October 1, 2012 — If you are one of the more than 25 million single women over 45 then you might appreciate a new and essential reference that hits bookstores this week, “The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement,” by Jan Cullinane. Many of our regular readers will recognize this name – Jan has been a frequent contributor to this site, both for her articles (see list at ebd) and for her many insightful additions to Blog posts and Discussion topics.
Jan’s new book (her previous one in this area was “The New Retirement”) is just the kind of read that we look forward to opening. It is practical and entertaining at the same time. Jan doesn’t waste your time explaining what you already know, she gets right into the nitty gritty with checklists, interesting profiles of real people, and step-by-step tips that make just about everything about retirement for a single woman easier.
The list of the major chapters gives you an idea of what you expect. Each one is loaded with practical advice – after you have read the book you will understand all of the major issues that affect your retirement as a single women, and be prepared to handle them.
- Retirement and the single woman
- Deciding what to do
- Work and retirement
- Fitness in body, mind, and spirit
- Exploring options for living
- Choices for where to live
- Divorce, death, dependency, etc.
- Dollars and sense
We asked Jan to respond to a few questions to help give you a better sense. Here goes:
Q1. Jan, tell us why you wrote the book.
A: It primarily came from the comments I heard from single women after I would give a talk. They would say things like: “Where should I move? Everything seems geared to couples.” “After 30 years of marriage, I’m divorced. I want and need to go back to work. Help me.” “My husband died unexpectedly. I never handled the money. Any suggestions?” “I am happily single, but want to live in a place with a lot of social support after I leave my primary career. What are some possibilities?” “I’m gay. Where I should move?” “I’m ready to return to the dating pool, but haven’t been on a date in 40 years. Where do I start?” When I realized there are more than 25 million women over the age of 45 in the United States, and it’s a growing demographic, and that there was no holistic book written for single women about retirement, I knew I had to write this book. I wanted to include working, travel, volunteering, relocating, health, caregiving, boomerang kids, money matters, death, divorce, and deepening connections. One other thing: Even if you’re happily married now, there’s an 80-90% chance, as a woman, you will end up making all decisions, financial and otherwise. It’s good to be prepared.
Q2: What are some of the retirement challenges women face as compared to men?
In general, women make less than men, even when you control for education and experience. This discrepancy in pay is slowly shrinking, but women are still over-represented in lower-paying positions, and are under-represented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. Women live longer, are in and out of the work-force more often than men, tend to be part-time workers more than men, receive fewer employee benefits, fewer pensions, lower Social Security payments, and smaller investment income. Women tend to be less effective negotiators, so over time, the lack of negotiating for better pay really has a snowball effect – research by Linda Babcock found that by not negotiating a first salary, women can lose more than $500,000 by age 60. So, single women (never-married, divorced, or widowed) often have less money and a longer life span.
Q3: One of the things we like best about your book is that is has a lot of interactive and practical features. Tell us about some of them.
A: I’m a believer in the collective wisdom of women. So, when writing about the various topics included in the book, I solicited input from many single women about many different areas: divorce, death of a spouse, working from home, where to live, dating, caregiving, volunteering, reinvention, travel, and staying healthy. Some of the best advice comes in the form of anecdotes from real single women, statistics, cutting-edge research, checklists, online quizzes (Note: Topretirement’s “Retirement Ranger” is cited, also I used with permission your “Are You Ready for Retirement” quiz), worksheets, and websites, books.
Q4: Most retirement books leave me cold, they’ve got too much pontificating and not enough practical. What was your secret sauce?
A: Well, good or bad, I like specifics. So, rather than say why you might consider cohousing, for example, I also have an anecdote from a single women who lives in a cohousing community and I provide the website for the contact info. Rather than say, “See if a cruise line offers cabins for singles,” I list the cruise lines that have single staterooms, how many, and how to escape paying for the dreaded single supplement. For dating, I provide a list from real women who offer great suggestions for meeting someone (who knew there was an American Singles Golf Association?). For the money chapter, I solicited input from CPAs and CFPs and included a wonderful list of money-saving ideas and strategies for making your money last longer (for example, how Uncle Sam could help pay for your moving expenses). I think it’s my science background, but I like detail, lots of examples, and stories. I think I was successful in combining all of these elements into the book.
Q5. Obviously Topretirements’s single women readers are very interested in Relocation. Could you tell us more about that?
A: Yes, some places are better for single women, and I have many anecdotes in the book from real single women who have chosen specific places to live, and they explain why it works for them. Of course, with millions of single women, I realize no one size fits all. For example, Connie moved to Fairfield Glade, TN; Hazel lives in Carroll Lutheran Village, a CCRC in Westminster, Maryland; Susan moved to the city of Denver; Jacque moved to the cohousing community of Wolf Creek Lodge in California; Kathryn lives in a new urban community in Bend, Oregon; Mimi lives in the active-adult community of Victoria Gardens in DeLand, FL; Laurel lives in her RV; Louise picked up stakes and moved out of the country to Boquete, Panama. My approach was to let single women who had relocated tell why and how they chose where they decided to relocate. Again, specifics.
Retirement can be exciting, scary, and exhilarating all at the same time. The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement is designed to help with the journey. It’s available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, B&N.com and Kindle. The book is a partnership between AARP and John Wiley & Sons.
Thanks for sharing your story Jan. And good luck with the book!
Comments: Please share your comments and questions about being single in retirement in the comments section below. Note: Thanks to a donation from Jan, we will be giving away a copy of the book to a lucky person who fills out our next survey (suggestions for that are always welcome).
For further reference (articles by Jan Cullinane):
Ship and Shore: Retiring on a Cruise Ship
Yearning for a Traditional Retirement: Check Out the New Urbanism