FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK, September 12, 2013
— One benefit of being single is that your money is your own, to use as you see fit, so you have the freedom to decide which savings plans and investment vehicles are right for you. But you are also solely responsible for protecting yourself financially, and insurance should be at the top of the list. In observance of Unmarried and Single Americans Week
(September 15-21), the Insurance Information Institute
(I.I.I.) provides advice to protect your greatest asset—you!
More Americans are living alone than ever before, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report
. The proportion of one-person households increased by 10 percentage points between 1970 and 2012, from 17 percent to 27 percent. In 2012, women represented more than half (55 percent) of one-person households, although men have been closing this gap over time.
Sixty-two percent of unmarried U.S. residents 18 and older in 2012 had never been married. Another 24 percent were divorced, and 14 percent were widowed, the report noted.
If you’re flying solo, you have only yourself to depend on. Take the time to review your insurance and financial needs now in order to take care of yourself in the future. The I.I.I. suggests the following six ways to help you enjoy living the single life—securely.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 13.6 million unmarried parents living with children in 2011, the most recent figure available. As a single parent it is crucial to make sure your dependents will be financially secure in the event of your death, so life insurance should be a key element of your financial plan. However, even if you do not have dependents, life insurance can be an excellent way to pay your final expenses without burdening parents, siblings or other family members. A life insurance policy also enables you to leave a significant contribution to a charity you may want to support. Furthermore, whole life or permanent life policies create a cash value that, if not paid out as a death benefit, can be borrowed against or withdrawn on the owner’s request, creating a kind of “forced” savings plan. And remember, if you are single because of a divorce or a spouse’s death, you may have a life insurance policy with an outdated beneficiary designation, so make sure to make appropriate adjustments to your policy.
If you were disabled and unable to work as a result of an accident or illness, what would you do for income? Who would take care of you? Disability income insurance
can replace lost income. Keep in mind that 43 percent of all people age 40 will have a long-term (lasting 90 days or more) disability event by age 65. While many employers offer disability coverage, some smaller businesses may not, so you may want to consider buying a private disability policy, which will replace 50 to 70 percent of your income.
The good news is we are living longer. The bad news is that if you end up needing long-term care services, it can get pricey. If you live alone and do not have the financial resources to pay for home health care, a nursing home or an assisted living facility, long-term care insurance can be a solution. In general, it’s a good idea to buy this type of insurance well before you turn 60—there is less chance you will be rejected, and the younger you are, the lower the premiums will be.
4. Homeowners and Renters Insurance
Singles are somewhat more likely to rent than own their home; according to the U.S. Census Bureau around 20 percent of owner-occupied homes are one-person households, while close to 40 percent of rental households are occupied by a single person living alone. If you rent a house or apartment, your landlord’s insurance will only cover the costs of repairing the building itself in the event of a fire or other disaster. You need your own coverage, known as renters insurance, in order to financially protect yourself and your belongings.
If you do own your home (whether it is a house or condo or co-op apartment), it is important to make sure you have the right amount and type of insurance. Homeowners insurance covers the structure of your house, personal belongings, liability and additional living expenses. With condo or co-op insurance, on the other hand, you will need to make sure you have two separate policies to protect your investment: your own insurance policy, which provides coverage for your personal possessions, liability, structural improvements to your apartment and additional living expenses; and a “master policy” provided by the condo/co-op board. The latter covers the common areas you share with others in your building, such as the roof, basement, elevator, boiler and walkways, for both liability and physical damage.
If you are single because of a divorce, notify your auto insurance company that there is a change of ownership or designated driver for any cars you owned as a couple. If you, or your former spouse or partner, move to a new home, you should get a separate auto policy immediately. And if either of you buys a new car, arrange for a new auto policy before the car is registered. Removing a former spouse or partner from the insurance policy also protects you from possible liability if he or she is involved in an accident and gets sued. You can often save money by buying auto and homeowners or renters insurance from the same insurer. Check with your insurance professional to see what discounts are available.
If you are single, chances are you will need to be more self-reliant when it comes to investing for your retirement as you may not have a spouse or children to step in and help out should you need that support in the future. Most single people will qualify for retirement income from Social Security, but is unlikely to be enough to pay for more than the bare necessities in retirement. Some will have retirement income from a “defined benefit” type of pension plan—one that pays an income based on your final income and years of service from an employer. Social Security income increases to match inflation, but defined-benefit payments do not, so they will become increasingly inadequate the longer you live in retirement.
For retirement income security, if your employer offers a 401(k) type retirement savings plan, you should contribute the maximum you can to it—especially if the employer matches your contribution. (The employer match is, in effect, extra pay for no extra work so don’t miss out on that!) If you don’t have access to a 401(k) plan, start your own tax-favored retirement savings plan immediately. When you retire, you may want to consider using some of your retirement funds to buy an annuity, which pays you an income for the rest of your life. This will ensure that your lifetime income (from Social Security, a defined-benefit pension, and the annuity) is enough to pay all your expenses.
Talk to your insurance professional about getting the best insurance protection for your specific needs and make sure that you are taking advantage of all available discounts. Keep in mind, in today’s economy, good credit is more important than ever. A clean credit record will entitle you to higher credit limits, lower interest rates on credit cards and more favorable interest rates on loans. Many landlords now perform credit checks before leasing an apartment and some employers investigate credit histories before making job offers. So whether you are buying a home, applying for a new job or looking for the best price on insurance, a good credit history will go a long way toward helping you realize your financial and personal goals.
The I.I.I.’s free mobile apps can help you create a disaster plan, learn about selecting the right insurance for your needs and budget, and create and maintain a home inventory. Learn more about our suite of apps here.
THE I.I.I. IS A NONPROFIT, COMMUNICATIONS ORGANIZATION SUPPORTED BY THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.
Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-5500; www.iii.org