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Retirement Planning for Singles

Retirement is a big deal for anybody, and that's especially true for single people who may be retiring with just one income and who may have built up a nest egg solely off their own savings. So, we know that single people can and do retire comfortably. In fact, one quarter of people over age 60 are living alone in their household, and that number is slightly higher for women, and that's, of course, due to women's longevity. So what we're going to talk about here is retirement for single people. First, we'll go over some averages to give you a rough idea of what the landscape looks like for single people, then we'll get into how much money you might need as you go into retirement, then we'll talk about some tips that can help improve the chances of retiring comfortably. Let's start with the average retirement income for single people. So it's $42,000 on average for an individual in retirement, and that comes from the US Census Bureau. The median is a little bit lower at $27,000.

So a friendly reminder of how this works: The median is the middle, so if you line up all of the survey results, people telling you what their income is, for example, that arrow points at the middle observation, which would give us the median down at the bottom. But if we go to the average, that is going to get skewed by, in this case, wealthy people, for example, they have a very high income. When it comes to Social Security, the average is about $1,500 a month or $18,000 per year.Your level depends, of course on your earnings, if you had higher earnings during your working years, then you tend to potentially have a bigger benefit than that, and it could be lower, and then of course, your claiming age is also an important thing. If you claim early at age 62, you get a reduced benefit. That's likely to bring down the amount you get.

Next, we have pensions, some people get an income from a job they worked at. That might be in the public sector as a teacher, a firefighter, that sort of thing, or even in the private sector, you could have a pension from your job, and those incomes just are all over the board, it could be high, it could be low, but these are different sources of income that people might have in retirement. This is just a friendly reminder that this is just one video and it may cover some interesting information, but it's not specific to you so I hope you'll do a lot more research, hopefully check with some professionals and get some individualized advice, and that way you can improve the chances of things going well for you.

So now let's talk about how much you might need as you go into retirement. Unfortunately, there's no single answer on what you need because it depends. So the first step is to figure out what sort of income you're going to need, and I've got other videos on that, I'll put links in the description to get you some more information, but you can look at replacing a portion of your income, or you can just say, I want X amount of dollars per year, or you can go with other approaches, but first we need to know how much income you are hoping for. Next, we tally up your income sources, so that might be some guaranteed income that comes in from Social Security, for example, or from your pension at your workplace, but that forms a base of income and that might or might not cover what you need. But it gives us a base and then if we need to fill that in, we can supplement withdrawals from your retirement savings, so that might be out of your IRA, your 401, 403, these accounts that you have built up over time can provide supplemental income to help fill the gap between that guaranteed income you get and the amount you actually want to spend.

There are a number of ways to figure out how much to withdraw and to set up different strategies, there might be bucking strategies, there might be withdrawal strategies like the 4% rule. Or if you don't like that, make it the 3% rule to be safer, or take out more if you think that's not enough and you're selling yourself short. Ultimately, there are a number of ways to approach this, so you just pick one that works well for you, and again, I can point you to some resources on figuring that out. And finally, you will want to look at taxes and inflation, so during your retirement years, it's reasonable to assume that prices may increase on many of the things you buy, so we want your income to be able to increase as well, Social Security typically does rise, but maybe not at the same rate as the things you're buying, so your withdrawals may need to account for that.

Plus we've got taxes. You typically will owe taxes if you're taking distributions or you're taking withdrawals from pre tax retirement accounts. If you have a pension that might be taxable as well. We just want to look at all of these things and figure out what your ultimate money left over to spend each month is going to be. For an over simplified example, let's just look at Jane Doe.

She's 60 years old, she's single, she wants to retire in about five years, she makes about 80,000 a year and has 700,000. A lot of people retire with less than that, a lot of people retire with more. I'm going to bring up my financial planning software that I use with clients, and we'll just go over kind of why there's no single answer on how much you need. Now, if you can tell me exactly how long you'll live and what the markets will do and what inflation will look like, we can tell you exactly what you'll need. But there are a lot of unknowns, so a lot of times we start with a probability of success and I'll go over what that means, and then we look at little tweaks and how different changes might affect that probability of success, so working an extra year might bring her from…

Let's say 75% to 84% likely to succeed. Now, success and failure are pretty complicated. They don't necessarily mean that you go completely broke, but you may need to make some adjustments, so let's talk about what does the success mean? We, again, cannot predict the future, so we say, Let's look back and say, You get dealt 1,000 hands. You're playing a game of cards and you get 1,000 hands. Some of those are good and some of those are bad, so the very good ones tend to be up here, near the top. And you actually end up with a lot of money left over. Some of them are not as good and you end up running out of money early. The median is, again, that one that's right in the middle when we line them up in order for best to worst.

And so you might say, you're probably not going to get the best, you're probably not going to get the worst, although anything is possible. So that's how we go with this likelihood of success. Now, maybe she doesn't want to work an extra year, so we can look at different ways of accomplishing things here. By the way, we've built in some long term care in case she does get sick and needs that at the end of life. She's looking to spend about 4,000 a month, that's after some health care costs that are going to inflate each year, and she's saving a decent amount in some 401K and taxable accounts. Let's say she goes ahead and maxes out that Roth, is it going to make a big difference? Not really, 'cause she only has five years left. So what we do here is we start looking at all of these different variables and playing with the pieces and figuring out what does it take to make her successful at her retirement, or at least successful enough that she's comfortable making that transition.

So here are some tips to improve your chances. The first is to plan for long term care. If you're living on your own, you don't have somebody in the house who can help you do things, and it's arguable if even a couple is capable of managing this on their own… I mean, if you think about a couple, is one of the people physically able to move the other person around and do they have the skills to provide health care, and the time and the energy, frankly, to provide all that type of care? So it's important for everybody, but it's especially important for single people to plan for this care. So you can look at getting insurance, you can look at budgeting for some costs, like we showed you in the software, you might want to budget for a much bigger number if you go into memory care or something like that with 24 hour supervision, it can get really expensive quickly.

And you can explore different living arrangements, maybe doing things with friends or certain communities that might be a good fit for you. Next is to avoid leaving money on the table so if you were previously married and your spouse passed away or you've been divorced, you may be eligible for benefits. That's maybe from Social Security, you can potentially get a survivor's benefit, or if you were married for at least 10 years and you've been divorced, you can potentially get spousal benefits on your ex spouse's work record. It's just important to explore all of these to see if there are any resources available for you.

Next is to make a plan, and I am of course biased as a financial planner, but I think it is really helpful to go through the process, and the main goal isn't to get a big document that tells you what your financial plan is. Instead, really, the benefit is going through that process and learning a lot about your finances as you do it, and in that process, you get an idea of what the risks are, how you're doing, you might get confidence and clarity on whether or not you can go ahead and retire, if you should do certain things or not. It's just a very valuable process for a lot of people, but I'll leave that for you to decide. If you found this video helpful, please leave a quick thumbs up. That gives me feedback that this is something you might enjoy more of, so thanks for watching and take care..

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