April 28, 2022
If you've been with me for a while, you know all about the potential to live a very long life. A woman who is 65 today and in average health has a 50% probability she may still be alive at 88.
That's a few more years than the average life expectancy for men.
I know how hard it is to think about our much older selves, but that's what retirement planning is all about. And for women who are in a relationship with a man today, I need you to stand tall and look way into the future.
Not only do women, on average, live longer than men, but quite often women partner up with a man who is a few years old. Add in all the women who are single, and the upshot of all that is that older women are more likely to be living on their own than men.
According to government data, 43% of women at least 75 years old in 2021 lived alone. Just 24% of men at least 75 years old lived alone.
The best retirement planning advice for women in a relationship today is to think through what might work best for a much older you who might eventually be living alone.
I hope that didn't make you squirm. Honestly, this is the kindest thing you can do for yourself today and future you. If you accept this reality and plan for it, just think of the relief and confidence you will feel knowing that no matter how things evolve, you will be in good shape.
Here's what to consider:
If your household expects Social Security to cover a lot of the essential bills, it is crucial to be smart about when to start receiving benefits. When a spouse dies, the survivor is entitled to collect just one benefit. That can be the survivor's benefit, or the benefit of the deceased spouse. So right there you can see the survivor is going to have less monthly income.
The smart strategy is to have the highest earner in the household wait until age 70 to start collecting Social Security. The benefit when you start at age 70 is the highest possible payout; it's more than 75% higher than if you start at age 62. By having the highest earner wait, you are protecting the eventual surviving spouse, who will be able to keep collecting that maximum payout.
There is never a good reason for putting off taking care of yourself and your loved ones. And that's what a will, revocable trust, financial power of attorney, and durable power of attorney for health care provide. Whether you are 35 or 75 today, creating the Must Have Documents is how you protect yourself and your family. And yes, it becomes even more important if you are living alone.
It's all too common for women to find themselves widowed and then need to uproot themselves. Maybe for financial reasons. Maybe to be closer to family. Maybe because they realize the big home is no longer practical for one person. Or too far to easily pop into town or see friends.
My suggestion is to think through all of that today, not later. I think it's far better to make a clear-eyed move when there is no financial or emotional pressure weighing on you. Making the transition easiest for the surviving spouse is an act of mutual love you give each other.