By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant
First published by Over Sixty [Link: www.oversixty.com.au]
There are a myriad of reasons as to why you may find yourself single in retirement. Perhaps you have always been single, divorced years ago, separated recently, or perhaps you unexpectedly lost your loved one to illness. For some it is welcome relief, for others it is utterly heartbreaking but whatever your journey, you are embarking on retirement without a significant other.
It was suggested that Singles experience a unique set of challenges and opportunities to their counterparts in couples when it comes to life in retirement. With this in mind, I set out to explore if this actually is the case by drawing on the experiences of recent retirees.
The reflections recounted to me were particularly open and candid and so there is great value in sharing these. They also provide a wonderful opportunity to explore the action one can take to harness the opportunities and avoid their fears becoming a reality.
What do single people fear stepping into retirement?
- I will run out of money and I have no other person to fall back on.
- Who will care for me if I become seriously ill or disabled? For those who have cared for a partner, they appreciate what this involves and dread becoming a burden on others.
- Adapting my plans - I never expected to lose my partner so soon. All of my plans involved them and I have no idea how to move forward.
- A lack of companionship. I don’t need company 24/7 but it would be nice to have someone ask about my day or to do things with, particularly when work colleagues fall away.
- Not being able to travel and fulfil life-long dreams – the single supplements make travel so much more expensive and none of my friends seem to want to travel.
What are the opportunities that only come with being single?
- I am able to invest and save money as I choose. There is no need to compromise.
- I am in charge of my own destiny and am able to pursue the things on my bucket list.
- I have flexibility in how to live my life, I am able to make decisions on my terms.
- Knowing that the house will always be as I left it when I get home!
The challenge then becomes how to acknowledge the fears and whilst channeling the positives in order to take action and create a retirement in which you will thrive.
What to consider in your planning as a single retiree
The most important thing you can do is plan, and consider the ‘what ifs’ (and really, this is advice that I would give to anyone approaching retirement). Don’t avoid thinking about the bad things, hoping they don’t eventuate. Acknowledge them and plan so that if the unforeseen should occur, you are able to make informed decisions, rather than urgent and emotive ones.
1. Create a lifestyle transition plan.
Whilst you may thrive living independently now at 60, what might change over the next 25 years? Will you have adequate support and access to care where you are right now, particularly if you became unable to drive? Do you have a strong connection with the people around you? If the time comes that you need to move, what would your preference be? A seniors’ community may be a viable option with plenty of social activities and access to support.
2. Get your documents in order.
Consider what would happen if you lost the mental capacity to make decisions. Who do you want to have enduring power of attorney? Empower the right person to make significant decision for you, and on your behalf, should you not be able to do so yourself. Ensure peace of mind that your loved ones will be looked after.
3. Seek financial advice.
A trusted and accredited Financial Planner has the expertise and tools to leverage your finances and position you positively for retirement. This advice can be even more impactful when you don’t have a huge portfolio of assets, e.g. an extra few thousand dollars more may mean more to you than to a millionaire.
4. Look after your body and mind.
If you are worried about your financial situation, one of the most powerful things you can do right now is get active and reduce your risk of illness and disease, thus avoiding high medical costs later in life.
5. Connect with the community around you.
The people who do best in retirement are those who are engaged in their local community and regularly spend time with friends and family. Devote time to developing and maintaining relationships and don’t be afraid to ask for help as you know you would return the favour without hesitation.
6. Become comfortable in your own skin.
If for example, you can’t find someone to go to the movies with, don’t let that slow you down. Recognise that most people are so preoccupied with their own worries that they won’t even notice you, let alone wonder why you might be out alone. If you love travelling, why not do your research and find companies that specialise in single travel (without the supplements!).
Regardless of your relationship status, retirement is a wonderful time of life and very much the ‘beginning of the open road’ rather than the end of a journey. If you do find yourself single at this stage in life, embrace the positives and proactively plan for the anticipated challenges so that you truly can create a retirement you will love to live (on your terms)!
I wish you the very best on your journey,
Inspired to do some planning? Why not download your copy of the Focusing on You Reflections Sheet which has been designed to help you gain clarity and insight into what is important to you, and what you value in life after work.
What do you mean, I hear you say? I have kids, grandkids and ageing parents. I know all about their goals and what is important to them, but I draw a blank when it comes to my own dreams and aspirations – I can’t think of anything!
All too often we put the needs of others before our own, but to give our best to others, we need to first take care of ourselves.
This Reflections Sheet therefore provides an opportunity (and permission!) to take some time to focus on just you!