Being single has its benefits. It means you get to live by your own rules and enjoy your financial resources without having to share them with a partner.
But being single could also prove challenging in the context of retirement. Here's why -- and what to do about it.
1. You might need long-term care
Being married doesn't guarantee that you won't require some type of long-term care during retirement. But if you're married and share a life with someone, that person might be able to provide some care so you can minimize the amount you have to pay for. If you're single and live alone, you may have to spend more on a home health aide or even assisted living. And the costs there could be astronomical.
You can prepare for the expense of long-term care -- and help offset it -- by purchasing long-term care insurance. The ideal time to do so is generally your mid-50s, at which point you're more likely to snag a discount on premiums, based on your age and health. Having that coverage could spare you a world of stress down the line, all while helping to ensure that you're able to get the care you need.
2. You'll only have one set of Social Security benefits to collect
Married couples can play around with different Social Security filing strategies. And one popular one is to have the lower earner claim benefits while the other delays their filing for a higher monthly benefit down the line.
If you're single, you can't employ the same approach to Social Security. But that doesn't mean you can't maximize your benefits.
If you plan to work until age 70, you can delay your filing until that point and give your monthly benefit the maximum boost it's eligible for. The result? A higher monthly paycheck to look forward to for the rest of your life.
3. You'll only have access to one IRA or 401(k)
Married folks who save individually in an IRA or 401(k) plan can pool those resources during retirement for a higher total household income. If you're single, you'll only have your own savings to tap. And while it's true that you'll only have one mouth to feed, not two, many of the other costs you'll bear, like housing, will largely be the same whether there's one person living under your roof or two.
But you can make up for not having access to a second retirement savings plan by boosting your own. Start by ramping up your savings rate by 1% or 2% every year so you're able to build up a solid nest egg. At the same time, invest your savings wisely so your money is able to grow. That means not playing it too safe in your retirement plan, but going heavy on stocks while you still have many working years ahead of you.
Avoiding costly retirement-plan fees is another great way to end up with a larger nest egg. If you have a 401(k) plan, aim to put more money into index funds, which commonly charge much lower fees than actively managed mutual funds. Also, consider ditching your 401(k) and moving over to an IRA if the administrative fees keep adding up. (If your employer offers a 401(k) match, save enough to claim it -- but put added funds into an IRA, instead.)
Being single can be a challenge when it comes to retirement. But with careful planning and the right strategy, it certainly doesn't have to be.