Your retirement. Coming Soon.

(Puppies and kittens.)  We all need something happy to focus on when we think about retirement.  We can barely (almost?) make ends meet monthly with a full salary now—how are we going to live our life on Social Security? (Cupcakes.)  We will make it work and thankfully Social Security is still there for us.  The fact remains that the more we can not spend today, the more we’ll have for tomorrow.

Here are facts of single women and retirement, followed by a series of corresponding positive steps that you can take to offset them for a healthier retirement.  While it pays to get serious, don’t get down on yourself if you’re like me, a fellow late starter.  Every preparation we make and dollar we don’t spend now, will help us later.  (Some hunky, silent man vacuuming.)

You’re it, babe.

While most retirement planning assumes two salaries, if you’re retiring single, chances are your income is your only income.  And you’re going to need funds for a longer life.  A 65 year old woman in 2000 had an average life expectancy of another 21.33 years, compared to 16.73 for a man.  You’ve heard this before--according to Catalyst, due to pay inequity (women earning less than men), full-time working women working year-round can loose earnings worth $700,000 if she’s a high school graduate and works 47 years.

Positive Steps

  • Make sure the salary you’re earning now is sufficient to either save a chunk for retirement, or that you’re in a position that earns a pension—so you’ll have funds on top of Social Security.
  • Retrain for or go get a higher paid position--anything you spend now will only pay you back later in a higher salary.
  • Get a job with a defined benefit pension like what police officers or some teaching positions have.  Defined benefit is the golden retirement you want but is super rare.  It means instead of trying to save a chunk of money on your own (defined contribution), your salary is saved before it gets to you (pre-tax) and then at retirement you get a percentage of your top salary—for the rest of your life.  Right, so go get one.
  • Retrain for a predominately male industry position in demand with a union--for security. Michelle, a 34 year old former social worker in Michigan, retrained and became an electrician.  She now earns almost twice what she did previously, is always in demand and has much more job security with a union.
  • IRA, not just a cute name. If you’re self employed or do take a time-out to raise kids as mentioned below—open and contribute to an individual retirement account, or “IRA”.
  • Bank the money you don’t have. Bonuses, cash gifts, tax returns, lottery wins—whatever money you don’t have worked into your main budget now, sock it into your retirement fund tax-free for withdrawal when you’re in a lower tax bracket.
  • Make your corporation work for you. Take part in stock options, contribute to the company retirement plan as soon as possible and to the max, ask for a free financial consult and create a retirement plan, put money in a healthcare account, get transit or childcare rebates/discounts—do whatever you can to really look at the benefits you’ve earned and use them all.
  • Deduct healthcare from your small business. It pays to stick with one healthcare company over the long haul for smaller deductibles and higher co-pays.  If you have a small business or side business, get healthcare for yourself through that business.  You may be able to deduct “above the line” healthcare expenses through your small business.  Also, depending on the status of healthcare reform, you and your child/ren may be covered.

Take that first step and feel great

Every single gal should check these out with your professional team (lawyer, insurance rep or financial planner):  a Will, long-term disability, mortgage and credit insurance, power of attorney, living will, estate plan, succession planning if you have a business, putting their name(s) on assets, pre-paid funeral arrangements (or at least pre-selected), having a safety deposit box or fireproof box in the home with important documents.

Most importantly be flexible!  Your retirement plan should grow with your lifestages to get you where you need to be when you retire. (You having a fabulous life in retirement!)