The single life has its advantages — but can also come with very specific financial challenges. Singles get fewer tax breaks and may have to rely only on themselves, without earnings from a spouse. Many of the savings building blocks are the same for both couples and singles, but there can be more to retirement planning for those going through it on their own. Here are some ideas to help you plan for your future when you’re doing it alone.
1. Calculate Your Needs
The first step in planning for retirement, as with most goals, is knowing what you are aiming for. You can use a retirement calculator to figure out how much you need to save for a secure future. This takes into account your income, location, Social Security election age, birth year, marital status and more to gauge how much you will likely spend each year to lead the lifestyle you want in retirement. If you have bigger plans, like traveling the globe or starting a business, you can adjust accordingly. Remember that as a single person you will need to provide these funds yourself, unless you plan to work in retirement or inherit from someone.
2. Make a Plan
With a goal number in mind, it’s time to figure out how you can make it happen. It’s a good idea to think about all of the income sources you will have in retirement, from your 401(k), an IRA, a Roth IRA, Social Security retirement benefits or pension. You will be doing this on your own, so it’s important to consider all of your options.
Taking a realistic look at your financial resources can show you what changes or moves you need to make to reach that goal. It can help you calculate how long you will need to work, whether you need to take on additional work, and whether your current spending and saving ratio is in line with meeting your goals. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you can get help from a financial adviser.
3. Save, Save, Save
Working toward a financially secure retirement as a single person means saving early and often. It can be a good idea to make sure you are getting any available matching contribution from any company 401(k) accounts. Another strategy to make sure you are saving is to make that the priority for your budget. Try paying yourself first — putting your money in your savings right after getting paid (or automatically from your paycheck) — before you pay your monthly bills for necessities such as food and housing, and your wants, such as entertainment. You may find you have less discretionary income to put toward savings than your peers in a two-income household. To make up for it, you can consider living below your means and saving aggressively.
Keep in mind that debt can really eat away at your hard-earned savings if you’re not careful. Working on improving your credit scores just a little bit can make a huge impact on your lifetime cost of debt, saving you thousands (seriously, you can crunch the numbers to see your lifetime cost of debt here). You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand and to track your credit-building progress every month.
4. Schedule Social Security
While it’s unwise to count on Social Security to completely replace your income in retirement, it’s a good idea to include it as part of your retirement strategy. This means considering what age is the best time to begin receiving your retirement benefits. How much you get varies by how many years you worked, your income and when you start getting benefits.
5. Build a Safety Net
Working on only your own income, it’s important to have a financial safety net in place. This starts with having an emergency fund with three to none months’ worth of living expenses to carry you through any potential costly crises. Beyond that first step, you may want to consider having disability and long-term care insurance. These measures can provide coverage that fills in the gaps of income if you are unable to work.
It may seem overwhelming to handle all the retirement preparations on your own, but following these steps and being proactive can go a long way toward securing a comfortable financial future all by yourself.
More Money-Saving Reads: