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Dear Money Lady: I’m single and retired and everything I read on there is for couples. Do you have any advice for senior singles? Personally, I think we have a lot more difficulty. Jim

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Dear Jim:

I totally agree. It is much more difficult for a single senior in Canada. You have less tax advantages with the same expenses, and generally with much lower income. Today, most people retire as a couple, however, of those who are currently retired (2021 Survey), around a third are widowed. The median income of married seniors is $46,000 and that of single seniors is $22,600. This is an alarming statistic since, according to Statistics Canada, we have 4.1 million single people living alone. In addition, 18% of single seniors live below the poverty line.

Economists claim that as we enter an economic downturn, we will see a new trend of divorced or widowed seniors choosing to remain single in retirement. If so, it will create unique challenges for all singles, especially Canadian women. Many retired women receive significantly less than their male counterparts. Often women have not worked the same number of years as men or have earned less income during their working career and therefore do not receive the same pension benefits.

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They are also much more conservative when it comes to investing than most men. A recent Bank of Montreal study showed that men were more likely to hold stocks and mutual funds in their investments, while women were more likely to hold GICs.

So what are you going to do if you are now single in retirement?

Today, single seniors tend to be asset-rich but low-income. They live in a debt-free home but struggle to shop. Many have to cut personal expenses, give gifts, or even host events because they simply can’t afford the expenses on their tight budget.

With rising inflation and added costs for basic needs, single seniors need to get creative. Review your overall situation. Can you downsize (or right size) to something cheaper? Can you work part-time or is there something you are particularly skilled at that will give you a little extra income?

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It is imperative that you know what your true financial situation looks like. Review all your investments, insurance and taxes.

Do you have a good financial advisor? Do you have a good accountant? You’ll want to create a well-thought-out strategy that you can project over the next five, 10, or 20 years.

You should have an easily accessible emergency fund, such as a line of credit or a savings account. This will help you pay for unexpected costs that aren’t built into your new plan.

For your investments, try to choose products that compensate for inflation such as commodities in ETFs, bond/stock portfolios, REITs or investment property/real estate. Remember that risk is a relative term and today, as a retired single person, there is more risk in doing nothing than in trying to improve their situation. If that means you have to sell your home to move to something less expensive to fund your retirement, then do it.

Change is difficult but necessary. You may even find that it’s something you were glad you did.

Review your investment portfolio with your advisor, get involved and ensure you have the right asset allocation to ensure compound growth year over year.

Written by Christine Ibbotson, Canadian financial writer, radio host and You Tuber. For more advice, Google Ask the Money Lady.

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