Ask Terry Questions Financial and retirement advice for middle-aged single women with no children

Financial and retirement advice for middle-aged single women with no children

By Terry Savage on April 21, 2015 | Wild Card

Hi Terry,

I am almost 50, single with no children. I don’t make a lot of money and have very little retirement saved, and I’m still paying student loans. I have no credit card debt but I do have a car note and rent. There is no question that I will have to work at least for the next 25 years. I’m scared, because I realized there will probably be no one to take care of me in old age. That hit me like a ton of bricks, and opened my eyes. What can I do as a first step to rectify this situation? I have about $10,000 in savings. Should I try to open an IRA, invest some of it? What should i be focusing on? Help!

Terry Says:  Yes, this is a serious issue for women — who tend to live longer than men, and who have more and more made the decision (or fate has made the decision) that they will be on their own.  As you imply, it’s not just a matter of money, but of being alone in your old age without someone to rely upon to be your advocate in health situations, and to have financial power of attorney in case you cannot act on your behalf.  I’ve seen too many of my own friends come to this realization.

This is the time to develop a relationship with a financial planner.  I suggest you go to and search for a planner who will meet with you regularly, and offer some guidance.  This is about more than just investing; it’s about issues like purchasing at least some long term care insurance (so you can buy your way into a better nursing facility than Medicaid would be able to provide), and about creating an “estate plan” that includes a healthcare power of attorney, and perhaps a revocable living trust.

I realized I haven’t answered your real question.  You’ve done a good job paying down debt.  Attack the remaining student loans aggressively — even if you have to take a weekend or part-time job.  Then start saving aggressively in an IRA.

Now let me propose something different.  Think of the 70 year old women who are already in the situation you fear.  Perhaps through a church group or civic organization you could meet one of those women, who owns a home or condo, and provide those services for her — maybe in exchange for a room in her home (saving money on rent).  Strange, I know.  But some of those women who fear being alone are actually reasonably wealthy — and would want to pay for someone to live there — just in case (not as a nursemaid or housekeeper) — just to keep them from being alone.

I think this might have to be the wave of the future for single women as they age — banding together, hopefully with someone younger who can be trusted to help in tough situations.  I post this idea here to perhaps give others some food for thought —



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