Retirement Planning, Elder Law, and Senior Finance

11/22/2023 | By Janet Bodnar

It’s perhaps not surprising that single, never-married women workers are less confident than their married counterparts that they will have enough money to retire comfortably. Research by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that single women are more likely to have lower levels of income and assets than married women. And in their spouses, married women “have that second resource,” says Craig Copeland, director of wealth benefits research at EBRI.

Also, says Copeland, single women trended younger and were focused on more-immediate goals, such as buying a home or starting a business. Still, he says, “at some point you’re going to have to think about your future.”

So what can be done to boost their confidence and their retirement account balances? In the absence of a magic bullet for singles, the key is to double down on existing tools and use financial hacks to make it easier to save.

In the EBRI study, singles felt less knowledgeable than married women about managing their day-to-day finances. So step one is getting a handle on expenses to free up money for retirement.

Kelli Smith, director of financial planning for Edelman Financial Engines, advises new clients to write down, in two columns, how they are spending now and how they would like to spend. (Hint: Paying off high-interest-rate debt should be a top priority.) “Younger women should be aware of the growth potential of even $50 or $100 a month,” says Smith.

A woman putting coins in the piggy bank, for article on single women planning for retirement

One simple hack is to set up auto-enrollment with your workplace retirement plan — which allows your employer to deduct money before you even see it — and to increase the amount each year. Aim to contribute at least enough to get any employer match. Bonus: Starting next year, employers can make a matching contribution to your retirement account based on your student loan payment.

Don’t have a retirement plan at work? You can contribute up to $6,500 to a traditional IRA in 2023 and get a full tax deduction. If your income is less than $138,000, you can make a full, taxable contribution to a Roth IRA and qualify for tax-free distributions in retirement.

The younger you are, the more you should tilt toward the stock market to make your money work harder for you. That brings us to the second savings hack: a target-date retirement fund, which automatically allocates your money to the appropriate mix of stocks, bonds and cash based on your age and years until retirement. Besides boosting your returns, it can boost your confidence if you’re a novice investor.

Older workers trying to make up for lost ground or make a big push toward retirement can take advantage of hack number three: catch-up contributions. If you are age 50 or older and you have maxed out your 401(k) contribution of $22,500 this year, you can save an additional $7,500 or chip in an extra $1,000 to an IRA.

Janet Bodnar is editor-at-large at Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine. For more on this and similar money topics, visit

©2023 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Janet Bodnar

Janet Bodnar is editor at large at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. For more on this and similar money topics, visit