Are You a Soloist? Are You Putting Yourself at Risk?
By Allen Davis, CFP
Nearly one-quarter of people age 65 or older are “soloists”—that is, aging adults without a spouse or partner and children whom they can all on for help or support, when needed.
That’s a huge portion of the population. Yet, surprisingly, the world seems to operate on the assumption that every older adult has immediate family to call on for everyday things like putting in the window air conditioner, and bigger decisions like whether to move or age-in-place, how to plan for our financial future, or who can serve as their health care proxy.
Rather than assuming that every older patient has a family support system, Dr. Maria T. Carney and her coauthors recently advised fellow physicians to ask that specifically and note it in the medical records. In this way, she said, clinicians could identify those who are “at risk of becoming an elder orphan.”
Despite these doctors’ good intentions, “elder orphan” is a cringe-worthy term. And the “risk” of being solo sounds like it’s being equated to the risks of a dangerous condition like lung cancer, diabetes, or even Covid-19.
Stigmatizing solos isn’t helpful― or, in our experience, merited. The risk is not that you are, or may become, a soloist. It is that you put yourself at risk if you don’t have a plan for how you can meet your needs―financial, health, housing, connection, spiritual― today and as you age.
It’s not always easy for solos to envision who has, or will have, their back. As a result, many avoid thinking about it. Yet if you’re a solo, it’s imperative to take purposeful actions:
• Plan for assets and income that last for as long as you do.
• Create a plan for how you want to be cared for when and if you can no longer do so yourself.
• Develop an estate plan and identify your beneficiaries, health care proxy, durable power of attorney, trustee(s), and an executor/personal representative.
• Consider the feasibility, pros, and cons of different housing alternatives, such as remaining in your current home, downsizing, moving to a senior community, or opting for residential care.
• Ask yourself how you would like to be remembered. What personal values or causes might you like to embrace, whether through the way you live your life today or a bequest. Parents and grandparents have the built-in option of leaving something to the next generations. Solos need to spell out their wishes for a legacy.
No one should leave their future well-being to chance. Yet for soloists, figuring out the logistics is often more complex than it is for people who have a spouse or partner, adult children, or grandchildren who can step up.
Hope isn’t a strategy for taking care of yourself. Soloists must understand what needs to be done and take systematic steps on their own behalf.
Welcome to The Soloist, a blog of information and perspectives to help current and prospective soloists consider their options, make intelligent decisions, and alleviate at least some of the uncertainties we all face in aging.
Allen Davis, CFP is Managing Partner, Davis Financial Group