I have an ex-husband who spent every penny that he got his hands on, so I understand why 53 percent of married Americans and 69 percent of single people told Charles Schwab when it surveyed them that it is easier to do retirement planning when there is no spouse in the picture.
"It's all about wedded bliss," says Charles Schwab Minneapolis Branch Manager Brian Wagenbach. "If you have another person you have to consult, it makes things more difficult. If it's just you, you don't have to discuss it with anyone else. It's just easier."
It might be easier to make the decision to save, but the fact of the matter is that single people often don't save as much for retirement as married people do for the simple reason that they don't have as much to save. One income doesn't go as far as two. A U.S. Census Bureau study in 2004 found that the median net worth of married couples between the ages of 55 and 65 is $268,835. Single men of the same age had accumulated $69,350, while single women had only $62,140.
As Wagenbach says, "If two people can invest for 25 years and put away $500 per month versus a single who can put away $250 per month, the total net result is double. If you have a 7 percent rate of return, that result for the couple is over $400,000; for the single, the result is just over $200,000."
He also points out that a decade ago, returns on investments were substantially higher -- 10 percent or even 12 percent a year was a realistic goal. Today, an investor with a balanced portfolio is lucky to earn a steady 7 percent or 8 percent. "That's going to have an impact on your long-term planning," Wagenbach says." To meet your retirement goals at that rate of return, you have to have focus and discipline, and, especially if you're single, you probably have to start early."
And marrying the right person isn't such a bad idea either.