Being Single and Retired by Bob Lowry
I have been called to task in the last few weeks, politely but accurately, for my posts on how various retirement issues affect couples. Since there are over 19 million folks in America over 65 who are single due to divorce, being widowed or never having married, my focus is missing a big chunk of retirees.
Those who called this to my attention are absolutely correct. My problem is I have been married for almost 42 years. My insight into the problems and benefits of being single and retired is quite limited.
I have written about this topic a few times, as well as used an article from people who know the subject much better than I do. If you missed any of these, please click on the links.
Even so, it is important that in future posts I am sensitive to my approach being too couple-oriented. That doesn't mean I will suddenly have great insight to the different challenges faced by singles, but I can try to be more inclusive.
For this post I'd like to focus on someone who has been single for all or most of his or her life. Someone who has become recently unattached because of a divorce or death of a partner is likely to have a different situation that should be addressed in a separate article.
I will assume the long-term single has figured out how to make things work: friendships, financial control, activities that keep someone motivated and active. In that sense, there isn't much difference from what any retired person must do, except it is all on one person's shoulders. That autonomy is the norm.
So, the married guy has some questions:
Living Arrangements: When you become less able to care for yourself alone what are your options? Is co-housing something you have thought about? Would you consider a retirement community? Do you have family or relatives who you could live with, or depend on for an increasing level of care? Will you age in place for as long as possible?
Social Support: Do you have friends, either single or part of a married couple, who you can count on help you if needed and be available for social activities? Does dining out or going to a play or concert as a single cause you problems? Have you found clubs, volunteer organizations, or churches welcome your singleness?
Travel: Cruises and many packed tours come to mind as a problem for singles: the "singles surcharge" often makes the cost for one person almost as high as for two. There are cruise lines and tour companies that specialize in single travelers though they are not nearly as prevalent as those that focus on couples.
I assume that traveling alone brings some extra challenges, in terms of safety and being more vulnerable to street crimes. It also brings extra freedom to do what you want when you want to do it, not on someone else's schedule.
Have you run into travel problems? How you do solve them? Are there pluses or negatives to solo travel that you'd like to mention?
Finances: Singles do not have another person to help with the financial load, planning, or execution. Tax laws and social security aren't particularly welcoming to non-couples. If female and single, it is likely you earned less than a man during your working years, meaning what you had to invest and use for retirement is less.
What financial disadvantages come from being a long time single? What are the pluses?
Think of this post as your chance to educate those of us who do not fully appreciate what it means to be single and of retirement age. Please, comment to your heart's content.
For married readers, or those in any type of partnership arrangement, I hope what our single peers have to say will help us understand a part of life that we are only observing.
As a couple, if you have an observation about singles you know or have observed, please feel free to add your voice to the conversation. The comments are not meant to be restricted to only those who are going through this stage of life as a single adult.
By Bob Lowry