We’ve told you before about some of the ways that single people get screwed over financially, including having to spend more on health insurance and taxes. Now, let’s talk about how being single – specifically, a single woman – affects your retirement prospects.
Women are already at a disadvantage when it comes to saving for retirement. They tend to earn less money, take more time away from the workforce to care for family members, are less likely to have access to retirement benefits, and live longer than men (in the U.S., life expectancy for men is roughly 76; for women, it’s 81, according to the CDC).
Single women are in an even worse spot. They can’t count on a spouse’s income to help shore up their retirement savings or net them more in Social Security benefits. They’re more likely to be shouldering all of their housing costs both while they’re working and in retirement. And they may have fewer people they can count on to help them out in their old age. It’s hardly a surprise that 44% of single women (and 51% of those who are widowed or divorced) say they are behind on their retirement planning, according to a Prudential survey.
None of that means that the 55 million single women over the age of 18 in the U.S. will never be able to retire. Hardly. But it does meant that women who aren’t married should take extra care in planning for their financial future, whether they never plan to get hitched, are divorced or widowed, or are still holding out for Mr. or Mrs. Right.
Here are six rules for single women to keep in mind when planning for retirement.
1. Save early and often
Procrastination is deadly when it comes to retirement planning. That’s doubly true for single women, who must fund their post-work life entirely on their own. Women should start saving for retirement as soon as they start working, even if it’s only a small amount of money to start. “Save early,” said Melissa Motz, a wealth adviser and president of Motz Wealth Management, in an interview. “Put retirement savings right up there with housing and food as far as a priority.”
Once you start saving, keep at it, and don’t plunder those accounts when other expenses arise. “Make a commitment to save money each year specifically for retirement in separate accounts that aren’t touched for other expenses,” Cathy Curtis, CFP, of Curtis Financial Planning told.