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17 Powerful Tips for Retiring Alone

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December 7, 2023 •  Emily Hicks Law, PLLC
Are you one of the 20 million unmarried U.S. residents age 65 and older? Today, we're sharing 17 tips to help you retire confidently and enjoy your life solo!

Are you one of the 20 million unmarried U.S. residents age 65 and older? Pew research estimates that 27% of adults 60 and older live alone. These aging solo adults are often referred to as elder orphans or solo seniors.

In a world designed for couples, it can feel daunting moving through the retirement years alone.

Today, we're sharing 17 tips to help you retire confidently and enjoy your life solo!

1. You Need a Personalized Plan — Retirement Rules of Thumb Don’t Work as Well for Singles

As someone who is single, it is probably even more important for you to create a personalized and detailed retirement plan rather than just relying on rules of thumb like 4% drawdown rules or spending 80% of what you spent while working when you are retired.

When thinking about a will, living will, or power of attorney, it might be difficult to choose someone to take on this responsibility when needed. Will it be a friend, one of your children, or a sibling? Choose someone that will honor your wishes.

Work with a financial advisor, CPA, and estate law attorney to create a custom plan for you.

2. Overcome Your Financial Insecurities

According to a study from Northwestern Mutual, “Overall, single men and women are generally less satisfied with their financial circumstances than married Americans.”

And, “Financial anxiety runs high among singles. More than four in 10 (45%) of single men and half (50%) of single women say they feel either a moderate or a lot of anxiety about their personal financial security — a substantially higher percentage than married individuals (35% married men and 41% married women).”

Once you meet with the experts, create a budget to make sure your financial needs in retirement are met long term.

3. Maintain a Schedule

Experts suggest that a major contributor to decline after retirement is the lack of the schedule that a job provides. When you retire — especially if you live alone — having a place to go every day can be an important aspect of staying vital. Whether it's a yoga class, volunteer work, or a simply walking the dog every morning, a routine gives you a reason to get up every day and some degree of accountability.

4. Special Note for People Who Become Single After Retirement

Many retirees become single AFTER retirement. It is typical for one partner to take the responsibility of either managing the finances or managing the home, for example. If one passes before the other, it's important that the spouse left behind can learn the role their spouse filled. Maybe it's learning how to cook for one or learning how retirement accounts work. Be open to learning new things and taking on different roles in retirement.

5. Consider Adopting a Pet

The research on the benefits of owning a dog is overwhelming and is probably particularly true if you are single. Beyond emotional benefits like their unconditional love of us, one study found that dog owners need fewer doctor visits. Another study from Australia found that pet owners had lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and a lower heart attack risk than people without pets.

if a dog or a cat sounds like too much work, consider an unconventional pet like a hamster, rabbit, or sugar glider. I have a friend who has a pet turtle named Thunder! Pets like these are great for retirees who have mobility issues.

6. Cultivate a Support Network

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, maintaining friendships is critical to your health and well-being.

You need people you can rely on emotionally and for life help. And, believe it or not, science says that you are way better off when you have people who rely on you.

Create a buddy system with a group of friends or neighbors who can help each other when needed.

7. Stay Social

Besides the practical support, a lot of research has shown the benefits of being social as we age. The links between healthy social relationships and better health are well established. One study from the Pennsylvania State University found that when social activities are linked to physical exercise, even more benefits are achieved.

8. Avoid Emotional Loneliness

Being alone can be great if you are an introvert, but feeling lonely can have a detrimental impact on your health.

In fact, older people who experience the highest levels of “emotional loneliness” are at a greater risk of premature mortality — 18.6% increased risk of all-cause mortality.

We encourage you to stay in touch with friends and family whether it's phone calls, texting, or old fashioned pen and paper.

9. Think Carefully About Where You Live

Housing is generally your biggest retirement expense. Whether married or not, all retirees need to think carefully about their housing choices.

As someone single, you have more flexibility about where you live — consider the pros and cons of some of these options:

Live Abroad: If you don’t have adult children or grandchildren, there might be few drawbacks to living abroad. It can be such a wonderful (and cost-efficient) opportunity.

Live in a Walkable Community: A walkable community might be better for you in case you can no longer drive.

Find Roommates: Remember The Golden Girls? Living together with other single friends can cut your costs and provide the built-in support you might want or need.

Retire to a Retirement Community: Retirement communities give you built-in “community” — a group of people like you.

Go Tiny: If it’s just you, could you handle living in a tiny home?

10. Divorced or Widowed? Think Through Your Social Security Claiming Strategy

You probably know that delaying the start of your Social Security benefits until 70 will maximize your monthly benefit check.

However, did you know that if you are divorced or widowed that you could start benefits earlier while still benefitting from a maximized benefit? You can first claim your earned benefit as soon as you are eligible and later switch to a survivor benefit (or the reverse, depending on who has higher benefits).

To collect Social Security on your ex’s record, you must have been married for at least 10 years and have not remarried.

11. Take Special Note of Your Heart Health

According to the American College of Cardiology, single adults are 5% more likely to develop heart disease than their married peers.

As such, pay special attention to your heart health — get regular checkups.

12. Identify Financial and Health Proxies

There is a lot more to estate planning than figuring out what to do with your assets. Notably, as someone single, it is very important that you have documented someone who can speak for you and your wishes if something happens to you. How do you want to be cared for and how do you want your finances managed if you can not speak for yourself?

Book a call with us to discuss your options!

13. Define and Communicate Your Plan in Case of a Long-Term Care Event

69% of Americans will need long-term care, even though only 37% think they will, according to

Many married couples expect that they will be able to care for each other in case of a long-term care event, although it doesn't always end up this way. This is simply not the case for someone who is single. It is therefore extra important that you figure out how you want to be cared for and how you are going to pay for it.

14. Seek Support if You Are Concerned

You might be alone, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need support. Here are a few resources that might be useful to you:

Join a Facebook Group for Single Seniors: The Elder Orphans Facebook group is for people who are over 55, without a spouse, and without nearby children. The page is designed to let members exchange ideas and find answers to questions they have.

Start a Club: Want a network of single seniors closer to home? Start your own club! Will it be a book club? Or maybe it's a group who loves to try new restaurants? Find common interests with those around you and get out there!

15. Identify Someone to Check in With Regularly

Whether you are worried about a health event, a fall, or perhaps dementia, it will be invaluable for you to have someone you check in with regularly. Your contact can be a friend, family member, or neighbor.

Communicate your concerns and let your contact know how you will want them to handle various situations.

16. Invest in an Alert System

You probably remember the commercials, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” You never know when a health event will happen, and if you live alone having a system in place will give you security.

17. Don’t Give Up on Travel

Travel is the number one goal of most retirees. Just because you are single, doesn’t mean you have to give up on adventure! Find a travel group or create your own!

Reference: New Retirement (May 10, 2023), Kathleen Coxwell, 17 Powerful Tips for Retiring Alone (Or, If You Become a Solo Senior or Elder Orphan During Retirement)

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