retiring soloYou've seen the commercial: A 50-something couple sits side-by-side in matching bathtubs, watching a sunset together. The ad may be for Cialis, but the image strikes a familiar chord. Walking hand-in-hand through one's golden years with a beloved companion is something most married people look forward to, at least in theory.

But sometimes, reality is far more bleak. Take Lee Block's experience. One day in 2004, the stay-at-home-mom from Houston went grocery shopping with her two small children. She tried to write a check for her purchases, only to find out her joint checking account had been shut down by her husband, whom she was divorcing. Block, 44, learned the hard way about financial independence and being single again. Today, she's a divorce coach. Her urgent advice for those who are going through a split: "Understand money when you are divorced. Know how much it costs to live, and understand how much you are going to need down to the penny."

100 Million Singles Need to Plan for the Future

While getting back on your feet financially is an obvious part of resuming single life, one oft-overlooked aspect is planning for a solo retirement. A new study from Charles Schwab shows that 85% of married Americans have begun to save for retirement, but only 67% of singles are putting away funds for their later years. It's not just the divorced who are failing to plan ahead: There is an increasing number of never-married Americans, and those who do marry are staying single longer beforehand.

For many older women, too, becoming single again is a natural outcome of longer lifespans. Women outlive men by seven years on average. All told, there are nearly 100 million single people in the United States, according to the latest Census Bureau figures.

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, senior vice president at Schwab, says that being married adds a level of accountability to retirement planning that single people don't necessarily have. "Not having to answer to someone else gives you an illusion that time will keep ticking," she says.

Another issue clouding retirement planning thanks to the advancing age of first marriages is the perception that retirement planning can wait until after the "I dos." But nearly every financial planner agrees that the earlier retirement planning starts, the easier it is to build a substantial nest egg. "The longer you wait, the harder it is to catch up," Schwab-Pomerantz says.

For all these reasons, it is vitally important that single people take control of their financial destinies as soon as they can, she says.

Don't Let Divorce Derail Retirement Planning

When couples get divorced, money contributed to retirement accounts by either spouse during the marriage is considered a marital asset, and can be divvied up under a qualified domestic relations order. While that may provide some retirement security, Debra Fournier, a certified divorce financial analyst in Manasquan, N.J., says that it is crucial for singles to continue contributing to retirement on their own after a split.

"Pay yourself first," she says. Adjusting to a new -- usually lower -- level of lifestyle is critical for the newly single, but Fournier says budget adjustments should never come at the expense of saving for retirement.

Schwab-Pomerantz agrees that retirement savings need to be the first allocation for money, especially if the single person has a matching 401(k) program. Secondly, she advises people to pay off high-interest debt like credit cards, and thirdly, create an emergency fund.

"As a single person, you don't want to be in a position where you have to sell long-terms assets to pay for an emergency or get an emergency loan," she says. "It is better to have some cash."

Block, who coaches the newly single, says often she sees splits that end with nothing after child support, alimony and taxes. "If you come out and you have nothing, chances are there was nothing there to split or not enough to make a difference," she says. For many women who were stay-at-home moms, that means heading back into the workforce and getting a job, ideally one with benefits. However, sometimes plain old income is the first step.

"I have clients that have gone out and waitressed to make sure they know their kids are going to be OK. You do what you have to do," Block says. "Don't get mired down in 'why me.' Step up and take the bull by the horns. The fact is, when you are divorced, you are responsible for everything."

Five Retirement Planning Tips for Singles

1. Live below your means. Financial planner Fournier says the biggest mistake she sees among the newly divorced is the failure to adjust to a lower income. "Lifestyles change dramatically on both sides [in a divorce]," she says. "The expenses stay the same, but there is less income." The challenges for many new singles are cost containment and not racking up credit card debt.

2. Save 10% to 25% of your income for retirement. Don't underestimate the power of compound interest, nor the expenses you'll have in retirement, says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz. The earlier you start saving, the less you have to save from each paycheck over time. For singles in their 20s, she advises saving 10% of your income toward retirement; for 30-somethings, bump that up to 15%, and for 40s and beyond between 20% and 25%.

3. Maximize your company match and IRA contributions. Fournier says that many times in a divorce, people stop contributing to their 401(k) or IRA plans to increase cash flow. That's a mistake: Make whatever budget cuts are necessary so that retirement is not compromised.

4. Get long-term care insurance. "It's a comfort to have some kind of long-term care insurance and not have to rely on somebody else," Fournier says. Cost of home care ranges from state to state, but the cost of living in a private nursing home in 2011 is more than $77,000 a year. Long-term care insurance can defray those costs.

5. Create an emergency savings cushion. A savings account that contains enough cash to cover three to six months of expenses can be the difference between having to sell assets under pressure and navigating an emergency with your financial plan intact.

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October 12 2011 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What if there were a “secret” about trading Oil that would allow you to make almost as much money as you wanted, would you be interested? Of course you would, that’s why you need to get yourself over to my website “Oil Trading Academy” and see what I have to offer you.BE RICH! I will teach you a “secret” so that you can have a 90% success rate on your trades!

October 02 2011 at 10:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Almost by definition, the median single person cannot save enough for retirement any more since the pricing of housing is based on multiple income households. It means median earning singles must either acquire roomates or a partner to share costs. The change in pricing has been built into the marketplace over the last 30-40 years.

This was partly due to the fact that in the mid-1970's, demographic changes resulting from more women entering the workforce, prompted banks to begin considering multiple incomes for mortgages. So instead of the loan amount being based on what just one person made, (usually the husband), it was based on what a couple might bring in. As a result, naive couples used the extra money to bid up the cost of housing everywhere, permanently making it more difficult for single income households to survive.

September 17 2011 at 6:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brian Daniel

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September 16 2011 at 12:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's not surprising to me that Debbie Wasserman Schultz made a complete fool out of herself by saying that the New York 9th congressional district is a difficult district for democrats. After all it's only been held by democrats for almost 90 years. Even I had to laugh at her remark. Although I shouldn't talk, I frequently make a fool out of myself too.

September 15 2011 at 8:49 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mrspelosi's comment

The reason it is difficult is because 41% of the district is conservative. Being conservative is bad enough but to be Jewish too is too much when the president hates Jews and Israel way more than his Palestinian brothers, This combination of conservative Jews and an Anti Semite Democratic President makes this once supermajority Democrat district solidly Republican now. Jews that once f-voted democrat at 90% rates will not ever vote for this anti Semite President again. As a veteran of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, I can guarantee you that this is so and i will do my best to make this anti Semite go into retirement.

September 15 2011 at 11:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We liberals are shaking in our boots now that the Wiener of the house has been replaced with a Republican. Seems to be the thing these days. I was replaced with a Republican too. It's good to see that the American people are finally getting on the right track again.

September 15 2011 at 8:39 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

92% of blacks believe Obama is doing a great job. They still think he will pay their mortgage and gas bills......the fools.
The takers may re-elect the Socialist then we'll all be strewed.

September 15 2011 at 8:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to savemycountry911's comment

92% of idiots like you believe that BUSH did a good job and can't pay their mortgage and gas bills.....

September 16 2011 at 6:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a single boomer about to retire, I've staked out a nice little cove at Black's Beach in San Diego. The weather is perfect year round, it's a nude beach so I won't need clothes, and I'm going to live on seaweed. I've seen "Castaway" with Tom Hanks, so I know how to handle dental emergencies.

September 15 2011 at 4:39 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Greg's comment

Don't forget Wilson the socker ball.

September 15 2011 at 8:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to savemycountry911's comment


September 15 2011 at 8:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down

Lets not punch Mrs Pelosi unless she enjoys it :-) (Sock her)

September 16 2011 at 12:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

Beware of crabs! You're gonna need medical insurance, no question about it!

September 20 2011 at 1:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Europe has convinved the our market that their band air is going to work so gold has drooped. Its time to buy gold before the market figures out that the band aid wont work and it jumps back to $2000/oz.

September 15 2011 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jack seems to have led a very dull life. And ,at 70, I wouldn't worry about tomorrow,it may never come. Jack should buy a Subway Franchise,hire a young college graduate to run the daily operations,and spend the rest of his life enjoying the money he spends seeing the world and helping those in need. It will change Jack's life from a dull worrying and unhappy wart into a man with a purpose and unlinited happiness that comes from helping others.

September 15 2011 at 12:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply