by Judy M McCutcheon MBA
Have you ever seen those memes of Madea holding a gun saying, “Ask me when I’m getting married one more time?” I think they are very funny because they aptly portray what some single women go through.
Then, there is the one with the older lady at a wedding poking a single lady saying, “you next” and the flip side which shows them at a funeral and the younger lady pokes the older one and says, “you next.” At that point, all the poking and suggestions end. Being single for the most part is a choice that women make, and while I respect the sanctity of marriage, who made the rule that says we ought to get married? Being single and child-free has its benefits as well as its challenges, and your choice should depend on which weighs heavier on the scale, and certainly not on what society says you should or shouldn’t be doing. Remember your life is about your fulfilment; don’t go about achieving someone else’s dreams for your life. Live it on your terms.
A study from the centre for retirement research at Boston College states that women are now spending more time alone, and the reasons are that (1) fewer women are getting married; (2) if they do get married they get married later in life; (3) more women end up divorced. I am sure that these reasons are not surprising. What we as women should understand is that we must depend on ourselves for financial security in our retirement years. Being single has so many advantages; you are responsible for you and you alone. You have as much freedom as you allow yourself and you can be much more focused on your finances and concentrate on the achievement of your dreams and goals. I was talking to a friend who was telling me that her single aunt who raised her, never worked for more than $250 per month and she was able to build 2 homes and raised her nieces and nephews. While this may have been about 50 years ago, this story tells us that we can achieve just about anything we set our minds to; it’s all about your mindset. It’s about knowing exactly what you want and a willingness to make the sacrifices to get it.
Whatever your marital status, planning for retirement could be a challenge, but single women face additional challenges. While married persons will be able to couple their retirement finances, you must do so on your own. Grey divorces are happening more frequently, so even if you started out with a partner, chances are that you may end up alone at some point. If you are recently divorced, then you must re-evaluate your financial position. You now have one income, you may not be able to save as much as you would like and there is a very good chance that your expenses will be higher. You must also consider that the older you get the higher your medical expenses are likely to be. You may need to rethink your retirement timeline to adjust for the drop in income, noting that you will have to make changes to your savings regimen as well. If you do not have a saving plan, now is a great time to start one, it is never too late to start saving. If you are now starting to save, keep in mind that you will have to remain in the workforce longer. Now would also be a fantastic time to revisit the beneficiaries on your insurance policy, and review your will.
If you have been recently widowed, then the grieving process brings added pressure. Managing on your own both emotionally and financially can be quite daunting. And if you have not been accustomed to making big decisions, you suddenly find that you are thrust into the role of Banker, Chief Financial Officer, Insurance Advisor, and Lawyer. All this could prove to be quite overwhelming. It becomes important, therefore, that you pause before making big decisions. Get some help, you now find yourself in a position where you must reconfigure your life, don’t try to do it alone. If you received an insurance payout, then it is critical that you take a long-term view of your life before you start spending. Take stock of all that needs doing before you begin spending. Keep in mind that you are likely to live several years past age 60, and you want to ensure that you have enough money to cover all your living expenses.
You must ensure that your savings and your retirement goals are compatible. Line things up so that you can rock into your retirement in comfort and style. Remember to put things in place to ensure that your wishes are carried out. Have your legal documents in place, give power of attorney to someone you can trust, just in case you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions. If this is not done, chances are the legal system will make those decisions for you. Ladies, living alone at 65 is very different from living alone at 85. You want to ensure that things work exactly as you intend. Start putting your house in order.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net