About 6% of Americans 65 and older have never married. That statistic comes from a 2019 Census Bureau report, which also found that 22% of Americans aged 65-74 live and retire alone.
If you think you will retire alone and unmarried, you will want to pay special attention to both your financial and social qualities of life. Whether you perceive a solo retirement as liberating or challenging, it helps to be aware of how your future might differ from your present.1
They can be affected by unplanned events and changes in your outlook or goals. Perhaps, a new dream or ambition emerges; you decide you want to start a business, or maybe, see more of the world. You could also end up retiring sooner than you anticipated. Developments like these could alter the “big picture” of your retirement distributions.
Once you retire, you may lose touch with the people who were a big part of your day-to-day life – the people that your business or career connected you with, including your co-workers. If you happen to retire to another community, the connections between you and your best friends or relatives might also weaken, even with social media on your side.
Ask yourself what you can do to try and strengthen your existing relationships and friendships – not just through the Internet, but in real life. Also, keep yourself open to new experiences through which you can build new friendships. Returning to a past hobby or pursuing a new one could also connect you to a new community.
Even if you have no heirs, you still have an estate, and you should have a say in how you are treated as an elder. Consider having powers of attorney in place. These are the legal forms that let you appoint another individual to act on your behalf, in case you cannot make short- or long-term financial or health care decisions.
There are four kinds of power of attorney. A general power of attorney can be written to give another person legal authority to handle a range of financial affairs for you. A special power of attorney puts limits on that legal authority. A durable power of attorney is not revocable; it stays in effect if you become incapacitated or mentally incompetent. Lastly, a health care power of attorney (which is usually durable) authorizes another person to make medical treatment decisions for you.2
In addition to powers of attorney, a will, and possibly other legal forms, you will also want to think about extended care. Not everyone ends up needing extended care, but you should consider its potential cost.
All this being said, you may find a degree of freedom that your fellow retirees envy. If you remain reasonably healthy and active, you may marvel at how many opportunities you can pursue and how many adventures you can readily have. Retiring single can be a challenge, but it can also be an open door to a new intellectually and emotionally rewarding phase of life.
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