Why women retiring alone may need a new retirement plan

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

While I'm sure there are women who've made a conscious choice to retire solo, I'm not one of them. It's always been my heart's desire to share my life with a man I adore who adores me back.

While the optimist in me says there's still time, the realist says that if it hasn't happened yet, it's probably not going to. That possibility couldn't have become more clear when I finally got serious about retirement planning a few years ago.

Conversations with several financial advisors left me feeling scared, overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, embarrassed, and downright depressed. If I believed what they were telling me, not only was I going to be alone, but I was going to be alone and destitute!

Then something interesting happened… I started meeting other women who were equally scared and unprepared for their pending retirement. As I listened to their stories I began to see patterns. Sure, there were poor choices made along the way, financial and otherwise, but there were also other factors over which they didn’t have much control.

Statistics confirm that there are systemic challenges facing women, particularly single women, that are having serious consequences on our ability to prepare for retirement.

Two-income households can live more cheaply than one. According to Kim Mustin, co-head of global distribution at BNY Mellon Investment Management, single women “lack the financial security of a dual-earner household to support their retirement savings, along with the added income associated with dual Social Security and a spouse’s retirement benefits.”

Women tend to earn less over the course of their working years. There really is a gender gap in salaries, compounded by the fact that women are more likely to work part-time and/or take time away from their careers to raise children or care for elderly parents.

Women tend to save less. Because women typically earn less, over shorter periods of time, there’s less money available for savings. After factoring in the numbers of single mothers raising children alone, opportunities to save are further diminished.

Annunity.org sums it up this way: “Generally speaking, women earn less, save less, and live longer – but are still responsible for the same living expenses men pay.”

Well, that sucks!

So other than affirming that you’re not alone, and it’s not all your fault, what’s the point of all this bad news? The point is to challenge you to make a choice. Choose to be another statistic or choose to plot a different course.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting for a single minute that financial resources aren’t crucial to retirement planning. They absolutely are.

What I am suggesting is that the traditional notion of a successful retirement and how much it takes to have one aren’t realistic for many women retiring alone, particularly those that don’t have a few extra million dollars of investment income lying around. It’s just not going to happen.

And that's not all. When was the last time you thought about what type of retirement life you really want to have, as opposed to the retirement lifestyle we're all expected to want? How often do you see traditional retirement planning approaches offer simpler, healthier, more frugal lifestyles as a conscious choice rather than a last resort?

And if we're really being honest here, when was the last time you were offered retirement planning advice that didn't involve a substantial financial investment to the same organization that just happened to be offering the financial advice? I'm just sayin'...

So, it’s time to come up with another plan… a plan that respects the realities of our circumstances, but that also reflects the optimism born of re-imagining a new retirement vision that leverages our strengths, maximizes both existing opportunities and those we create for ourselves, and honors our values and personal choices moving forward.

"We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals."

~Stephen Covey

That’s where the Retirement Divas approach to retirement comes in. If you’ve stuck with me this far, I challenge you to join me on this journey.

Armed with out-of-the-box thinking, creative problem-solving, and support from like-minded women, we can empower ourselves and each other to do what traditional retirement planning approaches say can’t be done… create authentic, creative, comfortable, and enriching retirement lives.

Living our best lives,