The Lifestyle Digs

Single Women Closing in on Retirement with Very Little Savings

An unfortunate reality is many single women are closing in on retirement with very little savings.

As a woman gets in her 50s and for sure probably by age 60, she’s thinking about retirement.

If she’s single and a low-income earner, she’s probably thinking about when – or if – she can retire.

RETIREMENT SAVINGS THROUGH AN EMPLOYER

Not everyone is fortunate to have a job where the employer sets up some sort of retirement savings plan. In Canada we have the RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings) that can be contributed to individually and through an employer – if you’re lucky to find one who offers that benefit.

I could be wrong on my facts, but in the states there’s an employer/employee savings plan called the 401k which is offered by some companies to their staff.

Either one, the employer deducts a portion of the employee’s pay to a retirement plan. Let’s just call it 5% to work in easy numbers, though that percentage could vary, either up or down. The employer usually matches a portion of the employee’s contribution to the retirement savings account. It could be a straight dollar to dollar match or a percentage for each dollar the employee contributes. Either way, you can be pretty sure the company has a cap on how much money they’ll contribute to a retirement savings plan!

It’s a good deal if you can find an employer who offers a retirement savings benefit to the staff. Never opt out of a retirement savings plan at work. Always take advantage of free money!

Unfortunately not all of us have had luck in this department of getting a retirement savings program with an employer match.

NO COMPANY PENSION OR RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLAN

I was recently talking to my friend that I’ll call Kimmy (not her real name). Her company went through restructuring and she found herself downsized at age 50. A very tough age to find a new job. I know that from experience!

Kimmy was with the same company for 30 years and there was no retirement savings plan. She feels she gave them many years of loyal service and has nothing to show for it.

It was a fairly decent paying job, I think she earned around $50,000 a year at the end. She could have created her own retirement savings plan.

In Canada, that’s the RRSP. In the states, it’s called an IRA, Individual Retirement Account. Either country, this type of retirement account can be set up with a financial institution or an investment broker. It depends on whether the saver is looking for mutual funds, stocks and bonds, or a high interest savings account.

You will “age out”. In Canada, monies must be removed from the RRSP by age 71.

Kimmy is not alone. Too many women don’t work for companies that offer a retirement savings program to the staff.

ESTIMATE YOUR RETIREMENT COSTS

You can do a Google search for a retirement calculator.

In the US, check out the Retirement Estimator on the Social Security website.

The Service Canada website has a retirement income estimator.

Just about every financial institution and financial advisor will have similar calculators on their websites to help you estimate how much annual income you’ll need at retirement. These calculators will also help you figure out what age you should aim for retirement.

SAVE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

When I was 50 my father told me that the push was on to make as much money now as I possibly could before retirement. Save as much money as you can in your final working years.

Easy for him to say. I’d recently been laid off from a long term employment and hadn’t found another job. Although good advice, I spent most of the next ten years struggling to find a permanent job. Oh sure, there were some short term jobs that I found with full time hours, but eventually the contract ended and I was back to looking for work again.

However, during those times I had money rolling in, I saved as much as I could.

Not only did I save, but I invested as much money as I could. I learned to be a DIY investor, because I quickly found out that my financial advisor can’t manage my money better than me!

DIY investing! We got this ladies!

Always remember: nobody cares more about my money than I do!

Nobody cares more about my money than I do

INVESTING

Just a quick recommendation on investing.

My online trader is Questrade. If you’re in Canada, I strongly recommend it due to low fees. $4.99 to buy and sell stocks. Free to buy ETF’s – exchange traded funds. They’re similar to mutual funds, but have much lower management fees.

You can transfer money in from your financial institution and if they charge you a transfer-out fee, Questrade will refund it! Just remember to fill out the paperwork to get your rebate! Pretty nice!

I have an account where I’m working on building a portfolio of dividend paying stocks to help me out with monthly expenses. I also have RRSP and TFSA accounts.

I’m a Questrade affiliate. If you click the link on this website, and sign up for a Questrade account, you’ll get $50 put into your trading account and I’ll receive a commission for the referral. I did not open my three accounts at the same time. I opened them over the course of a few months and each time I used an affiliate link and got $50 in each account! You will need to transfer in $1,000 to qualify.

Click the banner below to get started!

KEEP WORKING

Even if you think your retirement age is 65, you might have to keep working, either full or part time.

There was an older man in a company where I used to work who was 72 or 73. He was pretty spry and sharp for his age. He was an engineer and worked four days a week, pretty much full time hours.

Why was he still working?

The rest of us joked that his wife had a big to-do list of things that needed to be done around the house! He went to work so he had an excuse not to tackle the honey-do list!

Bottom line is, we don’t know another person’s financial status. Maybe he still had debt to pay off, like student loans for his kids.

I suspect he was just a workaholic and enjoyed the structure and the camaraderie of the workplace.

It seems that the people who need to work the most, the lower income people with very little retirement savings are the ones who physically are incapable of working due to medical reasons.

A lot of people retire and then they go back to work because they want to or because they have to.

DEBT

Do you have debt?

Whether it’s credit cards, car loan, line of credit, mortgage, or what have you, can you get out of debt before you retire?

If you’re having trouble paying your debt while you’re still working, it’ll be even more difficult to pay down debt on a retirement income.

See the posts Taking Control of Debt on a Low Income and How to Save Money and Bust Debt for links on saving and getting rid of the debt.

Taking Control of Debt on a Low Income
How to Save Money and Bust Debt

SINGLE WOMEN CLOSING IN ON RETIREMENT ON VERY LITTLE SAVINGS

It is possible to retire on very little savings.

Let’s get started retirement planning using an online calculator or pen and paper to get a clear picture of the money coming in after you retire. Perhaps the only money coming in is what you get from Social Security, Old Age Security, or your country’s similar senior benefits if you’re not from North America.

Perhaps you contributed to a company pension plan or retirement savings plan a long time ago with a pretty much forgotten company. That money must be waiting for you somewhere!

Did you invest in dividend paying stocks? Money will be coming in monthly, quarterly, or annually depending on the stock you hold.

Have any assets been built up besides retirement savings? Not all of us own a house, but what about jewelry, antiques, or artwork? Wouldn’t we all like to find a Picasso in the cellar!

I hesitate to suggest finding ways to decrease expenses when many of us are already living frugally, but retirement might mean relocating somewhere with a lower cost of living.

What about working if you’re still physically capable? Shorter hours could be a nice balance between the other retirement income you’ve already sourced out.

If you’re still working, can you put off collecting Social Security or the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)? The longer you wait to apply and collect these monies, a higher percentage is added to your monthly income.

For example, if I collect CPP at age 60, I’ll receive around $400/month. If I wait until I’m 65, it’ll be around $600/month.

But, because I’m still working and contributing to the CPP through the withdrawals my employer makes from my paychecks, by the time I’m 65 years old, it’ll be higher than $600/month. Once I apply and start collecting, that’s the benchmark I’ll receive for the rest of my life, even if I continue working a job. There is a small cost of living increase that is adjusted each January.

DO YOU QUALIFY FOR ANY BENEFITS?

It’s possible you might qualify for benefits available to low-income seniors.

In British Columbia, BC Housing provides rental assistance to low income seniors over age 60. It probably won’t cover the entire rent, but a couple of hundred bucks a month will be a big help. I’m sure many provinces and states have similar programs. Do an online search. It doesn’t hurt to find out if you qualify!

In Canada there’s a program called the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) that assists low income seniors over age 65 who are collecting Old Age Security. If you qualify, it could add an extra $1,000 a month to your bank account. In British Columbia, for low income seniors who already qualified for that GIS, there’s a BC program that adds another $100/month. Every little bit helps!

Low income seniors may qualify for medical assistance. Insurance rates and utilities can be lower for seniors. It doesn’t hurt to ask or switch to a different provider.

Check with the office of your elected officials. They usually have information on senior assistance programs that you might not have known about.

SINGLE WOMEN CLOSING IN ON RETIREMENT WITH VERY LITTLE SAVINGS NEED TO PLAN

If you see yourself as a single woman closing in on retirement with very little savings, it’s time to get to work.

I like to use a pen and paper. Just regular notebook paper like we used in school. There’s something about writing down plans and goals that make it more personal and more likely to take action.

You can write down on paper and use an online retirement calculator at the same time. The calculator might be useful to jog your memory on some monies you might not have considered.

When I’m making a guesstimate, I low ball money amounts. That leaves me a little room for error. It’s better than over calculating and then suddenly realizing that expected income isn’t materializing in the amount I’d hoped for.

1. Expenses

If you’ve been keeping a backward budget, you know approximately how much spending you do every month. Do you anticipate any huge changes in your spending after you retire?

For me, I won’t need to keep putting money away for when I retire if I’m already there! That’ll save me a few hundred dollars each month. Besides that, I don’t see extreme changes to rent, groceries, pet care, car insurance, fuel, phone, etc.

That’s if I stay where I am. If I move to another location, I anticipate cutting a lot of expenses! So that’s another thing to consider – where will you retire?

Write that place down on your worksheet.

2. Income

Figure out where money will be coming from after you retire and the approximate amounts.

List every source of money. This could be a combo of old age benefits, retirement savings draw down, or employment.

Remember working on the backwards budget?

If there were gaps between spending and money coming in, we had to figure out how to bridge the money gap or lower our expenses.

Same thing with retirement calculating.

I expect that I’m going to have a variety of income sources when I retire. None of them very high amounts, but put them all together, and it should give me a pretty nice life – if I move out of Canada to a country with a lower cost of living that is!

3. Debt

As mentioned earlier, when we’re single women closing in on retirement with little savings, we want to eliminate debt while we’re still working.

List your debts and plan how you’ll pay them off. Using the snowball or avalanche method are common ways people pay off their debt.

The Magnify Money website explains both methods and has an online calculator to figure out which way is better for you.

4. Save more money

While we’re still working, we want to save as much money as we can. The final push is on!

Can you guess how much money you’ll be able to put aside for retirement in the next few years?

5. Imagine your retirement lifestyle

How do you plan to fill your days when you retire? Would you like to travel? Spend more time on hobbies?

These expenses also need to be worked into your retirement calculator.

6. When to start taking retirement income

Part of doing this retirement calculator exercise will help you decide when to start taking old age benefits.

I’m going to work as long as I can and delay taking the Canada Pension Plan. Waiting five years could be the difference between an extra $200 a month in my retirement years.

7. How long will I live?

A big fear for many people is that they will outlive their money.

A big unknown is – how long will I live?

Lacking a crystal ball here.

A general idea of how long you will live is how old your parents were when they passed away. People are living longer, so add a couple more years.

Is there a family history of terminal disease? That can affect your projected life expectancy.

Then there’s the unknown. An accident or fast illness (hello Covid-19) can end our lives sooner than expected.

Just for fun, I’ve played around with a few online life expectancy calculators. One says I’ll live into my early 90s. I kind of have a feeling I’m going to live to see at least 90.

Other online life expectancy calculators say I’ll live until my late 80s.

Don’t take it too seriously, but check out this calculator from Blueprint Income. Just be aware they’re trying to sell you financial products to tide you over to a ripe old age!

LET’S GET GOING!

Are we all ready to tackle this? We’ve got paper and pen ready and figured out an online calculator such as the ones on the Service Canada or Social Security websites.

7 Steps to get Through Financial Hardship

It’s not easy being a single woman closing in on retirement with very little savings. We’ve got to figure out how to do this.

Let’s make a plan for our retirement a few years ahead of the projected date. Let’s make our retirement a little easier while we still have the ability to control how things will go down.

Have you given much thought to your retirement?

Published by Cheryl @ The Lifestyle Digs on June 5, 2021 and edited on July 3, 2021.

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MORE READING:

9 Easy Tips for Frugal Living
Can Low-Income Single Women Retire Comfortably in Canada?
7 Steps to get Through Financial Hardship

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