With record numbers of baby boomers retiring, many new trends are coming into the retirement landscape. Among boomers, there is one growing trend of "solo agers," or those who retired without marrying anyone or having any children. According to the American Society on Aging, around 20% of boomers fit this trend.
If you are a solo ager, here are some questions to ask when planning for your retirement. How you answer these questions can be crucial in helping you enjoy a comfortable and financially confident retired lifestyle.
How is Your Support Network?
As the old Beatles song goes, "I can get by… with a little help from my friends." Everyone will need someone else's help at some point in their lives, especially during retirement.
You may become physically unable to perform household chores at some point (in fact, you are eventually bound to). You may have siblings or other relatives that live in your area that you can turn to. But make sure that you have a support network of some sort after you retire.
That way you will have someone to call on for help if you need it, particularly in situations where you need healthcare.
This is especially true if you have a medical emergency of some sort. You would probably dial 911 first, but you may need someone to look after your home or pets while you are receiving treatment. Your local church may be a good resource for you if you attend one.
What About Your Housing Situation?
Aging-in-place is a much-desired goal for most retirees. However, you might not have any adult children to help you as you progress further in retirement. Because of that, it's worth asking. Is your current home the best place for your retirement life?
Will you be able to meet ongoing needs for property maintenance? What about repairs or major projects like roof replacements? Don't forget the other headaches of home ownership.
Will your home be harder to live in as you age? One consideration is your home's stairs and spaces.
Are they conducive to vehicles for mobility, such as walkers or scooters, if you gradually lose your mobility? Will you be able to obtain assistance from a home health aide -- or other home care services -- as you might require them over the years?
All of these are valid questions. If your home doesn't seem feasible, then you might consider retirement living elsewhere.
What Else Matters with Aging-in-Place Decisions?
If you choose somewhere outside your current home, what sort of retirement community will you join? What sort of lifestyle do you hope to pursue in later years? Explore your options now while your health is still strong.
You may not relish the idea of having to move to a new place to live. But if your current residence has narrow stairways and several levels, then you might think about relocating to a one-story home.
You could also buy one of those lift chairs that allows you to sit while you go up the stairs. Another feature might be a walk-in bathtub in your bathroom so that you don't have to climb in and out of it anymore.
You will need to evaluate the costs of making these types of improvements to your home against the cost of relocating to an assisted living center.
Will You Have Enough Income?
Perform a thorough audit of your current spending and future expected retirement spending. Have you accumulated enough money in your portfolio, and savings in general, in order to support your lifestyle expectations?
Estimating how much retirement income you will need can help with your calculations. If you are a little behind the eight ball in what you will need for lifetime income, rev up your savings now.
In just retirement accounts alone, there are "catch-up" provisions that allow you to contribute more money to your retirement plan and accounts. They kick in once you reach age 50 and beyond that.
Don't Forget About Social Security
What if you need to accumulate more savings to retire on? You might consider working for a few more years, then. It can also enable you to delay taking Social Security until you reach the maximum retirement age.
Then, your benefit will be 25% more than if you take Social Security at your full retirement age.
You'll also need to consider the portfolio strategy you have in place for generating income. If income shortfalls or financial safety are of importance to you, you might look at financial vehicles that can pay out guaranteed lifetime income as part of your portfolio mix.
Closing Gaps with Guaranteed Income Streams
A single premium immediate annuity can be a good choice here. They usually offer higher guaranteed payouts than other types of conservative instruments such as CDs, Treasury securities, or savings bonds.
Indexed annuities can be another option, especially if they come with a guaranteed income rider. This rider allows you to receive guaranteed income for life while still being able to access some of the money in your contract.
Indexed annuities come with a principal guarantee, provided that you don't withdraw more than a certain amount. In most contracts, this "free withdrawal" provision goes up to 5 or 10 percent of the contract value during the first few years that the contract is in force.
What About Powers of Attorney for Estate, Retirement, and Health Issues?
As you age, you might need someone whom you trust to make decisions on your behalf. These are important life decisions that affect your finances, health situation, estate, and legacy wishes.
You will need a power-of-attorney document that empowers a trusted relative or friend to make decisions about your financial and/or health affairs on your behalf, with your interest in mind.
This capacity to make decisions for you triggers when you don't have the mental acuity to make decisions on your own. You aren't required to name the same person as power of attorney for financial decisions, medical-services decisions, and health decisions.
For legacy plans, your estate will need an executor to ensure your wishes are carried out. If you haven't given it thought yet, start thinking about what you wish to leave as a legacy. You will also want to consider whom you want to receive your estate assets.
Don't forget about setting a plan for legal guardianship for you in the future. Working with an estate planning attorney now to facilitate these details will help you ensure all of these affairs are in place beforehand.
What About the Issue of Probate?
What if you don't want any of your assets to go through the probate process? Then one option is establishing a revocable living trust and retitling all of your assets in the name of the trust so that they will be exempt from the probate process.
A living trust can simplify and accelerate the estate settlement process for your heirs. Your assets also won't be subject to public scrutiny this way. Everything that goes through probate is listed on the county website.
As a solo retiree, you will have to make extra provisions to ensure that you are all right when you retire.
You will need to have a strong support network in place. You should be sure that you will have enough income to last for the rest of your life.
You will also need to craft a well-thought-out estate plan to ensure that your assets are disposed of in the manner that you desire. You will also have housing issues to consider. It may mean relocating to a residence that is safer and more accommodating for you.
Consult your financial advisor for more information on what you will need to do to prepare for retirement as a single person. What if you are looking for a financial professional to assist you?