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Singles and Retirement

Posted by marita40 (My Page) on
Fri, Dec 17, 10 at 13:54

I'd be very interested in hearing from other single folk who are in the stages of planning for retirement. I'm in my early 50s, fully (and happily) employed as a college professor, and beginning to do serious planning although I probably won't retire until I can take full social security. At what age do you hope to retire? Will you stay in your current home or move? What kind of investments or income sources will you have? Do you plan to work part time, or what kind of activities will you do? Anything you'd care to share would be helpful. I think singles are in a unique position in terms of retirment planning, and I don't see much written on their situations. Thanks.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Singles and Retirement

I will be looking forward to answers. Personally, I am divorced, just recently laid off, am old enough to be collecting SS. Would have liked to have worked at least another five years. Perhaps after winter will look for some part time work. Presently getting jobs done around the house, which have been long neglected. Have no one interested in traveling with me, fortunately did some while I was younger. While I am new in staying home, might think of a few months down south next winter, I do have a daughter and family in Florida, I wouldn't stay with them that long, but close by.

Anxious to hear from others. Thanks Marita40 for posting this! Jacque


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RE: Singles and Retirement

Single women are the fastest growing group of elderly poor. It takes good planning, in a holistic and comprehensive manner, to increase your chances of successfully avoiding becoming one of the negative statistics.

An excerpt from Could You Retire Without Social Security?
WSJournal December 17, 2010
“...According to government data, a 65-year-old woman can expect to live on average another 20 years. But these are only averages, and they are widely misunderstood. Some people will die at 66. Others will live to 100. What are your odds? According to federal data, for women aged 65, one in eight will live to 95. If you're making a pile of savings last, you need to plan for all contingencies.”

First of all, recognize that advances in medical technology are appearing faster and faster. Doctors can not only keep you alive in spite of diseases that once were automatic killers, they can keep you alive for a very long time with a very poor quality of life, unless you have taken the legal and financial steps to ensure what you want.

The minimum you should have is a will listing both an Executor and back-up Executor, a durable healthcare Power of Attorney with POLST (Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment) instructions, and a financial power of attorney that will become effective only if you are judged unable to manage to your own affairs.

Get those documents done FIRST. No excuses, no procrastinating.

Second, list your assets and debts. If you have worked for an employer long enough to become vested, find out if they purchase an annuity for employees in addition to the 401k account. Some do, some don’t. If they do - do not, under any circumstances, forget to keep them advised of any change of address. They are legally required to send you a letter when you turn 55 advising you of how much the monthly annuity payment will be. If you’ve moved and your former employer doesn’t know where to find you, you’ll never realize you’ve lost hundreds of $$$ by not keeping the HR dept. updated.

Third: Figure out your current cost of living. This may sound basic, but an astonishing number of people are too intimidated to face this honestly. Then look at your own family history and personal health - are you likely to live a long time, or do you have morbidity factors that make it likely that disability costs need to be factored in earlier in life?

Inflation is a basic cost: it’s the ‘hidden rat that nibbles your cheese.” A 3% inflation rate over 20 yrs, cuts the power of your current income exactly in half. That’s right, you’ll only have 50% of the buying power you have today.

Finally, are you saving enough? Social Security was never intended to be more than 1/3 of your retirement income. If you were 66 today and bought an immediate annuity paying a modest $10,000 a year, with a 3% annual increase to offset inflation, that policy would cost you $180,000.

Or, if you have an IRA in a balanced allocation of around 70% bonds/30% stocks (having shifted in retirement to this more conservative stance), it’s advised to take no more than 3-4% distribution each year. This allows you to increase your withdrawals to allow for inflation. Assuming a 4% withdrawal, you would need a portfolio of $1M liquid assets to generate $40,000 of income annually.

In retirement, once eligible for Medicare, you will need approximately $250K to $400K total, to cover 25-30 years of co-pays and medical costs not covered by Medicare, assuming it doesn’t go broke by 2025 as currently predicted.

Medicare DOES NOT pay for long-term nursing home care, nor does it pay for home health services at all. Those are Medicaid (state) or local county programs, and when times are tough - like now - those are first on the chopping block by cash-starved states.

The costs for licensed care facilities and bonded insured health aides vary widely by region. I live in a very high-labor-cost area, therefore good nursing homes cost approximately $80,000/yr and home healthcare services are $300/day for an 8-hr. daily aide who is bonded and insured.

I personally don’t feel the traditional statistics of “people only spend 2 yrs in nursing homes” to be valid for the upcoming Boomer generation. If you understand how insurance statistics are generated, you would know that statement is applicable to the WWII generation, where most elderly rely heavily on family and only go reluctantly into licensed care.

But now there are very few people I know who have someone home all day to take care of them when something happens to a family member. Equally few are the ones who have several family members nearby, less than 10 miles away. We Boomers are a widely scattered, transient generation, and senior care is a major issue, both for our parents and ourselves.

The last is the most difficult issue to address. Most people I know choose to ignore the dangers of disability/old age, and hope that nothing bad will happen to them. I’d rather plan for old age the way I made our retirement plans - by looking at all the scenarios, and mitigating the risk in the most cost-efficient way possible.

Although I’m not single, the planning DH and I did assumes that one or both of us is going to die at some point. Our financial plans try to ensure that no matter when that happens, the chance that the survivor is left impoverished is as low as we can possibly make it.

HTH, and best of luck to both of you going forward.


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RE: Singles and Retirement

Hi jkom, thanks for this article, although the headnote you put on it: "single women are the fastest growing group of elderly poor" is incredibly depressing and un-motivating. I really hope to plan for my retirement in a healthy and positive manner! I have two other questions for you. One, where does the article you cut and pasted end, and where do you add your own comments? It is hard to tell what the article says versus your own voice. Second, what are all those strange marks that appear in what you posted? I'm not sure why a post would do this.


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RE: Singles and Retirement

Sorry for the marks, it seems that when a cut-and-paste is done from Word, GW is now messing up with apostrophes and quote marks (it no longer properly 'translates' the Word SmartQuote symbols). I'm probably going to have to start using a basic text editor, which is annoying.

The article excerpt should read as follows:
An excerpt from Could You Retire Without Social Security?
WSJournal December 17, 2010
"...According to government data, a 65-year-old woman can expect to live on average another 20 years. But these are only averages, and they are widely misunderstood. Some people will die at 66. Others will live to 100. What are your odds? According to federal data, for women aged 65, one in eight will live to 95. If you're making a pile of savings last, you need to plan for all contingencies."

Beginning with "First of all, recognize that advances in medical technology...", are my continuing comments.

Why would you be unmotivated by knowing that it's within your power to avoid being one of the elderly poor, if you start planning properly now?

There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when planning, not the least of which is that any time a life-changing event occurs, you need to update your plan. Life-changing events are usually defined as: Birth, Death, Marriage, Divorce. I would add Job Change, because these days it can often be traumatic and costly, with long periods of unemployment.

To me this is one of the biggest reasons the middle-class needs better financial education and access to independent fiduciary financial planning. No one can plan properly if they don't know what to plan FOR. The advice of an ethical, independent, knowledgeable fiduciary advisor can truly make a difference in avoiding pitfalls and relying on erroneous or limited assumptions of risk. Financial security is not found solely within the limits of what the ROI is on an investment portfolio.

It would be great if everybody was interested in educating themselves on investing principles and financial planning basics. And in fact, almost all aspects of these two subjects are extensively covered in books and free articles on the Web. In reality, very few people are interested or have time to spend in extensive research on subjects they don't find compelling.

But it's in everyone's best interests to at least learn the basics, because as this thread shows, when a new subject looms up before you, it feels overwhelming and discouraging. It's better to take a few positive steps of basic organization, and then be willing to do some research on investing and planning basics.

Some of it can be DIY. But often it's helpful to be willing to pay for a few sessions with an ethical fiduciary advisor who can help you figure out what your biggest pitfalls are likely to be, based on your current finances, income, and goals.

Knowledge is truly power. You work hard for your money and to live a comfortable life. But people put more thought into where to take their car in for engine trouble, than to be willing to pay for good planning advice from a qualified professional with fiduciary responsibility.

Yet which is the more important so you can continue to enjoy a good standard of living, no matter what happens in the future? I would think we've seen enough stories of older Boomers and WWII seniors whose retirement planning was rudimentary. For these sad stories, the lack of proper planning has left them with fewer and fewer options as they face an extreme old age which increasing numbers of us are likely to achieve.

If you can indeed learn to invest sensibly with a moderate risk profile and create a flexible, comprehensive financial plan that can see you through economic chaos without difficulty, I truly hope that is the case. It is the cheapest solution and very sensible. But if you are NOT an unemotional, disciplined investor and CANNOT stress-test a financial plan or properly evaluate the cost value of risk mitigation, then at some point it could be penny-wise and pound-foolish not to find a fiduciary professional who can assist you in making the decisions that are best for you, not for your friends or anonymous web posters.


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RE: Singles and Retirement

I'm assuming that you've been saving, etc. all along despite retirement not being an immediate event. If not, early/mid 50's is a bit late to catch up even though fully and gainfully employed.

Maybe I'm the odd one out, but I started planning for my retirement the week I graduated from college, got my first(and the one I retired from) job and paycheck. I always looked at things financial as if I were going to be the primary source of my retirement well-being.

So, I retired at 55 with a pension and health benefits; pension is a given, stock dividends are still coming, but interest payouts are pretty punk. I still have my 403(b) to tap into at some future date - I didn't lose on that since I moved to fixed income just before the late 90's crash. The older I got the less risk I was willing to take. I did sign up for Social Security last month - no sense in waiting another year for full benefits.

I feel pretty satisfied I did everything I could possibly do to be self sufficient in my golden years. I did have good financial help and advice - that, and the value of a good lawyer, should never be under estimated.



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RE: Singles and Retirement

No, duluth, you're not the odd one out, but you're one of the sensible ones, LOL!

DH and I were sloppy about a lot of things and didn't catch on until our mid to late 40s. We're fortunate things worked out but like you, there was a pension for DH that we could rely upon. Sadly, fewer and fewer have that option any longer.

Anyway, it occurred to me I hadn't actually answered some of the OP's questions, so my bad. Here's my answers:

1) At what age do you hope to retire?

I retired in 2006 at age 55. DH retired at the end of 2009 at age 56. I retired because I couldn't find a job within reasonable commute distance that was worth being away from home 10 hrs/daily, 5 days/wk. Salaries had dropped precipitiously (and remain low even now). I had job offers, but they would have involved a killer commute - using my car in SF Bay Area traffic for a 3-hr roundtrip would have essentially negated any extra salary above what was being offered around my home town.

Had the money been really needed, I could have continued working for another 10 yrs, just with lower $$ expectations. I enjoyed what I did and met a lot of great people, many of whom I'm still in regular contact with.

A large factor in my retiring was when my MIL moved in with us. We discovered our weekly visits had not shown us the real issue - a very gradual dementia. She is functional day to day, but there's no way she should live alone any longer. Because she shares household expenses with us, it makes up for what I would have netted from a full-time job.

2) Will you stay in your current home or move?

We are staying put for now. We like where we live; we love our neighbors and they love us; it's convenient in location to our friends, family, and a wide range of attractions/activities.

However, this is not a home for the disabled or elderly. It cannot be retrofitted at a reasonable cost. The area is all rolling hills and our property has a double slope, making gardening a real work-out!

We have no sentimental attachment to a structure of wood, stucco and glass. It is a roof over our heads, it has served us well, it is extremely comfortable having been extensively remodeled. When the time comes that it's too much trouble to take care of, which I foresee coming in the next 5-10 yrs, we will gladly pack up and leave.

We would like to live in a specific CCRC we've visited, but time will tell if it will work out financially. If not, we have sufficient assets to have other options for the next phases of our lives, whether together or singly.

3) What kind of investments or income sources will you have?

DH has a defined benefit pension with 2% annual COLA and full medical at low cost (no vision or dental, though). His mid-range six-figure retirement account is our backup, we don't need to take distributions. We live a very comfortable lifestyle in an extremely expensive area, entirely on his pension.

The last two years DH worked were a 'trial run' for budget purposes. He was contributing extra to his retirement account so we were living on the equivalent of what his estimated pension would be. So when he did retire, there were no surprises or shortfalls.

I have three small pension/annuities from former employers that will start at age 65. I'm eligible for full SocSec at 66. These income sources will mitigate any inflationary pressures in future years. Because I have almost no retirement savings, I carry term life in the amount of $750K to ensure DH would have additional financial assets through my age 70, at which point the policy expires and we won't worry about how much more $$$ he needs should I predecease him.

BTW, this is what I mean about properly assessing your own morbidity and mortality risks. DH suffered a stroke at age 50 and if he lives past 75 it will be a wonderful gift. But genetics are totally against him, so his odds are at best 50-50 to reach age 85 or order. My odds are about the same or slightly better.

Both of us have family histories of diabetes and heart trouble. These are no longer the killers they were, but they are disablers. We have no children and relatively few family, even locally. Therefore, we each carry very good unlimited benefit LTC policies to cover facility care and home healthcare as we age. We have had these policies since our late 40's, and buying them was the smartest thing we ever did.

Once DH had his stroke, he would never have qualified for anything affordable, even if I'd been able to find a carrier, for the next five years afterward. The total premiums we've paid for both policies over ten years, don't even equal six months in a good facility for only one of us.

4) Do you plan to work part time, or what kind of activities will you do?

Retirement has been great. We sleep when we want, we eat when we're hungry, we don't have to dance to anyone else's tune, and we get to do errands mid-week/mid-day, when the check-out lines are shorter and sales clerks more relaxed.

I garden and like to read (Amazon knows me SO WELL). I spend a lot of time on the PC as it's my lifeline: I shop, read, research, and communicate almost totally by computer. Every day I read three newspapers on-line: the local, the NY Times, and the WSJournal. Recently we went on a 5-week driving trip through the Pacific NW and I spent hundreds of hours on the PC researching every travel segment, hotel, restaurants, and attractions. Exhausting, but the trip was a huge success and it was worth the work.

I set up a restaurant review blogsite last year. We dine out regularly and my reviews are fairly long, so this helps me keep them organized. This year I've set up a travel blogsite after our five 2010 trips. I'm not in love with blogging, but did this after being asked by friends to set up something on the web so they could access everything more easily.

For 2011 I plan to revamp our garden website and that will be a huge undertaking. I have thousands of photos to winnow down and organize.

DH is a media junkie. It isn't uncommon for him to have two TVs on and his three computers running simultaneously. All this while he does his hobby stuff (wargaming). Talk about multi-tasking, LOL!

He's a sweetie, he'll do anything I want to do. A good partnership: I like to organize and he'll accompany me anywhere. We also like to walk, but he can walk further than I can so he sometimes takes himself off to hike alone in state parks. I'm an urban walker, I like to know there's people around if I need help. We both do yoga, but different types.

His former boss occasionally gives him contract work, which is easy money but doesn't happen often.


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RE: Singles and Retirement

I reread the posts and didn't answer the OP's questions either.

Shortly after retirement, I sold my home in Maryland and moved back to the family home here in Minnesota to look after aging parents. After Dad died and Mom slowly slid into Alzheimers, caregiving was a full time job from 2001 to 2007. That and maintaining the house, the large yard and gardens, I didn't really have time to pursue much of anything else during those years. Mom had a good income and health benefits as my Father's survivor - old Federal system. House was long since paid for and house related expenses were borne by Mom as she still held title to it. When Mom died, I wanted the house so my brother and I adjusted and divided the trust assets accordingly. I plan on staying here until I go out in a body bag. If that doesn't seem possible since I have RA, I hope I have the sense to get myself ensconsed in the Benedictine in a timely fashion before someone has to put me there.

Since coming back to Minnesota, I've used my discretionary income to add to my municipal bond and stock portfolios. The problem now is that it's difficult to find things that pay a good rate of return. Money that should be working for me is tending to sit in money markets... waiting for better times.

It is nice not to have to worry about finances. Would I like to have done or still do a few things differently? Maybe. Maybe travel more. Get back onto taking classes for my own enjoyment at the U. Buy a bicycle.

I haven't gone out of my way to look for anything to do with my time since caregiving ended. I like being really retired finally, coming and going as I choose; working in the gardens virtually all day from May to October; inside projects in the cold and snowy months. I don't ever want to work for money again - 32 years working 9-5 with a commute to boot was enough.


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RE: Singles and Retirement

I appreciate your responses and hope to hear from others. duluth, I'm in the Twin Cities, so I'm waving to you through all this ice and snow.

I'm very fortunate to love my job and to have a very short commute (3 miles; I often ride my bicycle). But the women in my family are very long lived, and this worries me. No pension here, but I have been adding to my 403b in a strong way for some years now. I also just received an inheritance that I have to invest wisely. I'm meeting with a financial advisor this month to take a look at the whole package. I wonder whether long term care insurance is worth it in my situation--some say yes, some say no. Anyway, my New Year's resolution is to get a good grasp on my current situation and begin to plan in earnest for the future.


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RE: Singles and Retirement

The determination of whether you NEED LTC is fairly easy. The decision of whether you can AFFORD LTC and want to spend hours researching the fine print, is another, LOL.

What does it cost for a good quality nursing home in your area? In our area, it runs from $50K to $80k.

Assume, for general purposes, that you'd use it for a total of 3 yrs. That's an increase over the current estimated 2 yrs, which is based on the WWII generation who are most often cared for by family until things get so bad they can't handle it any longer. Boomers are more knowledgeable about nutrition and exercise, so hopefully can face a longer active life.

What does it cost for licensed bonded home healthcare aides? In our area, it's about $300/day for 8 hrs/daily.

The latter is the fastest growing area of healthcare costs. Assume 2 months of care for an average, serious injury or disability, such as a broken leg, cardiac surgery or stroke.

If you have sufficient cash assets to self-insure, you don't need LTC insurance. You may still want to buy it - there are those with large estates who would rather spend the money on something else, such as leaving the maximum possible for their children, so they purchase LTC anyway.

But as a single person, the equation is actually fairly simple. It's more complicated for couples.


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RE: Singles and Retirement

I was not single when my husband retired but I am now. Thanks to my planning we were very comfortable and I am still. What I wanted to comment on is the long term care insurance. I opted not to buy it because I don't have a spouse. I saved for our senior years, now that I am a widow the money will go for my care in a care home. My husband did end up in a care home and I paid $4,000. plus a month for his care. We did a division of assets with the SRS and I was still had plenty to live on when medicaid kicked in. It's not that I had a lot of money, but they divide what we have, income and assets and I got to live off of his half of the money. It was called a spend down.

BTW, I don't plan on ending up in a care home unless I have a stroke and have no control. But that's another thread.


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RE: Singles and Retirement

I just turned 52 and have been thinking of when I will retire. I have friends who are retiring on a full pension in their 50's, unfortuately , no pension in my profession.

I will be receiving 2 substatial inheritances in the next 10 to 15 years, and my 401K is recovering. So I will be OK financially, eventually.

I will live in my current home, I bought a small farm 14 years ago and have been re-doing the house with aging in it in mind. I will be able to live on all one level and close off the 2nd floor where I currently have my bedroom.

I already have someone who mows and takes care of plowing in the winter, and will continue to pay for those tasks and probably more.

I have a small daylily nursery as a side business/hobby, and have started to slowly downsize that. I will garden for as long as I'm able, but the digging and shipping will have to be taken into consideration. Many of my daylily friends ask if I will get more into daylilies when I retire, and I say "Heck No"! There are too many other things to do out there than spend all my time in the garden.

I have 3 miniature donkeys and would love to be taught how to drive them ... using a cart and harness. I just happened to meet a woman who actually competes with her miniature donkeys in driving, so I hope to learn from her.

But there aren't enough hours in the day to do that, work full time, take care of the farm and animals, and my daylily business.

Am looking forward to volunteering with some of my favorite charities, and a part time job at someone elses nursery. Also plan on traveling ... have already gone on one Elder Hostel, now known as Road Scholar, program, and plan on doing many more. With a friend or by myself. There seem to be plenty of singles on those programs.

I'm another one who lives in the freezing north ... but I am more of a fan of cold than heat. So while I like to vacation in warm spots, I don't ever want to live in a wrm place.

Hope that answers some of the questions you asked ...


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RE: Single and Retirement

And I meant to say, when I turn 62, I'm taking out a reverse mortgage. An ARM with a line of credit. I know a lot of you will have all kinds of things to say about that ... but I've been a mortgage banker for almost 30 years and involved with reverse mortgages for the 10 ... I have no children to consider to leave my house to ... so it might as well help me fund my retirement.


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RE: Singles and Retirement

I have been happily divorced for about 31 yrs. I have 1 son(32). I plan to retire this August at 55. My house and vehicle are both paid for. I have a small pension from a former employer that will more than pay my medical insurance. With my current employer I can keep my same medical coverage after I retire although it costs a little more than what I pay now! I will take the cash buyout(in lieu of monthly pension) from my current employer and roll it into a IRA. I have a 401k and a couple of savings accts. I would have liked to put more into my 401, but being a single parent(who did not get any child support), it was hard. After I finished paying my sons college loan I really started socking it in to the 401. I have a small hobby farm with 27 animals and cant wait to spend my days doing what I love. I probably will get a part time job in the winter (I live in Wisconsin) snow.. cold...Ive worked outside for 20 years and want to stay warm now!!
but during the rest of the year I want to be home!!
My financial advisor says I qualify for the "rule of 55" program so we will just work off my 401K (penalty free)until I am of age for SSI.(which I will take at 62)Then I can cut back on what I pull from the 401K. I plan on selling eggs...making lawn ornaments...etc for a little extra income too! I have also socked away enough money to pay for 2 years worth of propane, 2 years worth of property taxes and a good chunk for a down payment on a new(er) vehicle when and if I need one and another smaller chunk for any future vet bills. I budgeted to continue to add to these accounts on a monthly basis while I am retired also. I am getting a little nervous the closer it gets but Im also excited. Ive seen too many people wait..just 1 more year.. just 2 more years,,,something medically happens and then its too late.
So Im jumping in with both feet!!!


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RE: Singles and Retirement

For those who are wondering about oldgraymare's reference to "the rule of 55", the legal term for this penalty-free early IRA withdrawal is actually called "72T" after its regulation number from the IRS.

Any tax advisor can discuss this with you. You should NOT try to set this up without at least running your plan by a qualified tax advisor. The rules are VERY strict and any error will disqualify you from taking early distributions without tax penalties!


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RE: Singles and Retirement

Definitely..talk to a financial advisor. The rules for the 72t program states you can pull a set amount from your IRA (not 401k) for a period of not less than 5 yrs or age 59 1/2...whichever is longer. If you quit taking payments or try to raise the amount you are penalized BACK TO DAY 1. There are 3 amounts that can be pulled and they are based on the amount in your IRA.. They give you 3 choices and you pick one. You cant pick your own number. The rule of 55 is a little more lax in rules. This can only be pulled out of your 401K and you can pick the amount..monthly or yearly.
I am having my financial advisor do all the work so I dont screw something up and end up losing alot of my hard-earned money!!


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