Single Ladies

Regardless of whether they were married earlier in life, many women will be single at some point during their retirement years. Over half (54 percent) of women age 65 and older were single in 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Those women may have always been single or may be widowed or divorced.

In any of these situations, women need to be ready to take charge of their retirement. Here are a few ways women, especially those who are currently married, can prepare for the day when they have to manage their retirement alone.

Double check beneficiary information and legal documents. The last thing any new widow wants to hear is that she isn't named as the beneficiary on a life insurance policy or that her spouse's money is otherwise tied up. Thus it's important to update legal documents regularly to reflect current assets. What's more, women should have an open conversation with their husbands about how assets in a trust will be managed.

Get to know your financial planner. To help avoid situations like having a trust controlled by a third party, women should take an active role in their household's finances. That includes going to meetings with financial planners and asking questions about assets. After a death or divorce is not when they want to be learning about the family finances.

Have a plan for long-term care. Women also need to have a plan for their long-term care needs in retirement. This is especially important considering that women tend to live longer than men and thus won’t have a spouse to take care of them. Rather than trust children will be up for the challenge of caring for an elderly parent, women should consider buying long-term care insurance or setting aside assets to pay for these costs.

Make the most of spousal benefits for Social Security. For those who have always been single, the best option to increase Social Security payments is to delay the start of benefits. However, those who were once married have other choices. A marriage usually means two Social Security checks and the option to coordinate benefits to ensure a surviving spouse gets the largest amount possible.

Plan for a long life. A woman turning 65 today can expect to live until an average of around age 87, according to the Social Security Administration. As such, retiring women should make sure their retirement plan reflects this potential for longevity, and they need to be smart with their spending in order to make their retirement savings last.