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July 27, 2021 — As many Members have reminded us over the years, it is not safe to assume that everyone entering into retirement is part of couple. Many folks are single by choice, others by divorce, not to mention those who have lost a partner or spouse to disease or accident. Singlehood can happen quickly too – one moment you are happily planning a retirement destination and lifestyle together, the next you are all by yourself. This article will explore some of the issues faced by single people in retirement. More than that, we hope that our Membership base can contribute their experiences and advice to anyone who is about to retire as a party of one.

There are a number of issues to consider if you are single and planning your retirement:

  • Financial. Single people don’t have a spouse or partner to help with the financial load, so it is key that they have prepared financially. Having a financial advisor is usually a good idea to make sure you have the resources to ensure a long and secure retirement, which should include some provision for long term care.
  • Where to retire. One advantage of being single is that the decision about where to retire is one you will usually make by yourself. But you do need to make a decision about where that will be, even if it is to retire right where you live now. Where you retire affects the lifestyle you want to live as well as your finances, so it is important.
  • Type of community. The choices are many. You can live in a small town, a city, the suburbs, a condo, an active adult or 55+ community, etc. Each has its attractions and negatives. Some types of living arrangements make it easier to make friends as a single person than others, an important consideration. In others, the worry is that singles have trouble penetrating a couples based society. The best way to find out if a community or neighborhood is conducive to the single life is to live there for a bit, which usually means a rental.
  • Friends and family. Do you want to live with or near a sibling or son or daughter? Or are they pressuring you to move close? Sometimes being near family in retirement works out great, and other times it can be a problem. You could become too much of a burden for one of your adult children to handle, but on the other hand you might be asked to take on more child care or support than you feel comfortable with. Think long and hard before you commit, and consider a trial run.
  • How to make social connections – avoiding loneliness. You have to start with knowing who you are. Are you the kind of person that makes friends the first time you meet people, or would you be more comfortable at home in front of Netflix? If you have trouble connecting with people, you could end up being lonely. NextAvenue recently an article, “How Men Adapt Be Solo Agers”, that mentioned a book by John Cacioppo. In “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection“, Cacioppo wrote that loneliness might have twice the negative impact on longevity as obesity. What you do in your spare time, the type of community where you live, and what organizations you join can be a great help in making friends and staving off loneliness. But more than those important factors, your attitude and actions are key. If you wait for someone else to reach out to you, that is never, ever going to work.
  • Staying active. Obviously staying active is beneficial to your health and well-being. But more than that, getting out and about connects you with other people. On the pickleball court, the dance or yoga class, or the woodworking shop, you are likely to meet like-minded people who you might enjoy spending time with. Staying home and watching the news is not going to help.
  • Men vs. women. Men are much more likely to experience loneliness in retirement than women. Deprived of the job that probably provided a social structure as well as ego reinforcement, many men retreat into themselves and rarely meet new people. Men have to try much harder to break out and make friends, which are crucial to happiness and long term health. In the “How Men Adapt to Be Solo Agers”, the authors provide some good advice on how men can make a single retirement a successful one.
  • Planning for the future. There are many aspects to future planning. There is the financial, which we discussed earlier. There is also the need for long term health and living. Who is going to take care of you if you become disabled or demented? Where will you live as you age or if you can no longer take care of yourself? Also, what will you do with your assets and possessions? Don’t leave someone else with a mess to clean up. If you are having trouble making these decisions, you probably need to discuss them with a close friend, relative, or advisor.

Bottom line: Retiring as a single person is way different than retiring as a couple. You have more responsibilities. You have to guard against loneliness. But if you plan carefully, you can retire as happily and successfully as anyone.

For further reading:

Comments: Please share your thoughts about being single in retirement, and the issues you have or will face. If you some success strategies, everyone would love to read them in the Comments section below.

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