Is The Cost Of Living Higher For Single Women?

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woman with empty pockets
The cost of living for married couples vs single women: whose life is more expensive?

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. For nearly two decades, she has studied the rise of economic discrimination against single people, and says that Western culture perpetuates what she calls "singlism"—segregation against single people that resembles the injustices other underprivileged groups have suffered throughout modern history.

According to DePaulo, money is one of the social topics that most separate singles from marrieds. "[Employers] really do pay married men more than single men." She points out Social Security and health insurance as examples of the disparity of benefits between singles and marrieds: spouses usually have the right to their partners' benefits, and when a married person dies, the Social Security that he or she has built up for years automatically goes to his or her partner. When a single person passes away, however, their Social Security goes "right back into the system," though a loved one could certainly use it. 6 Steps To A Financially Successful Relationship

 

Denis Cauvier, Ph.D., financial psychologist and co-author of The ABCs of Making Money, adds the ability to qualify for mortgages and loans to the list of financial obstacles that single people sometimes face. However, come tax season, singles sometimes score an advantage over marrieds because, in many couples' tax filing, their combined incomes land them in a higher tax bracket and thus a larger percentage of their money goes to the IRS. Couples Find A Way To Save Money

Cauvier also points out another huge plus single people have over couples: flexibility in budgeting. Single people are not subject to a partner's frugality, financial irresponsibility or poor credit score, and singles also dodge what Cauvier feels is the most prominent problem in the lives of married people: differing financial values. "If you're a couple, you may not have a whole lot of control about that other person—so you may have a lot of conflict." How The Recession Forever Changed Relationships

Income breakdowns aside, Cauvier and DePaulo agree on the notion that Western society tends to look at the single person as having something wrong with them, or not being good enough. How does this play out in cash? "Society's putting a sense on [single people] that you always have to look your best," says Cauvier, while it's "relaxed some of those pressure points" for couples. Research shows that the non-committed among us spend more money consuming items like cosmetics, fashion and gym memberships, and that's not even counting what we're shelling out at restaurants and clubs while our married counterparts frequently cocoon themselves at home. Unemployed Men Afraid To Date

Fr. Pat Connor, counsels both couples and single people, and is the author of the highly-anticipated book Whom Not to Marry (partially based on his high-profile 2008 New York Times feature). He says that married or single, we all suffer financial stresses throughout our lives, and he recommends that married people affirm each others' talents every day, in good times and in bad, and that single people follow their spiritual compass and practice optimism in order to overcome their worries about the future. His financial philosophy paraphrases a famous Old English quote: "Those of us who have superfluities must cut back on them for the sake of others' necessities."

So Mia and Steven's situations are different, but maybe both have their perks. Just as I debated confessing my economic discrimination to Mia, she sent me an all-caps THANK YOU!!!! email to tell me she'd just accepted a job on the West Coast at a world-renowned publishing corporation. That very same week, Steven and his wife welcomed their baby, and I've heard nothing of his promotion pursuit since I emailed his resume revision to him.

My stomach sank as I read my friend Mia's note: "Thank you so much for your help in my time of transition. I wish I could pay you more, but until I'm working again, here's my check." For two years in our young publishing careers, Mia and I had worked in next-door cubicles and had made a Friday tradition of hitting the hot dog cart on the corner for lunch, because the vendor gave us each a two-for-one bargain. Last month, Mia had asked for my help revising her resume, as she was suffering another Oscar Mayer-flavored lean period. I wondered how she was staying out of therapy—or even just making rent. Yet I cashed her check. 

A month earlier, I'd performed the same resume review for a friend-of-a-friend whom I'd met once at a party. Steven was a Princeton MBA hoping to get promoted to his Fortune 100 company's leadership program (cha-ching!) and whose wife (also a corporate manager) was expecting a baby. I spent as much time on his resume as I did on Mia's, but even if he'd offered to pay me, I'd decided I wouldn't accept his money—surely he could use it for the nursery renovations they were adding to their two-year-old suburban home.

It wasn't fair—why had I given the marrieds a financial break when it was clearly the single person who needed my kindness most? And was my financial foul indicative of a culture that penalizes single people for their relationship circumstances? I set out to investigate. 

A 2007 statistic suggests that exactly half of the adult American population is married. And while the nation's estimated 82 million single people are targeted by advertisers as the world's hungriest consumers, both corporate America and the government are gaining reputations for rewarding married people with salary raises and sometimes even tax breaks. 

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. For nearly two decades, she has studied the rise of economic discrimination against single people, and says that Western culture perpetuates what she calls "singlism"—segregation against single people that resembles the injustices other underprivileged groups have suffered throughout modern history.

According to DePaulo, money is one of the social topics that most separate singles from marrieds. "[Employers] really do pay married men more than single men." She points out Social Security and health insurance as examples of the disparity of benefits between singles and marrieds: spouses usually have the right to their partners' benefits, and when a married person dies, the Social Security that he or she has built up for years automatically goes to his or her partner. When a single person passes away, however, their Social Security goes "right back into the system," though a loved one could certainly use it. 6 Steps To A Financially Successful Relationship

Denis Cauvier, Ph.D., financial psychologist and co-author of The ABCs of Making Money, adds the ability to qualify for mortgages and loans to the list of financial obstacles that single people sometimes face. However, come tax season, singles sometimes score an advantage over marrieds because, in many couples' tax filing, their combined incomes land them in a higher tax bracket and thus a larger percentage of their money goes to the IRS. Couples Find A Way To Save Money

Cauvier also points out another huge plus single people have over couples: flexibility in budgeting. Single people are not subject to a partner's frugality, financial irresponsibility or poor credit score, and singles also dodge what Cauvier feels is the most prominent problem in the lives of married people: differing financial values. "If you're a couple, you may not have a whole lot of control about that other person—so you may have a lot of conflict." How The Recession Forever Changed Relationships

Income breakdowns aside, Cauvier and DePaulo agree on the notion that Western society tends to look at the single person as having something wrong with them, or not being good enough. How does this play out in cash? "Society's putting a sense on [single people] that you always have to look your best," says Cauvier, while it's "relaxed some of those pressure points" for couples. Research shows that the non-committed among us spend more money consuming items like cosmetics, fashion and gym memberships, and that's not even counting what we're shelling out at restaurants and clubs while our married counterparts frequently cocoon themselves at home. Unemployed Men Afraid To Date

Fr. Pat Connor, counsels both couples and single people, and is the author of the highly-anticipated book Whom Not to Marry (partially based on his high-profile 2008 New York Times feature). He says that married or single, we all suffer financial stresses throughout our lives, and he recommends that married people affirm each others' talents every day, in good times and in bad, and that single people follow their spiritual compass and practice optimism in order to overcome their worries about the future. His financial philosophy paraphrases a famous Old English quote: "Those of us who have superfluities must cut back on them for the sake of others' necessities."

So Mia and Steven's situations are different, but maybe both have their perks. Just as I debated confessing my economic discrimination to Mia, she sent me an all-caps THANK YOU!!!! email to tell me she'd just accepted a job on the West Coast at a world-renowned publishing corporation. That very same week, Steven and his wife welcomed their baby, and I've heard nothing of his promotion pursuit since I emailed his resume revision to him.