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Retirement Tips for Singles

You can grow your nest egg with these savings and insurance strategies

Cox: Retirement tips for Single folks

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When you're single, your retirement strategy is in your hands.

Let's face it, saving for retirement isn't easy. It may be even tougher when you're single.

According to the 15th annual Transamerica Retirement Survey published last year, 45 percent of unmarried workers age 50 and older do not have a retirement strategy, compared with 36 percent of older married workers.

If you have never been married, or are divorced or widowed, these three strategies can help you keep your finances on track as you plan for retirement.

Know Your Number

Everyone needs to know how much money they'll need for retirement. When you're part of a couple, one person usually picks up that duty. When you're single, you're on your own.

"I tell singles the act of sitting down and engaging in financial planning and getting to the number they'll need for retirement is powerful," says Manisha Thakor, a chartered financial analyst (CFA) and director of wealth strategies for women at Buckingham & the BAM Alliance. "You'll say: 'Wow, I need to save $10,000 a year,' and break it down per month, and then it affects how you spend daily. The ones who know the number act differently."

How so?

"When you start splurging at Marshalls or Target or T.J. Maxx, it makes you ask yourself: 'Do I really need five of these? Do I really need it at all?' " Thakor says. "It can be even more important for singles who have their head in the sand."

Max Out Your Contributions

Even if you haven't aggressively saved for retirement, you can make big strides by contributing the maximum amount, including any catch-up contributions, to tax-advantaged retirement plans.

In 2015, you can contribute $18,000 per year to your 401(k), plus an additional $6,000 if you are 50 years or older, for a total of $24,000. Once that is done, open up an individual retirement account (IRA) and save more, says Stacy Francis, a certified financial planner.

See also: Social Security strategies for singles

For IRAs, the maximum contribution is $5,500 per year plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution for those 50 and older.

"That's over $30,000 a year for retirement. That's a nice chunk of money," Francis says. "You might not be able to save more. So you want to make sure all your savings are working as hard as possible for you."

Reassess Your Insurance Needs

David Holland, a CPA and certified financial planner, says any retiree or preretiree who is unmarried, especially someone who is newly single due to divorce or death of a spouse, should reevaluate all of his or her insurance policies.

Holland recalled a recent meeting with a new client who had a $250,000 term life insurance policy, which was costing her $1,200 annually. The policy had a guaranteed premium that would stay fixed for six more years.

The problem, Holland says, was that the woman was an older widow who didn't have any children of her own, and the beneficiary was a brother who didn't need the money.

"I told her, 'I don't think you need this policy,' " Holland says.

The lesson: If you're single, carry enough life insurance to at least cover your burial expenses. If you don't have a spouse, relatives or friends who need the money, or have plans to donate to a charity, there's generally no need to have a large life insurance policy.

If you have been paying into a permanent life insurance policy, which often is more expensive to maintain, Holland recommends either cashing out the policy for the accrued cash value or exchanging the policy for an annuity that offers a lifetime stream of income.

Don't forget to look at ways to save on your car insurance as well.

If you are divorced or widowed and your former spouse was an aggressive driver and had accidents or violations, your rates as a couple were probably high. But now that you're single, make sure that you are the only one on the policy and that you aren't paying to insure vehicles you no longer have. While you're at it, Holland suggests shopping around for cheaper coverage just to make sure you're getting the best rate.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach(R), is a personal finance expert, television and radio personality, and regular contributor to AARP. You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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