How Single Women Can Live Out Their Retirement Dreams

by: Catherine Alford

Asian senior woman artist sketching. Focus on face, blurred workspace in background. Art background, text space

Retiring as a single woman could be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. After all, there is no reason why a single woman can’t live out her retirement dreams – as long as she plans for it.

According to insights by Schwab, 36% of women over age 65 live alone. They also mention that in the event of a divorce near retirement age, single people “may face the possibility of lower savings, higher expenses or a smaller income.”

If a single woman takes specific steps to prepare for retirement, she should be able to enjoy as many retirement benefits, if not more, as her non-single counterparts.

Below are two examples of women who are doing just that, as well as some tips on how you can get there, too.

Rosemary Clement

Photo submitted by Rosemary Clement – Taken on a recent trip to New York City. One of her former dance students invited her to sit in the grand stands at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Rosemary Clement is an incredible woman in her 80s who recently lost her husband of 67 years. Despite the personal hardships she’s endured over the past year, she still remains positive and is truly enjoying her retirement.

Rosemary explains, “My husband, Walter, would want me to have a good time and enjoy my retirement years. He wouldn’t want me to stay home and cry.” So, along with four of her friends who are also widows (she says they call themselves “The 5 Musketeers”), she regularly volunteers for various organizations in her hometown of Slidell, Louisiana.

When I asked her how she financially prepared for retirement, she said, “My father always told me to put money away for a rainy day, even if I was doing well.” Rosemary was a business owner in her hometown for 40 years. She owned a successful dance studio and then a gymnastics club, which at one point had more than 300 students enrolled. During that point in her life, she earned a high income, but she always saved. Today, she lives comfortably using income from Social Security, her nest egg and the sale from the large building that used to house her gymnastics club.

When I asked what advice she would give to other single women who might be planning for retirement, she said, “Always save, even if you’re earning a high income, and give back. Volunteering is what makes your retirement years much more fun.”

Dr. Kathleen Jones

Dr. Kathleen Jones is a newly retired professor who spent the majority of her career as at Virginia Tech. There, she was an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the department of history. Faced with her impeding retirement, Dr. Jones, in true academic style, started a blog called The Retiring Professor ( as way to reflect on her transition to retirement.

Dr. Jones is also a single mother who navigated the tricky waters of financially planning for her daughter’s college education while also paying off her own mortgage before retiring. That, combined with a self-described “late start” securing her academic tenure track position, means she wishes she would have saved more for retirement, despite being prepared well enough to pay the bills now. Still, she went into retirement debt-free and advises other single women to do the same: “Entering retirement unencumbered by debt has made a huge difference in adjusting to my new income structure.”

Because she is newly retired, Dr. Jones says what she currently enjoys most about retirement is “fantasizing about what I would like to do – like that trip to Germany to trace ancestral roots.” At present, she’s actually finishing the final chapter of her book free from the pressures of faculty meetings and teaching classes.

Dr. Jones also says that she has spent more time with her grandchidren “now that visits are not determined by university holidays and summers with no teaching obligations.” Of course, it’s also not surprising that as soon as she finishes writing her own book, she’s eyeing several shelves full of books she’s been meaning to read.

She is also becoming more politically active and plans to enroll in a master gardener class since gardening has been her “relief from academic stress” for years.

When I asked Dr. Jones what her advice would be to other single women who want to enjoy retirement in the future, she said, “Find a community of like-minded retired single women.” This could prove helpful when discussing tedious financial issues and provide support for everyday things, such as “needing rides to the doctor if you are not near family!”

She also encourages single women to “think of retirement as a process, not an event – a process that needs to begin years before you retire. Financial planning is part of that process but so is emotional and psychological planning.”

Tips to Plan for Your Retirement

As evidenced above, your retirement years as a single woman can look however you want. In order to fulfill your dreams of travel, homeownership or starting a business during your retirement years, it’s important to plan now.

If you want to have a happy retirement like Rosemary and Kathleen, start today by completing these steps:

  • Define your goals. You need to do more than put a picture of a place you want to travel on your fridge. Instead, write down extremely clear goals that you want to achieve. For example, instead of writing down “I want to retire early,” write “I want to save $1.5 million by the time I’m 45 years old.”
  • Create a plan. Once you know your very specific goals, you can then reverse engineer them to get there. Find out how much money you need to save for retirement and then work backward. In order to achieve that number, accounting for inflation, how much do you need to invest if the market gives you average returns? If you’re not able to save the amount you need every month, what do you have to do to get there? Do you need to change jobs, reduce your spending or try something else?
  • Act on it. You can set your goals and create a plan, but the real difference will come when you finally act on it. Set up your automatic savings. Make your investments, create extra income and daily remind yourself of your goals. If you get off track, don’t beat yourself up. Simply redirect and keep trying.

Ultimately, if you’re a single woman, you have every ability within you to achieve your retirement dreams. Whether you’re recently widowed like Rosemary or have spent your adult life being single like Kathleen, you can decide how you want to spend your retirement years. In order to get there, it’s important to plan and save now – starting today – so that you can enjoy your bliss-filled retirement, whenever that may be.

Are you a single woman who wants to retire early? Or, are you a single woman who is worried about having enough saved for retirement? What questions do you have about saving for your future?

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