Blogging Boomers Carnival #192
The Retirement Show 2011 in Manchester

What impact does being a single woman have on retirement?

I've written before about the financial impact that being a woman has on retirement and obviously, all the points I made in that article about women, generally, being poorer in retirement can be especially relevant for single women because we don't have another income to fall back on.

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!


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