March 20, 2013

Retired and Single: What Are The Challenges?

I have received several requests for a post that focuses on the particular issues that face a single person attempting to navigate a satisfying retirement journey. As someone who has been married for almost 37 years I barely remember what it was like to be single so I can only pass along some general thoughts gleaned from Internet research and life experiences. But, I am sure there is helpful insight and feedback from readers who are in this position. So, I will be asking for your participation in the comments section.

For purposes of this post, I am defining a single person as someone who is living alone and has never been married, or if divorced or widowed, did not receive enough financial support to eliminate most worries. That all goes to say the single person is on his or her own to make retirement work.

Single Person Disadvantages

Research shows that a single retired person tends to save less for retirement than a married couple. That makes common sense. With the majority of married couples today being two income households, a single person is at a disadvantage. With only one income, all expenses and investments must be funded from that one source. Since the amount invested tends to be lower there is less ability for investments to use the power of compounding  to grow over time.

If there is a financial setback, either through something like the Great Recession, an investment that goes bad, or an unexpected emergency, there is only one person to cover the costs.

What if a single person becomes seriously ill, disabled, or needs help during the recovery period after an injury or sickness? This could trigger an expensive problem. If family members or friends can't provide the assistance, then in-home nursing care may be required. Even something as simple as transportation to doctor appointments or hospital checkups could mean expensive taxi or medical transport services. To protect from a devastating blow to one's savings, expensive long term care insurance may become necessary.

The tax laws favor married couples. Even if living together two single people will pay substantially more in taxes than two people living together who are married.

Some Positives of Singleness

On the flip side, a single person can invest, budget, and spend as he or she sees fit. There is no need to compromise or accept another person's approach to money management, an approach with which you may disagree.

As a single retiree, you don't have to worry about a partner who is a spendthrift. and believes money (real or borrowed) is meant to  simply enjoy. Retirement planning for that person might mean "it will all work out." You know it won't.

The world is actually becoming much more "single." 96 million Americans are single, and 31 million of them live alone. Recent research indicates that more than half of all young adults (20's and 30's) remain unmarried with many planning on staying that way.

The PBS website, Next Avenue  published an excellent overview of the subject of being retired and alone. Click on the link to learn more. 

Your Turn

So, now I would like turn this post over to you. If you are single and moving toward retirement, or are already retired, we need you input:

1) What are your biggest worries and concerns ?
2) What do you plan and budget for that your married friends don't?
3) What do you do about housing..own? rent? roommates?
4) How have you planned for major medical problems as you age?

If you are married but have single friends, what fears do they share with you?

This is an important subject that I can only start the ball rolling. I'm looking forward to your thoughts and feedback.



  1. Bob - I've been married 28 years, so I definitely fall into the married category.

    However, I have a good friend that is single and I think his biggest concern is being lonely. He has several dogs that help keep him company, but that is not really a perfect substitute for human companionship.

    1. I'll be interested to see how often this concern pops up from single folks. I would assume this is an issue but am not sure. That may be my married life analysis.

  2. I am 60 and will be completely retiring in December. I am now collecting my military pension and have health care through the military as well. I'm working part time to save up for a down payment on an RV. Anyway, I personally don't have some of the concerns that other single friends of mine will have because of the pension and healthcare. Housing is covered because my mortgage is fairly low.

    1) What are your biggest worries and concerns ? Major health issue that would drain my finances, becoming physically unable to care for myself
    2) What do you plan and budget for that your married friends don't? That really isn't different for me from non-retirement to retirement years - mainly just living expenses and travel/vacations
    3) What do you do about housing..own? rent? roommates? I own my home and have a mortgage that I can afford. I live alone with my dog. I can't see downsizing because my mortgage is lower than most apartment rents in my area.
    4) How have you planned for major medical problems as you age? Military healthcare covers most of my major medical issues, and I have investments to hopefully cover any major expenses. I have 3 brothers who I can go live with if I become unable to take care of myself (and yes, they have agreed to this :-) )

    My mother is 83, retired school teacher, and has been single for quite some time, so I'll reply in a separate post with her answers.

    1. As a follow up to the preceding comment, I notice loneliness as you age isn't listed as a key concern. Is that a non-factor for various reasons?

      It is great that your brothers have agreed to help you as you age. That probably takes quite a bit of pressure of of you.

    2. Loneliness isn't really a factor for me, now or in the future. I have a circle of friends of all ages, and we get together at different times during the month. I'm a bit of a loner, so I value my solitude and don't need to be around a lot of people all the time. I also enjoy doing things on my own, I'm not one of those who requires a companion to travel or go out to eat or to a movie.

      One thing that my mother, and my grandmother before she passed, mentioned as a negative to growing older is outliving your family and friends. I realize this happens whether you're single or not, but when you're single, your friends are your family so to speak, and to lose them is sad. so that might play into loneliness at some point.

      Another plus for me is the benefits offered through the Texas Veterans Commission (I forget their official title). They sponsor retirement and nursing homes for military retirees, so if I truly need a place to stay when I can't get around on my own, I have it. I tell you, those years I spent in the military, both active duty and retired, are starting to pay off, and I am truly grateful I stuck it out.

    3. Cari: I'm not single, but my husband and I say the same things these days about his staying in the military, that we are truly grateful we stuck it out. He retired after 22 years in the navy, but it wasn't a sure thing until his last few years; we did most of his service enlistment by enlistment. But now we look back at it as one of the smartest things we did. We have good healthcare and a monthly pension that means we will always have a roof over our heads with something left over. My husband will retire this year; it wouldn't have been possible without the military pension.

  3. Although I dont have military health care like Cari, I do have government health care which means my healthcare continues at the same price that was paid for it in working years. I'll say here that I personally dont know many single folks who are lonely per se. It can be an adjustment for widow/windowers and new divorcees especially at night. I've had a hard time at night for years, but it's not a lonliness situation per se. I'm going to suggest that this is the same as hobbies in retirement-those people who have friends and social outlets pre retiremnt will also have them afterwards-even if they have moved. While I know many couples who are each other's social invovlement I also know many who have separate interests. I will say here that I concede the differences between never married/parents with those of us with younger siblings or children.

    As for the questions:

    1. my biggest concern would be health issues, although I have family and children and a good medical support system.

    2.I dont thin single folk budget differently than married folks in terms of categories, although the allocation may be different.

    3.As my blog is entailing, that living situation may change. right now I expect it will be an affordable condo changing to a large house sharing situation with a single (with no kids) sister in the long run.

    4. my medical strategy is to get healthier, have a medical fund, share things with my kids and go from there.

    1. Almost as much as my struggle to completely relate to the single lifestyle is my inability to know what it must be like to have a pension and/or health insurance provided by the military/government/some big company.

      I have been self insured and self-pensioned forever. It must be so nice to know those major burdens are at least partly carried by others.

      Thank you for your insight on the loneliness issue. The ability to feel lonely happens in too many marriages...maybe more so than among singles since marriage brings with it the expectation that loneliness won't be an issue.

    2. Bob: Over the years we've run into many (and I'm not saying you fall into this group) who look at military retirees and think, "Gee, isn't it nice they get all that stuff for free, or taken care of by someone else." Nothing anyone who has been in the military, whether for four years or thirty, gets is "free." Absolutely nothing. It was paid for in spades during the years of active service, and military retirees still pay after they are out of the service. Our retired military healthcare is not "free" - it's there and yes, it's low cost, but we do pay for it, every month, even though the promise made all those years ago was that it would be free (no cost) for life if you did your 20 years.

    3. Laura,

      The type of person who thinks that way is motivated by envy or fear or just plain stupidity.

      I served 6 years in the Army Reserves but don't qualify for any benefits because my "active service" was less than 6 months. Not for one moment do I think that was unfair to me or begrudge the benefits for the career military who I was trained by.

      The military life is a hard one, on both the person serving and the family. The divorce rate, the number of military families on food stamps, and the constant moving to new posts makes it a life that deserves all the support our society can give them.

    4. I am a single male age 64 laid off back in dec 2015 and deciding to draw Social Security when I turn 65 in Feb 2016. I don't go out much like I did and stay close to home. My house is needing some repairs but I have money to fix but I need to be more careful on how I am spending it. I lack physical attraction to many woman around my age and those that I am attracted to around my age are few and far between. So many things involved in picking the right partner and I lack patience in dealing with some I find "not to my liking".. If they have financial or health issues I stay away since whatever there issues are will become mine should I get involved.

  4. I am married but have several older widowed female friends in my volunteer groups that I participate in. The things I hear concerns about are when to ask their kids for advice and how not to be a bother to them Also, the reverse, when their kids want to tell them too often what they should and should not be doing. Most of these gals are in their mid 70's. Another area that is a concern, with being a female, is when they need to hire someone for repairs, finding someone who is reputable and isn't going to take advantage of them. Another issue is trading cars....usually their deceased husband would make this major decision or they aren't comfortable dealing with an auto salesman.
    Most of them have adapted quite well with church activities, volunteer activities and just forming their own circle of friends to go to events with or travel with. I sure do admire them and their spunk!

    1. My wife, Betty, should make herself available to the women you describe. She is more comfortable around tools and home repairs than I will ever be.

      But the car problem remains. What is it that makes car salesmen or repair people assume that a man knows cars and a woman doesn't? If I ever opened a car repair shop I would target only those uneasy about autos and make darn sure they always received only an honest deal. There must be a huge market for that.

  5. I know many married couples who are lonely--much lonelier than many single people I know--including myself. So many people complain to me about their spouses I feel I could start an advice column.

    Single people know how to keep busy--do activities. I had a well known personal blog--then I learned I have an invisible disability. I became very active in that and am writing a memoir about living a successful life despite not being able to do the simple things in life such as change a cartridge in a printer. You laugh and say anybody can do that. Not really. There's much more but...I write about it in psychology today--my favorite magazine when I was young!

    I owned an apartment in Manhattan and sold it just before the market crashed. I then bought a house in South Carolina five blocks from the beach. I upsized. As I lived in a 450 square foot studio with a man for years and then a 600 square foot one bedroom I don't like the "small house movement." In Manhattan that's called normal--no room for a washer/dryer or dishwasher and silly me I love having them. That all said I picked a smallish house--1400 square feet so the expenses will be lower. My largest home expense is insurance as I live near the beach.

    Unfortunately I consolidated my accounts (thought because I was diagnosed with this disability where people aren't good with money or people I had lost all that ability. Silly I know. The broker--who I had known forever--put me in dividend accounts that pay 10%. I kept saying "10% of nothing is nothing" He kept saying "listen to me."

    finally after losing way too much I came back to my senses and took over. I will probably never have what I once had but am making money while living on it. I do have a "safety" account.

    Foolishly I didn't get long term care insurance when I lived in NY. I heard about pre-existing conditions but as NY doesn't have them they were an abstraction. I have horrible insurance but it will keep me from going under. I was a geriatric social worker--the thought of being in a nursing home scares me. But I would sell my house and move to assisted living--part of the money I have saved will cover expenses before the house sells and as it will all come to me I can sell for less if I have to.

    I own my house outright--don't believe in any debt if you can afford not to.

    I go back to NY often and other places up north. Hope to go to Europe in the fall--as I paid for everything with a skymiles card the miles are burning a hotel in my pocket. I find good, trendy but not pricey hotels.

    Being lonely? Can't help but come back to that. If you reach 60+ and haven't learned how to make friends then I guess it will be lonely. My best friend's sister lives here. I have made friends and old friends have bought or will buy houses.

    I also love solitude. I can't appreciate being with people unless I'm alone part of the time and the same goes for being alone

  6. I have never heard of NLD but clicked over to the site and saw the information. I will have to visit frequently to learn more about this disorder (notice I didn't explain it so maybe others will check out your info!).

    I certainly agree with your comments about loneliness in marriage and learning to make friends as part of the drill for singles.

    I have a very happy marriage of 37 years, but both my wife and I require periods of solitude...time alone, which is very different from loneliness.

    Thanks for the cautionary tale about letting others have free reign with financial matters. We all must take responsibility to monitor what is happening.

  7. I think many of the concerns you mention are equally true for being left alone due to a spouse's death. That is weighing in on me these days. Since I have no children or family in the area I wonder how I will cope with serious health issues without my wife. I wonder the same for her if the situation is reversed. We have the resources to cope but maybe not the support.

    I was single until the age of forty and likewise for my wife till the age of 47. We both were pretty set in our ways and resigned to the fact that we would likely never marry and then things changed... (Ha)

    My friends were always trying to fix me up but I would tell them I am not lonely as "being lonely is being alone and not wanting to be." Some people enjoy the solitary life. Some have their own "Walden" experiences as Thoreau did. I enjoyed my solitude then but not sure I could go back to it now.....

    1. Like you, I am a rather independent cuss. I think I could do OK on my own if it ever came to that. Betty feels the same way. But, after all these years together we may be kidding ourselves.

      Then again, my dad was married for 63 years. When my mom died the family thought he'd be quick to follow. Well, we are at 2 1/2 years and counting, he just had his 89th birthday, and is still in decent spirits and health.

      Maybe there is an extra reserve of strength we have that we draw on if that time comes.

  8. I think about how it would be if I were widowed. The financial issues are not a problem but I'm sure it would take a while to adjust to living alone. My husband and I have interests together and separately, but that's by choice.

    1. All of us married folks are likely to have one partner experience the pain of widowhood. It is nothing any of us look forward to, but it is reality.

      The singles (and widows) how have responded so far give me hope that I (or Betty) will be able to adjust and go on with life.

  9. Steve in Los AngelesWed Mar 20, 11:03:00 PM MST

    1) What are your biggest worries and concerns? My biggest worry and concern is the continuation of Medicare after I reach age 65. It is for the continuation of Medicare (and Social Security), among other matters, that I continue to love the Democrats and despise the Republicans. I also deal with this worry and concern by continuing to live in a very frugal manner no matter how much money I may accumulate. If other people have issues with my frugality, then their issues are their problems and not my problems.
    2) What do you plan and budget for that your married friends don't? I probably plan and budget in the same manner as my married friends. However, I take the matter of planning and budgeting much more seriously than everyone I know regardless of whether they are married or single. Money and finances are a major part of my life.
    3) What do you do about housing..own? rent? roommates? I own my residence, which is a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium in a suburb of Los Angeles. I purchased, at an extremely good price, my residence in October 2008 from a bank which foreclosed on the previous owner. Although the foreclosing bank provided the initial financing when I purchased my residence, I refinanced the loan with my credit union during the summer of 2009. I have had no problem whatsoever with affording my residence.
    4) How have you planned for major medical problems as you age? I have health insurance through my former government employer. I also continue to save and save and save and save and save. I also continue to strive extremely hard to remain healthy. I have a great diet, get a lot of exercise, and avoid all unhealthy habits.

  10. I can imagine growing old (or older in my case), but growing old single is just difficult to imagine. My wife and I support each other in every way and that includes financial. But more than the financial, the emotional support is what I will find very, very difficult to live without. We've been together for 34 years and we've been through a lot just like any couple who've been together as long as we have. And I've always imagined that retirement was just another thing we will do together. Naive would not be a word I'd use to describe myself but I'd like it if my wife and I get to the centenarian demographic described here, and it is not difficult to hope really.

    1. You are so right, Edward. The emotional support is what I would miss the most if I became a widower. Every other aspect of living I think I could handle well.

  11. I've come a long way as a single,almost seven years. I had only 28 months of our planned early retirement with my husband of 32 years.First you grieve, and this process has various stages and adjustments that needed to follow its course. Loneliness is much different then being alone. I learned Solitude has its benefits and I enjoy having control over social contact. You also have the personal responsibility of making your single retirement happy and satisfying. I seem to concentrate on different passions and goals I set for myself. About four years ago I wanted to answer how I personally felt about God, religion,and spirituality not what others told me to feel. To thine own self be true. I thought after resolving this I would take a year and find out about my ancestors and this journey is still not finish after three years.
    Question1:My biggest worries or concerns is I've been ripped off by plumbers, contractors, mechanics, and recently a roofer all who were either past friends or highly recommended by males.I know this is always a possibility and is very frustrating as a home owner. This is the hardest area to deal with as a single older women.
    Question 2:As a single vs married Budgeting the various categories are about the same, but are not the same percentages. One car not two, but higher repair cost because my husband did a lot of the mechanic's work,and I now have a lawn service and snow removal when it's more then four inches but still do all of the gardening. My food budget has also change with more healthy choices and organic selections increasing the cost by more then half of what it was before.
    Question 3: Housing-I'm still in the large mortgage free colonial forty miles away from my daughter and 130 miles away from my son. They are pressuring me to move closer. Easier for them and me, more time with the grandchildren without the cost and time involved to travel to them. This is a possibility and I'm going through the process of investigating where to next-smaller ranch house, condominium, senior community, or apartment. The housing market in the Northeast is still recovering and has not return to the value it was when my husband died so on paper it will be a loss.
    Question 4: Major changes I've done in dealing with the medical issues-changed insurance from regular 80/20 plan to high deductible insurance and have been contributing the maximum to an HSA for five years and will continue this till I reach Medicare age to build up for future cost. Looking at a blended life/ long term care insurance policy because I have great difficulty rectifying: huge premiums with the possibiity of never using it or getting nothing for all the money invested; the insurance company going belly up; or in the future the premium skyrocketing beyond my ability to pay. At least as a life insurance poicy with a long term care rider my kids will get something from it, if I don't need it.
    Being single and how I view it has really evolved. This year I have my dream trip to Paris planned and if this goes well, I will be pursuing other destinations I've wanted to see. My attitude is: If not now when! And my word of the year is embrace. Meaning Embrace where I am right now and enjoy it.

    1. Wow...what a tremendously helpful comment, Lara. You have added an excellent perspective on the movement from married to single and what that entails. I am sorry for your loss but I read the words of a woman who is not only a survivor but also a person who is growing by EMBRACING where she is right now.

      The problem of older women being ripped off by repair people is something that might require a follow up post since it is a real problem.

      If a retired man who is mechanically inclined is looking for a part time job here is an opportunity: be an adviser/protector for widows and singles who are being taken advantage of. Be with them when the job is bid and being done to make sure the work is honest and complete.

  12. Everything I've read suggests that older women do okay when they're single; but men (on average) don't do nearly as well ... fewer friends, more likely to develop unhealthy habits, etc.

    However I question your statement: "The tax laws favor married couples. Even if living together two single people will pay substantially more in taxes than two people living together who are married."

    How so? Sure, married people have a lower tax rate for their income level. But husband and wife incomes are merged, so assuming they have both worked and have assets and income, the level is higher. Do you have any source, or examples of how married people pay less in taxes? Honestly, I'd like to know. Thanks!

    1. I probably should have used the standard "it depends upon individual situations." There are plenty of situations where a single person might pay less tax than a married couple earning the same total income.

      But, I based that statement on the following information: When married people file separately, the IRS takes a host of incentives off the table, including credits for child and dependent care, as well as deductions for adoption expenses, education loan interest and IRA contributions.

      The number of personal deductions is obviously cut so if one spouse makes less money than the other, the extra personal deduction can be worth more in tax savings than if each files separately.

      A married couple may be better off filing separate returns when one spouse owes a significant amount of money, but the other spouse could get a refund.

      Before 2003 there was a significant "marriage penalty" but tax code changes in that year eliminated the disparity.

      Trying to make a generalized statement about the U.S. tax code is risky business! Thanks, Tom for giving me the chance to clarify a bit.

  13. Bob and Tom you are right it is risky business to make generalized statements about the U.S. tax code. But it is also important for an individual's financial health to legally pay as little tax as possible, especially when your are retired. Ever wonder why so many older people in Florida stay single, live together, and don't marry? Marriage penalizes them if they have a higher Social Security income. I mentioned in a previous comment about doing the Social Security (aka SS) worksheet to get a handle on taxes after you start Social Security. Its strange that two nonmarried people living together can get more SS income tax free (one half of your social security plus taxable income equal or less then $25,000 and your Social Security is tax free. Then keeping total taxable income plus half of your SS below $34,000 and the maximum SS that is taxed is $4500. After the $34,000 for singles and $44,000 for married couples income threshold:For every taxable dollar above these limits you will add $1.85 of taxable dollars to your total taxable income. This continues up to your entire SS check being totally taxed at 85%. So the two live in singles could have $50,000 ( 1/2 SS plus other taxable income and pay no federal income tax. They could have $76,000 ( one half SS plus other taxable income equal to $34,000 each and have only $4500 of SS taxable.) It's conceivable in 2013 that two singles at full retirement age that qualify for the maximum social security a little over $30,000 each and additional $10,000 each in other taxable income could each have a zero tax bill on a total income of $80,000. Take it to the higher limit with each getting the maximum SS of $30,000 and another $19,000 of taxable income and their total bill is $1452 each on $49,000 of income or times two equal to $2904 on $98,000 total household income- a mere federal income tax bill equal to 2.96% of total income. I can only say OUCH! when this couple is married. As a married couple- One half of your total social security plus other taxable income is equal or less then $32,000 your social security is tax free and then for the next $12,000 for a total of $44,000 then $6,000 of your SS is taxable. So using the same couple at FRA each getting maximum SS of $30,000 they can only add an additional $2000 taxable income to get all SS tax free and will also have a 0 tax bill. A total income of $62,000. The one family earner that is at the highest SS ( $30,000 with the wife getting the spousal $15,000 can have another $9500 taxable income and still get all SS tax free and the other taxable income tax free. But their total income would be only $54,500. Adding the $12,000 to $44,000 using the standard deduction their tax bill would be $655 on $66,500 or .98%. Not a bad tax bill but not as sweet as the nonmarried couples $80,000 tax free. FYI: a married couple having the $98,000 income tax bill using standard deduction would have a tax bill of $5486 or 5.6% So mystery solved why so many retirees never marry again because if they are widows or x spouses of ten year marriage where their ex is decease, they collect the highest social security of the couple which usually works in their favor to stay single in relationships.

    1. I read this three and am still confused. That is why there are professionals to help us (as long as we call the final shots).

      Thanks, Lara. Actually I do understand this scenario and see why someone would make that choice.

      Your explanation is a perfect example of why our tax code needs some serious simplification.

  14. I was married for a decade when I was young, but I have been single and living alone for the past 35 years. All through my working years, I have been very aware of being totally responsible for myself financially; there was no one else to fall back on if, for example, I lost a job. The same is true for retirement; there's no one else whose retirement savings might be combined with or supplement mine. All this has made me a very disciplined saver and budgeter (which has left me in pretty good shape financially for retirement).
    Like Cari, what I worry about most is health. I love living alone; I don't experience loneliness, but rather value the pleasures of solitude. I know that a serious health problem or disability could make it impossible for me to continue to live alone, and I worry about the expense of long-term care. (My idea of a nightmare is having to spend the rest of my life living in a small nursing home room with a roommate not of my choosing.)
    We live in a society that values the couple and assumes that those who are alone would prefer to be part of a couple, and this assumption makes singleness more difficult. Recently, I looked at a website with lists of "best places to retire;" the list of "10 best retirement places for singles" was a list of places where you would be most likely to find a partner of the opposite sex so you could stop being single(!!) not a list of places where social activities were not built around couples or where you could find like-minded friends to create a rich social and emotional life with. -Jean

    1. The point about the top 10 places for singles to retire is exactly the type of insight I appreciate. You have pointed out a bias that I, as a married man, would have never noticed, but is so obvious once it is brought to my attention.

      The number of singles, either by choice or circumstance, is increasing at a rather dramatic rate in the U.S. Smart marketers and businesses are going to wake up to that underserved market.

      It will take a true understanding of the points you are making, Jean, that being alone and loneliness are very different situations. They will recognize the fear you noted of a health emergency putting a single person in a real bind.

      Excellent comments. Thank you.

    2. Jean, you bring up an excellent point, and remind me of another one. I've been divorced/single since 1987 and I have always enjoyed my 'singledom.' I am comfortable with myself so I don't require other people around me all the time. Every so often I get the urge to find a mate, or a companion, but it goes away :-) And solitude is not the same as loneliness. I think some people (and a lot of my married friends) think that because I'm alone I am lonely, and that's just not the case. I don't speak for everyone, but being alone is comfortable for me - not responsible for anyone else (except my dog), no one else to take into consideration for travel, meals, state of cleanliness at home, etc.

      Another annoying thing about being single and retired, although this has happened all during my single life, is the fact that people ask me, well, don't you miss X (children, sex, fill in the blank)? I won't go into detail, but I've had plenty of nieces and nephews for when I'm feeling maternal, I've not been celibate (shhh, don't tell my mother LOL), and I've seen other married couples have many relationship problems that I don't want to experience. So, no, I don't 'miss' anything. Don't pity me, just accept me. I love my single life, as many of us do, so quit trying to fit me into the couples lifestyle. OK, off my soapbox now. :-)

    3. Sex and the Single Woman...didn't Helen Gurley Brown "legitimize" that several decades ago? !!

    4. Cari, LOL, I've been on that soapbox more than once myself. I sometimes describe myself as a "militantly happy single woman." :-) -Jean

    5. I am single by choice. I knew when I was a child that I would never marry and certainly never have kids. I dated until I was 28 then realized it was ridiculous since it would never lead to anything. Why cook when you aren't going to eat the meal?! I have tackled the concerns about being "old and alone" and realized that, for me, it is a non-issue. I started saving for my "decrepit years" when I was in my 30s. This is a small fund set aside to pay for a caregiver if and when the time comes. Even though I'm alone, I never get lonely: I would venture to say that most people who are "single by choice" have created social networks that work for them. In fact, we "SBC" types are probably ahead of the game since we have learned to cope in a society that reveres couplehood.

    6. Since you are an avid RVer you probably meet all sorts of interesting people and have friends all over the place.

      Being content in one's own skin is a tremendously liberating feeling.

  15. Bob I've really enjoyed the comments to this post. I passed my first year of retirement recently and have thought about how things have changed. I realized a few months ago that I'd spent the year surrounding myself with people who make me happy. At work, you don't have that luxury.
    My biggest concern is financial, and know more downsizing will need to take place in the future. However states vary widely in what's available to make that happen sensibly to actually reduce costs.
    Budgeting - I had to laugh at that one as there's nobody around to argue on what is important, or that it's important to budget in the first place. So the difference is that I actually can set a budget.
    Housing - I own, and have a mortgage. In this state, rents are very high, and it would not reduce my expenses to rent.
    Medical - I'll have a few years of employee health care, but not enough to get me to 65, so it is a concern. I had health issues the last couple years at work, and friends and neighbors were an incredible asset and support system.
    The last year has been spent with these people, enjoying life. One of the people at my health club talked me into a different craft group, and they are one of my weekly activities now. I've found other new retirees and we compare notes on interests/activities.
    I have not spent one minute being lonely, and can't stress enough to find hobbies and interest in your local area to ensure a happy and successful retirement.
    Thankyou to you Bob for such thoughtful posts! You are part of what has made my first year of retirement satisfying for me.

    1. Thanks! I hope you continue to leave comments. Next time please include your first name since anonymous is so...anonymous!

      You have highlighted the key concerns of most of us, single or otherwise. But, from a single perspective, the importance of finding support systems and activities that please you is magnified. I appreciate your insight.

  16. Hi Bob, I appreciate your open mind, and not being all high and mighty about your marriage, etc.
    I am now 56 years old and am retiring this year, actually in 70 days. I have been married twice and am now single for the last 10 years. Marriage isn't for everyone, and find myself a better person, parent, friend, relative when I am single. I am currently living and working in Morocco, where such a high premium is placed on marriage and consequently sex. Context over content, what's the fuss. Marriage seemed more important to me during child bearing/rearing years.
    Financially, I am much better off as a single person. I can live frugally, spend money on what is important to me.
    Socially, I have a male companion that I see twice a week, plenty, we support each other and do fun things together, just not 24-7, this works well for us, but it is not for everyone.
    Housing - I own my house, no mortgage, I will probably move into a condo in 10 years or so.
    I do worry about medical issues, particularly Alzheimer's as it runs in the family, the one thing that would stop my worrying is if there was a cleaner way to exit this earth, rather than being warehoused in a nursing home. I also, don't like the thought of putting an extra burden on my son, although he is willing, he lives out of the country too, and I won't want to live abroad as an older person. I like your blog!

    1. Thanks for the compliment and support. You may be my first comment from Morocco!

      I think it is healthy that society is much more accepting of a single adulthood. Just like it used to be a given that everyone who wanted to succeed must go to a 4 year college, getting married, having kids, buying a mini van and staying together "until death do us part" was the "normal" route. But, college isn't right for everyone and neither is marriage through all stages of life.

      You have found what works for you. Who could ask for anything more?

  17. My first post here....I was married 19 years and divorced. For five years I was a single mother of three, working two jobs, and sleeping about 4 hours a night. I then met and married the love of my life and after 11 years of a wonderful marriage, I became a widow at 54. In the 9 years since I lost my husband, I have also lost my mother, my son, and my nephew (like a second son). I tell you this not for sympathy and not to declare myself as a "survivor" (i hate that terminology) but to say that life has many twists an turns and no one knows what will happen in their time here. You can't plan for everything in life but being sensible is everyone's right. Husbands should make sure their spouses know they are capable people of doing lots of things on their own. I never thought I would know so much about fixing things, car repairs, handling contractors, or the absolute best thing - putting things together! The old adage "necessity is the mother of invention" definitely applies to the widowed! I miss the emotional support of my husband the most especially for all the losses after he died and as I age and health concerns happen it will be even harder I'm sure. I would love to retire near family in the Northeast but its just too expensive. I own a one bedroom condo in an over 55 building right now on Long Island NY and the taxes alone are $8,000/yr and maintenance is $430/month. Not sure what I'll do.....

    I also am so tired of couple friends telling me how to meet a mate -- some of us are just as fulfilled without marriage or partner....

    1. "Survivor" may be a less than perfect word, but it still describes you. Heavens, you have been tested time and time again but have not let any of it defeat you. Your attitude and "can do" spirit are inspiring.

      Thank you very much for your comment. You are absolutely right in several regards: life isn't for the faint of heart and being married isn't the cure-all for everyone.

      The costs of housing on Long island are probably among the highest in the country. I thought my real estate taxes of $2,000/yr on my house was high!

  18. I am 63, single, after my wife died some 11 yrs ago after a long illness. I will retire in 6 months when I turn 64. The biggest battle for me is not the dollars and cents is the emotional stuff......for example, how do I occupy my day as a single guy....? Hope that this helps. ("Emerini").

    1. John, you have identified a primary concern of those who are single due to life circumstances....what to do to combat the aloneness in a society that is build for couples.

      There is no simple answer. Any process you choose involves some risk of rejection or wasting time until you hit on the right mix of activities and involvement. The worst choice is to do nothing, stay insulated from others, and retreat from a full engagement with life.

  19. You raise good points. And our society (certainly here in Australia where I live) is very "marriage" based/orientated. Your blog is me lots of things to think about, and I enjoy (not sure if that is the right word...) the honesty of your contributors. They are walking the path just that bit in front of me.

    1. John,

      I am glad you are finding some value and insight here. Those who leave comments are really the most important part of this blog because they add new perspectives.

  20. I am in my 80's and widowed. Living in a small town where isolation is big time. Some health issues too. I am looking into a retirement community to move to. I miss eating with someone and talking to someone. I will have to watch my money as it will be more expensive than where I live now. But I would like my days to be filled with joy and friendships. Children and grandchildren are close but they have their own lives. Some old friends said I will hate it. Would like some constructive comments.

  21. Just a thought from may be worthwhile spending a few extra dollars each week, to have friendship and someone to eat with and talk to. Emotional isolation can be depressing and soul destroying. If the dollars re a retirement community are a problem, are you able to travel out of town, even just once a week, by public transport if necessary, to be with people who have a common interest with you...???

    1. Anonymous, I agree with John. Emotional isolation is very difficult. A retirement community that encourages interaction and social activities between residents can be a real blessing. If you can afford such a move, your life would take on a whole new meaning. You are sure to find people who would brighten your days.

    2. Bob, Thank your post on single life in retirement. I have been researching communities that have an a good number of single residents and activities for them. See my blog -

  22. More than 30 years ago, I divorced my abusive husband and raised my daughters, put them through college, bought houses and cars, had a full-time job, saved for life and retirement, all without a significant other, but with lots of support from friends and family. About 12 years ago, I was awarded guardianship of my granddaughters (the youngest was 2 at the time). We have a wonderful life and I do not yearn for a companion that will "help" make decisions - guess I'm too independent :) Now that my youngest will be in high school next year, I am thinking of downsizing my 3300 sq ft house on 20 acres. I just bought a big motorhome (no payments) and my plan is to "retire" in 4 years, put the house up for sale and travel until I decide if I really want a small condo, house or live in the RV full-time and travel as the mood dictates.

    As I have a pension, health insurance, long-term health insurance, and a 401K, I should be able to comfortably live - my needs are relatively simple; food, shelter and a thirst for knowledge and adventure. I expect that over the next few years I will be planning to downsize, exploring my options and getting ready to hit the road. What I do not foresee as a problem is the lack of a companion. My friends are scattered around the world and my family spans the US east coast so I can visit without the need to "park" anywhere for too long.

    My biggest worry is that I will not have enough time to do everything that I want, but otherwise, I've come this far and I don't expect to have any problems adjusting to the future. I have learned to take life in stride and enjoy the journey, knowing where I want to go, but taking advantage of opportunities to deviate if it makes sense overall.

    By the way, yes, I have seen and heard the mantra, "you need to get married again" or "settle here and find a mate." I just ignore these pleas and live my life as I want to live it - must have something to do with growing up in the 60's.

    1. Annie, a great tale of independence and success at living how you choose. "I've come this far and I don't expect to have any problems adjusting to the future" is a mantra for all satisfied retirees.

      Thanks for your thoughts. I imagine you to be feisty, out-spoken, and a fun person to know.

  23. Ok, so here's my question. I'm single and I don't have any family. Where should I live?

    1. Without knowing anything specially about your situation, my answer would be: where you are happiest. That could be based on climate, location (mountain, by the ocean or lake, small town, big city, farm) and availability of things you like, like a nearby college, good library, restaurants, outdoor activities, etc.

      You really have the freedom to design a lifestyle just for you, and an important part of that is where you live.

  24. I am single, 60 and working part time as a substitute teacher. I have no family nor children, not by choice, but by circumstance. I am divorced now 2 1/2 years and was single for the majority of my adult life. While some of my friends opted to marry, have children and the burbs house, I, again by circumstance lived in the mountains, hiked, traveled and pretty much had a roaring time!

    I was fortunate enough to marry a man that made an amazing amount of money when he chose to work so I set up a business for us which became very lucrative...he with the skills and I with the business sense it was a success, the marriage, not so much.
    I walked with $370,000 which I obtain $8000 in dividends, some capital gains and with my part time job and a real talent for spending next to nothing if I choose (my mother was from the old country and could make a penny scream and I got her DNA). I have just made the decision to start making my own laundry detergent...just because the price of it is outrageous and I refuse to pay that price.

    Do I miss a man...sure...for all the major, someone to have fun with, intelligent conversation, and they can haul the kitty litter up the stairs, however, since I have been a strength trainer for years I may have less of a time than them. HA!

    My one fear is the lack of family. I am down to two friends. One is about to have kidney surgery since they found a mass there and cancer runs big time in her family. The other has HIV and is getting sicker. But who ever said life is fair never took any chances.

    I have tried to make friends in the community that I am in, but it has been extremely hard since this is such a marriage oriented area and I do not fit the little ole lady granny so the women folk are keepin their men folk away from me! HA! Again. Being single, still attractive, driving a nice car and living in the expensive apartments BY MYSELF makes me kinda scary to some. I just do not fit the mold of what a single woman of a certain age is supposed to be.

    Well, anyhoo, I just hope I have enough money to live a frugal but "satisfying" life since I can't find meaningful work that pays at my age and even more so, I do not want to live so long that I can't remember my cat's name or what my keys are for. I also do not want to lose all my hair (which runs in the family). I really understand where that doctor that caused all the ruckus about saying he was going to stop all medical advancements for his own health at 75 and let nature take its course since he (and I am sure that he has seen it all being a cancer doc and all) believes that after 75 cognitive function etc starts to tank. I agree with him.

    I wish I knew when I was going to die...sure would make decisions and planning so much easier but as someone just the other day remarked to me "Well, God doesn't give you EVERYTHING!"

    Well, the dog is looking at me, and it is her walk time...I swear she can tell time! And the cats are starting to make their presence known so they also can tell it will be time for dinner soon. Not mine. Theirs. That will be my biggest dilemma, what if I go before my furry friends do. I think it is getting time to make provisions for them in my Will. HA!!!Leave it all to the cat farm!


    1. What an excellent addition to this post. You sound very comfortable in your own skin. You have not only made peace with your situation but seem to be invigorated by it.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts and perspective about this important issue for retired folks.


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