Estates & trusts

Five financial tips for single people

Jun 11, 2012
Almost half of all adult Americans—or nearly 100 million people—either have never been married or are divorced or widowed. Many of these people incorrectly decide that financial planning is something that only married people do, but it’s always advisable to make sound financial decisions that will pay off now and in the future. The Ohio Society of CPAs offers these tips.

Don’t fail to plan

Many married couples own homes, have retirement plans and set aside a bit each month in savings. Single people often make the mistake of assuming that none of those goals apply to them. In fact, home ownership can be a good investment and saving for retirement and other objectives are always smart steps. Don’t let your single status stand in the way of building a strong financial base.

Secure your safety net

Losing your job or being unable to work due to illness can be particularly tough on single people because they don’t have spouses to share the financial burden if their income drops or disappears. That means it’s particularly important to have a financial cushion—typically up to six months’ salary—to cover your needs in case your income stream stops. In addition, consider buying disability insurance that will replace your income if you are incapacitated. Find out first whether your employer offers it, how much of your salary it will replace and how long it will last so that you know whether you’ll need to supplement that coverage. While disability insurance can be a good investment, life insurance may not be, unless you have children or an older relative or someone else who is financially dependent on you. Consult your CPA for more advice on your insurance needs.

Start your retirement nest egg

Being single can offer a great deal of independence, but it also means that you must be self-reliant. That will be particularly important in retirement, when you won’t be able to count on pooling your pension or IRA proceeds with a spouse. Make savings a habit now and you will be pleasantly surprised to see how much you’ve accumulated in only 10 years, let alone 30 or more. If your employer matches your contributions to a company pension plan, be sure to take advantage of the offer since it can significantly expand your nest egg.

Make plans for an emergency

A financial safety net can help ensure that you have the money you need if you become ill or incapacitated, but who will take care of you in this situation? Consider giving a trusted loved one or adviser power of attorney to make decisions for you if you’re unable to do so; everyone over 21 years of age should complete a Health Care Proxy. Many older people consider long-term-care insurance, but this choice is a complicated one that may not be advisable in all situations, so it’s a good idea to discuss it with your CPA. Since this insurance is generally expensive, find out first whether you are covered under an employer’s long-term-care plan. Look also at any policy’s limitations, benefits qualification requirements and what kinds of facilities or care are covered to ensure the policy is right for you.

Safeguard your legacy


If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed according to the intestate succession laws, which vary with each state. Those who inherit will generally include spouses, registered domestic partners and blood relatives. No one else typically has a claim to the estate. As a result, if you’d like your assets to go to a particular relative, a long-term partner, close friend or your favorite charity, you will need to have it in writing. If you have children, anticipating their financial needs in the event of your death should of course be a critical part of your estate planning.

Turn to your local CPA

Have more questions about financial considerations for single people, or any other financial concern? Your local CPA can help. He or she can provide the insights or advice you need to make smart decisions.

Copyright 2012 The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.