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Jan presenting for AARP in Dublin, Ohio (Sept. 2013)



Look What’s Top-Rated in Retirement Planning on Amazon



 Guided Fantasies for the Future, Retirement as wish-fulfillment

Written by Bella DePaulo, Ph.D. 

Have you ever fantasized about where you would live if you could live anywhere at all? I don’t just mean a particular place (such as a country, or place within a country) but also a type of community. Did you know that in addition to all of the kinds of communities you already know about, there are also racetrack communities, equestrian communities, hangar-homes, a Martha Stewartville community, a Shakespeare-loving community, and many more?

Do you ever wonder what the best options might be if you wanted to try out a new job or just work a few hours now and then?

Suppose you want to save some money so you have more possibilities for funding your fantasies. Are there some suggestions you haven’t heard before? Some ideas you could implement that might not feel like much of a sacrifice?

I found all of that, and a whole lot more, in Jan Cullinane’s new book, The single woman’s guide to retirement. It is the sort of book that, first and foremost, is about providing tons of information and helpful suggestions about preparing for retirement. It does, in fact, provide all that and much more, in a readable and compact way.

A book of information may sound useful but probably not fun. That’s what I expected before I saw the book. I was wrong. It is the sort of book you can open to any page, almost at random, and find something intriguing. I just tried that and ended up at the section “How to fool ourselves or change our environment to eat better and less” in the chapter, “Fitness in body, mind, and spirit.” Some of the suggestions come straight out of social psychology, my own field.

Interspersed throughout the book, in boxes, are “fun facts” such as

“Single women represent 21 percent of homebuyers and are responsible for more than 30 percent of the growth in home ownership in the United States since 1994, according to the National Association of Realtors”

and “tips” such as

“If you are looking for grandma-like opportunities that pay, check out There’s a $25 fee for a background check and processing”

And “significant statistics” such as

“The current definition of poverty for a single woman under 65 living alone: income under $11,702, according to the U. S. Census Bureau.”

As you can tell from the title, the book is pitched to single women. (Jan Cullinane explains why in a section of the introduction called, “What makes single women special?”) Yet as you have probably already discerned, there is a lot that would be useful to men, too, and even to people who are not single and not retiring.

Still, it is pitched to single women, and in that regard, there were times when I especially appreciated the author’s sensibility. For example, in discussing where you might want to live, Cullinane suggests avoiding “places that picture only couples in their ads.”

I think there is a unique question about retirement in the 21st century: What is it? How do you qualify as being retired? It is not as clear as it once was. Maybe I’ll write about that sometime.  Where Single Women Might Want to Retire 

The author of 'The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement' suggests unconventional locales for living solo

Written by Kerry Hannon, October 17, 2012 

Kerry Hannon has spent more than 25 years covering personal finance for Forbes, Money, U.S. News & World Report, and USA Today. Her website is Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

“These days, there’s a place for everyone,” retirement consultant Jan Cullinane writes in her new book, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement. She’s referring to retirement communities and housing that appeal to people — women in particular — based on their backgrounds, interests or sexual preferences.

For example, when I retire, I might consider an equestrian community. Horses and riding are my passion. They aren’t my spouse’s, but perhaps I’ll be single when I get to that stage of my life. In her book, Cullinane mentions one for the horsey set in Ocala, Fla., where homes begin at $400,000. Seems a little pricey, but who knows?

'Living With a Twist' Locales

Cullinane’s book has a fascinating section called “Living With A Twist” that describes all types of intriguing ways and places for single women to live in retirement. Ever thought about retiring in a home nestled in a vineyard community? Or living alongside other former letter carriers or astronomers? It’s possible, Cullinane says.

And if you can’t find a place for people like you, she says, go to the Fellowship for Intentional Community website to learn how to start a community geared to your ideas or interests.

As I wrote in an earlier Next Avenue post, “Should Women Buy or Rent a Home?,” purchasing a house or a condo solo in retirement can be intimidating. But if you’re moving to a place where the fit will be just right, this step will probably be less scary.

Fascinated by Cullinane’s tips for single women interested in “living with a twist” in retirement, I called her to learn more. (Most of the single women she spoke with for the book wanted to maintain their privacy, so she often used their first names or middle names and last initials, which she did in our interview.)

Kerry Hannon: Why is housing such a dilemma for single women in retirement and how can living with a twist address these issues? 

Jan Cullinane: When you look at the advertising for retirement communities, much of it is targeted to couples — couples walking on the beach, couples dining with other couples, people traveling in pairs. It can be difficult to ferret out good places to live if you’re a single woman. 

But communities or lifestyles that have a certain focus can be great for single women in retirement because they pretty much guarantee the element of social support.

KH: Can you tell me about homesharing?

JC: More than half a million single women are homesharing: finding roommates to save money, to have company and to pool resources. For instance, I know two sisters who have shared a residence in Palm Coast, Fla., for the last seven years. They moved in together after their spouses passed away.

AARP found that almost half of mature women are willing to consider having a non-romantic roommate in retirement.

KH: What’s another unconventional living arrangement for single women in retirement?

JC: Barbara Traynor has had an inventive approach. She has moved around from one volunteer opportunity to the next in Florida, Alaska, Arkansas and New Mexico and her food, lodging and sometimes even a stipend were included.

She enjoys the camaraderie of like-minded volunteers and living this way has really stretched her retirement income. Between her volunteer stints, she has stayed in her son and-daughter-in-law’s home in a one-bedroom apartment with a separate entrance.

KH: What about lesbian retirement communities?

JC: They make residents feel more welcome and may offer social support and services as they age. The Resort on Carefree Boulevard in Fort Myers, Fla., is a thriving, all-woman community that bills itself as “Southwest Florida’s premier lesbian destination.” It’s gated, which provides privacy and a sense of security.

I spoke with Kathy H., who has lived there since 2003, and she has loved it. “We are small enough to be acquainted with everyone and help is always available if someone is in need,” she said.

Also, Fountain Grove Lodge, in Santa Rosa, Calif., is a new LGBT community for older adults that provides independent living and continuing care services.

KH: You write about something called “hangar homes.” What are they?

JC: They’re airport communities where you land your plane on an airstrip and park it in a hangar next to your home. Examples of these communities are Mountain Air in Burnside, N.C., and Fox Harb’r in Wallace, Nova Scotia.

You don’t need to be a pilot to live in a hangar home. Ann P. isn’t one, but she has friends who are and she purchased a second home in Mountain Air. Her primary home is in Charleston and she enjoys the tranquility and lower humidity of the mountains during the steamy Charleston summer months. 

KH: Next Avenue has written about women who love living out of an RV in retirement. Why might that be a good idea for some single women? 

JC: I spoke with Laurel K., who has been doing just that since she retired at 66. She had the itch to travel and to help others.

First, Laurel journeyed from Ohio to California in her RV, took in the sights, stayed in private RV parks, taught water aerobics and joined in the activities. Then, she became a volunteer in state and local parks, working in the visitor centers, on the trails and as an interpretive ranger. She told me, “I enjoy meeting people, not only from the United States, but also from around the world, and learning about new places.”

KH: Can you suggest some websites where women can learn more about “living with a twist” destinations? 

JC: If you’re interested in homesharing, visit the National Shared Housing Resource Center site.

For more information about retirement living as a volunteer, go to Barbara Traynor’s site, Second Career Volunteer and the “Get Involved” area of the website for the National Park Service.

For hangar-home communities, there's the Living With Your Plane site.

And there are two good websites about RV living in retirement: RVing Women and Loners on Wheels. 

KH: Are there any drawbacks to “living with a twist”?

JC: Having a passion for a particular lifestyle or a niche community is a good reason for making decisions about how or where to live, but it’s also important to think about the other aspects.

So ask yourself questions like these: Will there be good medical care and will your insurance be accepted? Will you be happy with the climate, the cost of living, transportation and proximity to friends and family? Will you find lifelong learning opportunities and cultural and recreational opportunities?

KH: Should single women rent or buy homes in retirement if they like the idea of living with a twist? 

JC: I suggest trying out a community or lifestyle before jumping in. That’s why renting can be an excellent idea. Some communities permit only long-term rentals, while others may allow short-term rentals. So you’d have to check that out. Five Questions for Jan Cullinane on single women and retirement - Interview with Mark Miller

Women face distinct retirement-planning challenges, including higher longevity risk, less access to workplace retirement plans, and continued wage discrepancies.

Now, author and retirement expert Jan Cullinane offers a book focusing solely on the issues and challenges confronting single women in retirement.  The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (John Wiley & Sons) will walk you through the challenges of retired or pre-retired life, from managing your finances to staying healthy in body, mind, and spirit, dealing with divorce, and even looking for love or work. She also includes real-life stories of women who have gone through this critical life transition.

I recently posted five questions to Jan about the new book.

Q: Why a book about single women and retirement?

A: There are more than 25 million single (never-married, divorced, widowed) women over the age of 45 in the United States, and this number is growing. And, even if you’re happily married now, there’s an 80 to 90 percent chance that if you’re a woman you will be single at some point.

The time is right for a book for this huge and growing demographic — one that addresses all aspects of retirement: working, caregiving, boomerang kids, dating, death, spirituality, deepening connections, life-long learning, money matters, relocation, health, volunteering and travel. Until now, there was no book with this holistic approach. In addition to including worksheets, references, and statistics, I solicited lots of input from many single women, so the book is a blend of practical and specific information, anecdotes, examples, worksheets, and references.

Q: What is special about single women as a demographic?

A: It’s fairly common knowledge that, in general, women live longer than men, make less money than men, are over-represented in lower paying jobs, are in and out of the workforce more often, collect fewer and smaller pensions than men, and that single women will have to work longer since they don’t have a “back-up” for income.

They also receive lower Social Security payments, and their nest eggs tend to be about a third smaller than men’s. And, by not negotiating a first salary – and women are less likely to negotiate than men – women make as much as $500,000 less over their careers than those who do negotiate a first salary. So, single women are dealing with the triple whammy of less money, longer life spans (not that that’s a bad thing!), and no supplemental income from a spouse.

Q: What about working after a primary career?

A: Most of us are familiar with the fact that the majority of people plan to work past their traditional retirement age or work part-time in retirement, both for financial and psychological reasons. This is all well and good, but now there is data that reflects what is really happening– I call this Expectations vs. Reality. If we look at the 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, it reveals that half of retirees left the workforce earlier than planned, and it wasn’t because they were getting some big buy-out or a windfall inheritance. It was because they or family members had health issues, became disabled, were “rightsized,” or their company went out of business. And, although 70 percent of current retirees said they planned to work in retirement, only 27 percent actually did.

So, it’s obvious that continuing to work won’t be the answer for most people, although it’s a solution for some people, and I do include a lot of suggestions for working on your own or for others.

Q: A few financial thoughts?

A: The book provides lots of sound advice, as do you, Mark, about maximizing Social Security benefits, saving for retirement, figuring out retirement expenses, purchasing long-term care insurance or not (if the premiums exceed 5 percent of your income, you probably can’t afford it), and separating wants from needs.

I also discuss having a roommate (about 40 percent of women in an AARP survey said they would consider having a non-romantic roommate; this can go a long way toward lowering costs in retirement); downsizing and moving to a less expensive location, and using creative methods to stretch your money (such as home exchanges for travel or volunteering where your lodging and food is provided). There is also a list of at least 20 easy-to-institute changes that will help make single women’s money last as long as they do.

Q: What about single women and relocation?

A. Most communities seem to target couples in their advertising, but single women are the second largest contingent of homeowners, purchasing 20 percent of homes, according to the National Association of Realtors. The book includes real stories from real single women explaining specifically where they purchased a home, and why it works for them. Single women talk about moving to co-housing communities, active adult communities, new urbanism communities, master-planned communities, living in an RV, relocating to a city or a small town, choosing a college town, moving abroad, or deciding on a CCRC (continuing care retirement community).

In the end, retirement can be both exciting and scary, an opportunity and a challenge. The book is designed to be a helpful, easy-to-read guide for those approaching this new phase of their lives.  Interview with John Brady about AARP’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement

October 1, 2012 — If you are one of the more than 25 million single women over 45 then you might appreciate a new and essential reference that hits bookstores this week, “The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement,” by Jan Cullinane. Many of our regular readers will recognize this name – Jan has been a frequent contributor to our site, both for her articles and for her many insightful additions to Blog posts and Discussion topics.

Jan’s new book (her previous one in this area was “The New Retirement”) is just the kind of read that we look forward to opening. It is practical and entertaining at the same time. Jan doesn’t waste your time explaining what you already know, she gets right into the nitty gritty with checklists, interesting profiles of real people, and step-by-step tips that make just about everything about retirement for a single woman easier.

The list of the major chapters gives you an idea of what you expect. Each one is loaded with practical advice – after you have read the book you will understand all of the major issues that affect your retirement as a single women, and be prepared to handle them.

- Retirement and the single woman

- Deciding what to do

- Work and retirement

- Fitness in body, mind, and spirit

- Exploring options for living

- Choices for where to live

- Divorce, death, dependency, etc.

- Dollars and sense

We asked Jan to respond to a few questions to help give you a better sense. Here goes:

Q1. Jan, tell us why you wrote the book.

A: It primarily came from the comments I heard from single women after I would give a talk. They would say things like: “Where should I move? Everything seems geared to couples.” “After 30 years of marriage, I’m divorced. I want and need to go back to work. Help me.” “My husband died unexpectedly. I never handled the money. Any suggestions?” “I am happily single, but want to live in a place with a lot of social support after I leave my primary career. What are some possibilities?” “I’m gay. Where I should move?” “I’m ready to return to the dating pool, but haven’t been on a date in 40 years. Where do I start?” When I realized there are more than 25 million women over the age of 45 in the United States, and it’s a growing demographic, and that there was no holistic book written for single women about retirement, I knew I had to write this book. I wanted to include working, travel, volunteering, relocating, health, caregiving, boomerang kids, money matters, death, divorce, and deepening connections. One other thing: Even if you’re happily married now, there’s an 80-90% chance, as a woman, you will end up making all decisions, financial and otherwise. It’s good to be prepared.

Q2: What are some of the retirement challenges women face as compared to men?

In general, women make less than men, even when you control for education and experience. This discrepancy in pay is slowly shrinking, but women are still over-represented in lower-paying positions, and are under-represented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. Women live longer, are in and out of the work-force more often than men, tend to be part-time workers more than men, receive fewer employee benefits, fewer pensions, lower Social Security payments, and smaller investment income. Women tend to be less effective negotiators, so over time, the lack of negotiating for better pay really has a snowball effect – research by Linda Babcock found that by not negotiating a first salary, women can lose more than $500,000 by age 60. So, single women (never-married, divorced, or widowed) often have less money and a longer life span.

Q3: One of the things we like best about your book is that is has a lot of interactive and practical features. Tell us about some of them.

A: I’m a believer in the collective wisdom of women. So, when writing about the various topics included in the book, I solicited input from many single women about many different areas: divorce, death of a spouse, working from home, where to live, dating, caregiving, volunteering, reinvention, travel, and staying healthy. Some of the best advice comes in the form of anecdotes from real single women, statistics, cutting-edge research, checklists, online quizzes (Note: Topretirement’s “Retirement Ranger” is cited, also I used with permission your “Are You Ready for Retirement” quiz), worksheets, and websites, books.

Q4: Most retirement books leave me cold, they’ve got too much pontificating and not enough practical. What was your secret sauce?

A: Well, good or bad, I like specifics. So, rather than say why you might consider cohousing, for example, I also have an anecdote from a single women who lives in a cohousing community and I provide the website for the contact info. Rather than say, “See if a cruise line offers cabins for singles,” I list the cruise lines that have single staterooms, how many, and how to escape paying for the dreaded single supplement. For dating, I provide a list from real women who offer great suggestions for meeting someone (who knew there was an American Singles Golf Association?). For the money chapter, I solicited input from CPAs and CFPs and included a wonderful list of money-saving ideas and strategies for making your money last longer (for example, how Uncle Sam could help pay for your moving expenses). I think it’s my science background, but I like detail, lots of examples, and stories. I think I was successful in combining all of these elements into the book.

Q5. Obviously Topretirements’s single women readers are very interested in Relocation. Could you tell us more about that?

A: Yes, some places are better for single women, and I have many anecdotes in the book from real single women who have chosen specific places to live, and they explain why it works for them. Of course, with millions of single women, I realize no one size fits all. For example, Connie moved to Fairfield Glade, TN; Hazel lives in Carroll Lutheran Village, a CCRC in Westminster, Maryland; Susan moved to the city of Denver; Jacque moved to the cohousing community of Wolf Creek Lodge in California; Kathryn lives in a new urban community in Bend, Oregon; Mimi lives in the active-adult community of Victoria Gardens in DeLand, FL; Laurel lives in her RV; Louise picked up stakes and moved out of the country to Boquete, Panama. My approach was to let single women who had relocated tell why and how they chose where they decided to relocate. Again, specifics.

Bottom line

Retirement can be exciting, scary, and exhilarating all at the same time. The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement is designed to help with the journey. It’s available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, B& and Kindle. The book is a partnership between AARP and John Wiley & Sons.

Thanks for sharing your story Jan. And good luck with the book!

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