New Data Reveals That Single Adults Are Worse Off Financially Than Married Ones

by Maurie Backman | Published on Oct. 26, 2021

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Turns out being married could be good for your finances. Here's how to better manage your bills if you're living solo.

There are benefits to being married as well as being single. From a financial standpoint though, folks who are coupled up may have an edge, as per a recent Pew Research Center study.

These days, a growing share of U.S. adults are single. It's not just that people are delaying marriage. Among adults aged 40 to 54, there's been a substantial increase in the share who are unpartnered from 1990 to 2019.

But those who remain single tend to have more financial struggles. In 2019, 73% of single men were employed, compared with 91% of partnered men. In the same year, median earnings for single men were $35,600, compared to $57,000 for men in relationships.

While an earnings gap exists for women, too, the difference isn't quite as extreme as it is for men. In 2019, median earnings among single women were $32,000, compared to $40,000 for women who were partnered up.

Why singles may be more apt to struggle financially

There's a reason single folks may have a harder time financially than couples. When you're married or in a relationship, you can share a home and split the many expenses that go with it, from mortgage payments to utilities. A single person might have to cover a mortgage and associated housing costs solo.

Plus, people who live with a partner have more flexibility in the event of job loss. If you're single and get laid off, and your unemployment benefits aren't enough to cover your bills, you may have to raid your savings to stay afloat. But if you're a part of a couple and live with someone else who's still employed, your partner might manage to cover your joint bills until you're back on your feet.

How to build a financial safety net when you're single

If you're single and struggling to cover your expenses on your own, or you simply want more financial security, there are some important steps you can take to improve your outlook. First, build or boost your emergency fund. That way, you won't be forced to rack up debt if you lose your job or encounter a large unexpected expense.

Generally speaking, it's good to have three to six months' worth of essential living costs in savings for emergency purposes. If you're single, you may want to aim for the higher end of that range. You can also research the best savings accounts available.

Another smart move is to get yourself a side hustle, even if it's a gig you only work at for a few hours a week. Not only can a side hustle boost your income, but it also buys you a little more financial security. If you lose your job and it takes a little time for unemployment benefits to kick in, you'll at least have some income to fall back on. You could also make important connections that lead to a greater opportunity down the road.

There are plenty of benefits to being single -- getting to live life on your own terms and getting to manage your finances in a way that works for you. The above moves could buy you the security you need to enjoy the freedom of being unpartnered without money worries holding you back.

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