ideal retirement. Focus in on a day in that retirement. What would it look and feel like? Where would you like to be waking up? What would you do when you got out of bed? What would be the view when you looked out of your bedroom window? What could you smell? What could you hear? What kind of clothes would you be putting on? How would you spend your day? What activities would you engage in? How would you be feeling? Which companions would you like to have around you? Who would you be speaking to during the course of the day? What would you be eating? What would you be doing in the evening?
Write it all down. Make it as detailed as possible and keep it close at hand so that you can add to it when you think of something else. Then, think about the following:
What would it take to achieve your ideal retirement?
What might be the consequences of pursuing your ideal retirement?
What might be the consequences of NOT pursuing your ideal retirement?
Are you prepared, or able, to take whatever action is necessary? If not, what are you prepared, or able, to do to narrow the gap between the likely reality of your retirement and your ideal retirement? How close to your ideal could you get?
In retirement coaching circles, there's a well-known saying that, 'Most people spend longer planning their annual holiday or vacation than they do planning their retirement'. By following these tips, you'll be ahead of the curve and give yourself the best chance to avoid joining the 20% of people who report feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned with retirement.
It gives me great pleasure to announce that my new membership site, The Association of Retired Single Women, opens for business today!
Whether you're an 'always single' woman or, like me, you're 'single again', I want you to have the happiest, healthiest, most vital, productive, energetic, prosperous and fulfilling retirement you could possibly have. At the same time, I want you to get the resources you need to help you balance having the kind of retirement you want and deserve to have, with planning to meet your future needs. That's what The Association of Retired Single Women is all about - and the good news is, it's completely free to join! In fact, you don't even need to be retired to join - if you're thinking about retirement or if you're within a few years of the traditional age for retirement, you're very welcome! All you need is the determination to get the retirement you deserve, an enquiring mind and a willingness to share your thoughts and observations with the other single women on this site.
To join, go to The Association of Retired Single Women and. if you like what you see, simply use the sign-up box on the top, right-hand side of the page and, once we've approved your application (just to make sure you're not a spammer), you'll be able to read the blog posts, watch videos, check out the resources and get involved with the discussions.
I hope you find the network to be informative and inspirational and look forward to reading your comments and thoughts on our forum.