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Many women are rethinking their retirement style

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American women live about six years longer than men, with the average U.S. man living to 73 and the average woman living to 79. This means that many American women may face the end of their retirement years without a spouse. And without the expected retirement income of their partner, some women may need to adjust their lifestyle or living situation.  

A longer lifespan makes it especially important for women to have savings for a retirement that may last 20 years or more. However, some women save less than men, often because they leave the workforce to take the caregiving lead – first for young children and later for elderly parents.

It’s no surprise that some single women — whether divorced, widowed or never married — are choosing to live with one or more female friends. In addition to female friends, this arrangement could include a female homeowner renting out rooms, women purchasing a home together or renting an apartment as roommates.

Benefits of living with roommates can include:

  • Saving money by sharing housing costs, utilities, home maintenance and sometimes food and household goods.
  • Sharing housework or yardwork and eliminating the need to hire a pet sitter or someone to water the plants when you leave town.
  • Safety, such as your roommate noticing if you aren’t home when expected or helping if you take a fall or have a medical emergency.
  • Companionship. In addition to the fun of having someone to share a meal or your favorite TV show with, the companionship of a roommate can help ease loneliness and positively impact your physical and mental health. Research shows that loneliness or isolation has a similar effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

If you’re considering living with a roommate, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Start by asking friends and family if they know anyone who’s looking for a roommate. If not, the nonprofit National Shared Housing Resource Center has a directory of home share programs, or you can try one of several roommate matching services targeted to seniors, such as Silvernest and Roommates4Boomers.
  • Agree on financial matters in writing, and make sure to collect all money — such as first month’s rent and any security deposit — before your roommate moves in. If you’re the homeowner and especially if you’re considering buying a home together, work with an attorney to draw up documents.
  • Review federal and state rental laws to understand your rights and legal obligations and how to keep yourself and your property protected.
  • Agree on house rules in writing, particularly regarding smoking, pets, chore division, sharing food and other goods and rules regarding guests.
  • Hold a regular meeting with all roommates to make sure things are going well for everyone and provide an opportunity for open and honest conversation.

As you think about the future, consider discussing your retirement lifestyle goals with your financial professional. What do you picture when you think of retirement; what is important to you when it comes to being financially ready for the future? Together, you can develop a strategy for a more financially secure retirement — no matter what your living arrangement may be.

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