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Single Women Face Financial Challenges

Many of the nation’s 31 million women who live on their own face serious financial conditions that could worsen.

Households headed by women reported about half the median income of all households, $22,592 versus $43,130, according to a study released in December by the Consumer Federation of America. But their overall net worth was only about one-third of all households—$32,850 compared with $93,001. The study analyzed Federal Reserve Board data collected in 2004.

Another finding was that women who lived on their own following divorce, separation or the death of a spouse, or those who never married, had more trouble saving for the future. About 33 percent said they didn’t sock money away, compared with 24 percent of all households that reported the same.

Cindy Hounsell, president of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement in Washington, says it’s especially important for women who live on their own to save during tough economic times. Her advice: Pay down debt, eliminate credit card spending, find bargains and improve credit scores to get the best rates on car insurance and other products.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.