GUEST AUTHOR BLOG by Jan Cullinane author of, "The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement."
What is 25 million strong and growing?
It's the number of single (never-married, divorced, and widowed) women over the age of 45 in the United States.
Why the increase?
I attribute this growing demographic to what I call the "5Ds": Death of a spouse (women have longer life spans); Divorce (about a fourth of all divorces are between couples 50 ); Delayed marriage (women are waiting longer to get married; Dumped (women can be on either side of this equation, the dumpee or the dumper); Don't want to be married (many women are perfectly happy being single).
And, think about this: Even if you're happily married now, there is an 80-90% chance you'll be single at some point, and responsible for all decisions.
What makes this demographic special, besides the fierce battle for their votes by the Presidential candidates? Several discriminators:
- Home Ownership: Single women are the second largest group of homeowners, according to the National Board of Realtors, and account for one-fifth of home buyers. Single women, more so than single men, see owning a home as a symbol of success, and providing roots and security.
- Social Support: Single women excel at Vitamin F –and the F stands for friendship. Social support is vital to a happy retirement. Studies have found those with strong social support live longer than those without it, and it was friends, not family, that made the difference.
- Investing: Single women are prudent investors. Compared to single men, they earn 2.3 percent greater returns. They are more likely seek financial professional help, ask more questions, and do more research. Because they are more risk-averse, however, single women tend to miss large, short-term gains.
- Economics: We know single women don't have a "back-up" salary, and will usually have to work longer than their married sisters, although younger single working females now have a slight edge in income growth over their married counterparts. More than half of all adult women who are poor are also single. (Read More: I Hate Her and She's My Boss: 'Mean Girls at Work')
- Caregiving: About 25% of caregivers are single women. Single women caregivers fare more poorly than married women when it comes to finances and well-being.
(Read More: Suze Orman's Top 10 Money Tips for Women )
A few specific examples from my new book, AARP's "The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement," addresses the opportunities and challenges of single women as they approach this transition called retirement:
- Working: You can work at home – it's called "homeshoring." For example, you can be a call center worker from the comfort of your own residence. One such company is Alpine Access (alpineaccess.com) which offers full and part-time employment, the possibility of health insurance, 401(k)s, paid training, and an average salary of $9 an hour. Your commitment: a $45 background check (if you're offered a job), a PC with certain requirements, purchase of two headsets, and a landline. Or start your own business like Paulette. With pets an almost $60 billion industry in the United States (we all love our children in fur coats), her dog walking/pet-sitting service is doing great.
- Relocation: Where you live can make your money go a lot farther, or you may be looking for social support. If you downsize to a smaller residence in a less expensive area, you could pay less for furnishings, property taxes, insurance, utilities, food, and entertainment. A cohousing community, such as Wolf Creek Lodge in Grass Valley, California, may be an option for you if you're looking for extraordinary social support as you age. Or, be like Kate and Allie, and get a roommate. Two can live more cheaply than one.
- Travel: Some travel sites will cover the "single supplement" if you can't find a roommate, or offer a room-sharing service. For example, try GutsyWomenTravel with their "Guaranteed Share Program" (there are a few restrictions).
- Giving back: Feel like you have no discretionary income to give toward a charity? Try these three free (trying saying that three times fast) online games that help others while you learn and have fun: www.freerice.com; www.charitii.com, and www.freekibble.com.
Health, caregiving, working, money, relocation, deepening connections, and using 168 hours a week wisely: These are all aspects of retirement that should be considered. Ready to start planning? (Read More: When Having a Financial Adviser Makes Sense )
About the author: Jan Cullinane wrote "The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement." She has been featured on TV, on the radio, and in many newspapers and magazines. Her previous book, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life, was chosen as a book club selection by The Washington Post's "Color of Money" columnist Michelle Singletary, and reached the overall #2 rank on both Amazon and B&N.com (right behind Harry Potter).
Email me at email@example.com — And follow me on Twitter @BullishonBooks