One benefit of marriage – and it’s particularly true if you have kids – is the sense of security that comes with it. You know that as you grow old, you’ll have people by your side, people who can likely take care of you in later life. Singles don’t have that same security blanket, and Jan says she feels it.
But research has shown that it isn’t the issue we may think it is. A 2010 study in Aging & Mental Health found that compared to parents, childless disabled elders didn’t receive a lower level of care, nor did they suffer when it comes to psychological wellbeing. This may be because there are options for care outside of the traditional family unit. Siblings, for starters, and Jan is already looking toward her brothers as she prepares for the next stage of her life. She jokingly tells her niece that she’ll have to live with her one day, though it very well may be true. What other options do she and other singles have? A few:
Long-term care insurance. Everyone should weigh whether they need this coverage, though my general rule of thumb is to purchase if you have liquid assets worth between about $500,000 and $2 million. If you have less than that and you’ll quickly exhaust your savings should you need care. If you have more than that and you should be able to self-fund any costs. Singles are more likely to need coverage because they’re more likely to have to hire someone to provide care and other services – a spouse won’t be able to fill that role. This is especially true if you also don’t have children. The best age to buy is between 55 and 60.
Public services. No, I’m not talking about Medicare or Medicaid, though they are important elements. I’m talking about services like public transportation. As you age and decide where you’d like to retire, this is an important consideration – you may want to choose a location that is easy to get around without the use of a car, in case you can’t drive one day. Trains, buses and taxis are all good options to have nearby. Consider, too, the accessibility of your home. Single story homes or an apartment building with an elevator may be best.
Documentation. You’ll need to name a health care proxy and power of attorney, and in many scenarios, that person would be a spouse or child. But for a single without children, you may want to choose another family member, or a close, trusted friend to fill these rolls. You should plan ahead, too, by making sure that someone nearby knows your financial situation and is able to pay bills and manage your life should you be unable to. And finally, remember that just because you’re single doesn’t mean you don’t need a will – it’s an important document no matter what your marital or parental status.
Professional help. It’s a good idea to have a lawyer and a financial advisor if you feel you need one. These people can not only serve as sounding boards, but can step in if necessary, keep copies of vital papers, and pass on important information to loved ones.