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Commentary: Single people have their own challenges in retirement

Whether you're single by choice, or by circumstance, it's critically important to be sure that you're on top of your financial plan for retirement. Not having a spouse or family members to lean on for support means that your financial responsibil...

Whether you're single by choice, or by circumstance, it's critically important to be sure that you're on top of your financial plan for retirement.

Not having a spouse or family members to lean on for support means that your financial responsibility rests squarely on your shoulders - and that can undoubtedly be a big burden to bear.

Here's what to look out for when you're single and planning for retirement:

1. Emergency fund. Conventional wisdom says that people should save anywhere from 3-9

months' worth of expenses in an emergency fund. We suggest that singles save toward the higher end of the spectrum. When you don't have a partner to supplement your income if you lose your job or suffer an injury that prevents you from doing your regular duties, having an ample fund of liquid resources becomes increasingly important.

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2. Saving for retirement. If you've been single for most of your life, you're probably very familiar with your budget. You may think you know just how much you'll need on a yearly

basis, but consider the fact that your expenses will likely increase in retirement. At first, it'll be for the fun stuff: You have more free time, and you're more likely to spend money on leisure-time activities than you were in your working years. Later on, you'll be faced with rising health-care costs, which can be staggeringly expensive. Better to address these potential costs now so that you aren't surprised by them in the future.

3. Accelerate savings. It's great that you may have to save less for retirement than the average couple, but the problem is that you'll have to do so with only one salary. Make every effort to take advantage of opportunities for "free" money, such as the match provided by your employer in a 401(k). You wouldn't believe the amount of money we've seen people miss out on by not knowing the rules of their 401(k) program. If you can afford to do so, you should increase your contribution rate at least enough to receive the full employer match.

4. Social Security. If you've never been married, divorced or widowed, your Social Security benefits are more straightforward, but this doesn't mean that deciding when to start claiming your benefits is easy. Working with a financial advisor can help you determine the best plan for you in terms of when to choose your start date. For some, it may be better to begin taking Social Security at age 62, even though their benefit will be permanently reduced. For others, it may be better to delay taking Social Security until full retirement age (or later) to receive a higher benefit.

5. Long-term care. Many singles are fiercely independent and don't foresee ever needing to rely upon someone else. The reality is that most people will need long-term care at some point in their lives - and this doesn't just mean living in a nursing home. Long-term care also includes assistance with performing typical daily activities like eating and bathing. This kind of care is both necessary and expensive. We suggest that all people - and especially those without a partner or adult children upon which to rely - consider investing in long-term care insurance to help defray these essential costs and keep your independence.

Everyone's financial situation is unique and deserves to be addressed by a professional, and single people need to be especially cognizant of the challenges their status brings. Work with a financial adviser to determine your opportunities to improve your independent standing.

By Bruce Helmer and Peg Webb, financial advisers at Wealth Enhancement Group and co-hosts of "Your Money" on KLKS 100.1 FM on Sunday mornings. Email Bruce and Peg at yourmoney@wealthenhancement.com . Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Wealth Enhancement Advisory Services, LLC, a registered investment advisor. Wealth Enhancement Group and Wealth Enhancement Advisory Services are separate entities from LPL Financial.

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