Singles learn to manage quickly

For single Canadians living alone and heading into retirement, the future might seem a little daunting — particularly if finances are limited. But financial advisor Bill Sexsmith believes that if single retirees can manage running a household of one, they can likely manage their financial affairs, too.

“Well before retirement, single people need to learn how to manage their wealth,” says Sexsmith, a financial advisor at Midland Walwyn Capital Inc.’s Vancouver-Bentall branch. He says while the same rules apply to couples planning for retirement, the urgency is greater for people living alone — especially if they have limited funds and support networks. “If there isn’t enough money, it’s extremely frustrating,” he says. “And when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

If they haven’t already done so, single retirees need to shop around for a good financial advisor, considering only those professionals who work at reputable firms.

This advisor should have the required professional qualifications/designations as well as an area of expertise that will serve you best. Single retirees in particular can be targets of money scams or just bad management if they don’t assert themselvesnd ask lots of questions. The good news, says Sexsmith, is that brokers are better trained today than they were a decade ago. Increasingly, financial planning professionals are asked to take mandatory training in several areas. Members of the Investment Dealers’ Association of Canada, for example, are required to successfully complete professional training and certification in financial planning. Many more will have completed courses in other areas such as portfolio management and/or have obtained licenses to sell insurance, securities, bonds, mutual funds and other types of investment products. These accreditations make for a greater qualification pool from which to choose a financial advisor to work with.

The final step is to look for a good personal fit. Sexsmith says single people must be particularly rigorous about this aspect of their selection. If you have little experience with money management, you want someone who’ll take the time to explain any and all investment recommendations. The advisor, he says, is your financial matchmaker.

To find an advisor, you can begin by calling a large brokerage house and requesting the names of a few potential advisors in your area. You can also ask someone you trust for a recommendation. But if the person – family or friend – is not properly qualified, you should politely look elsewhere. You simply can’t risk putting your money in the wrong hands. Single retirees must remember their responsibilities, too. The role of the financial advisor is to advise, not decide. This can be particularly difficult for people who have suddenly become single after the death or separation of the financial-decision-making spouse. It’s never too late to learn about investing, Sexsmith says. It can even be fun. “It’s not a mind game, it’s a time game.”

Women: Be prepared to be singleOn average, a woman’s life expectancy is approximately six years longer than a man’s. In other words, chances are even a married woman will have to spend a portion of her retirement years alone. But some of these single women will also spend their latter years in poverty because they and their spouses didn’t make provisions for the future. Today, women of all ages can learn from this misfortune. By taking an interest in wealthbuilding and by assuming some of the financial responsibilities of the family, these women will be better prepared for independent living in the event of a spousal death or separation.

Married or not, every woman should have her own investment plan, RRSP and even bank accounts, financial experts recommend. Spouses should coordinate their financial affairs and maintain an open dialogue about money, but in the event of a financial emergency, it pays to be financially prepared. No-one wants to plan for a retirement alone. But for many women the unthinkable often becomes reality.

Single supplements losing groundCash-strapped and single retirees often get hit twice as hard when it comes to travel. Not only do they have to pay for what others can share, they also must pay a “single supplement” when they join a tour group and stay in a hotel room alone. The alternative is to hook up with an assigned roommate, but not everyone is comfortable sharing close quarters with a total stranger. Recognizing that more and more people aged 50-plus will be travelling alone (there’s still another 17-odd years before the last wave of baby boomers turns 50), tour operators are now starting to re-think their policies. Some have already created group vacations for single seniors while others have offered to waive the single supplement. Single Snowbirds rejoice.