Being Single Pays

by Laura Dauphine Yes, you’re doing it all—from auto maintenance through budgeting and cleaning, but it pays to be single. As we approach Valentine’s Day, some good news about the financial implications of being single in America.

According to Forbes, marriage has many economic advantages, like pooled income, shared health-insurance coverage, and Social Security survivor benefits. But they conclude, it may pay to be single in the long run—with the additional benefits of good credit, monetary control and don’t forget, freedom from money based disagreements.

Chestnut Financial looked at the monthly expenses of three New York City households; a single person earning $90,000 a year, a childless couple earning $170,000 a year and a family of five whose annual income is just over $500,000. Looking at their actual household expenditures shows, not surprisingly, that a married couple pays much less, proportionally, for basic living costs than a single person.

For example, only 9.3% of the couples' $14,200 monthly gross income went for rent, compared with 23% of the single person's $7,500 monthly pay. The couple also paid less for food (5.6% vs. 8.3%), cable television (1% vs. 1.8%) and the telephone bill (1.2% vs. 2.8%). And auto insurers place married people in a lower risk class, saving them money on car insurance.

The married couple also got some relief on both federal and Social Security taxes, thanks to the slightly lower tax rates associated with joint filing. They paid out a combined 29% of their salaries, compared with the 35% the single person pays.

But wait, once you’re married, the expenses compound. Married couples tend to purchase a house or condo within a couple of years. This allows them to accrue equity--a positive thing--but also forces them to incur big expenses, like household maintenance, homeowners and life insurance, and furniture. Once children enter the picture, married couples are really in financial trouble. So a wedding ring may mean more monthly expenses and less free cash in your pocket.

Despite the expenses, single people actually do well when they buy a house. Even though affording a down payment is tough for most of us, we stand to benefit more than married people from the tax code. We see the benefits of itemized deductions like mortgage interest and property taxes before a married couple filing jointly.

Chestnut Financial’s study concluded that singles who make an effort to do financially savvy things like buying a condo/home or building a retirement account early--wind up better off than our married friends.