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Financial planning for singles: 7 top tips for 2022

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Whether you’re in the market for a new relationship or content with being single, managing finances while you’re flying solo can seem like a burden — but it comes with some surprising perks. While being single means not having that pillar of support to curb you from going over your budget, you have greater freedom with how to spend and save your money.

About one-third of U.S. adults (31 percent) report being single (not married or in a committed relationship), according to Pew Research Center. If you’re someone who falls into that category, one of the advantages of being single is that you can focus on working toward goals that matter to you, whether they include traveling the world or saving for retirement.

Here are some tips for singles to help them keep up with their financial goals.

Key statistics for single U.S. adults

  • The percentage of single U.S. adults is the same for men and women at 31 percent, though the percentage is higher for men aged 18 to 29 and women aged 65 years and older.
  • The percentage of single adults varies by race, too — 28 percent for white adults, 27 percent for Hispanic adults and 47 percent for Black adults.
  • The average weekly earnings for individual, full-time workers in the second quarter of 2022 was $1,041, which, if annualized, would be over $54,000 a year.
  • Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of single women want to buy a home regardless of whether they get married.
  • The predominant barrier to single women buying a home is financial instability, with 74 percent of single women reporting finances as the reason they have not purchased a home yet.
  • The median annual income for single adults ages 25 to 54 was $35,000 in 2019, while the median annual income for partnered adults was $49,000.
  • While 31 percent of single adult men and 24 percent of single adult women live with their parent(s), only 2 percent of partnered adults do.

Sources: Pew Research Center, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bank of America

Being single in 2022

A growing share of people in the U.S. are without a spouse or a partner. In 1990, 29 percent of adults ages 25 to 54 were single; today, that’s increased to 38 percent among the same age group. That share is even higher for adults ages 18 to 29 (41 percent). Importantly, though, the number of adults who are unmarried but cohabiting has more than doubled since 1990.

While it’s certainly not the only factor when it comes to dating, financial stability is an important quality for many singles today. In a 2021 survey by the dating service Match, it was found that 86 percent of singles want a partner with an income that’s equal to or greater than their own.

Financial pros and cons of being single

For those managing their finances on their own, there are costs and benefits of not sharing financial responsibilities with a partner. On the one hand, singles have full control of what they do with their money. They don’t need to make joint financial decisions or stress about clashing money-saving habits.

Singles may be able to focus on saving more, whether that’s for retirement or other personal goals, such as buying a house or a new car. They don’t have to worry about things like couples’ retreats or pricey dates. Plus, being single might free up some time to pursue side gigs or passion projects that can further pad one’s income.

On the other hand, the unfortunate reality is that singles are more likely to be financially vulnerable than those with partners. Pew Research Center found that 37 percent of single adults are financially vulnerable, while only 26 percent of partnered adults fall into this category. One significant area where singles are more vulnerable is in housing. With the potential for two streams of income, it’s easier to pool savings for things like a down payment on a house. If renting, partners can split the rent of a shared space.

Another area where singles are at a disadvantage is taxes. Couples get tax benefits such as a potentially lower tax bracket, being able to make tax-advantaged contributions to a spouse’s IRA and having greater charitable contribution deductions.

Still, if you’re single, there are ways you can make the most of it. You alone decide what to do with your money and can focus on reaching personal financial goals.

Share of average spending for singles vs. couples

The chart below shows how major expenses differ between singles and those who are married without children. Each expense category is shown as a percentage of the average consumer’s total spending.

Category Percentage of total expenses for singles (without children) Percentage of total expenses for married individuals (without children)
Housing 38.5% 32.7%
Transportation 15.3% 15%
Food 11.5% 11.2%
Insurance and pensions 10.1% 11.6%
Healthcare 7.8% 10.8%
Apparel and services 2.4% 1.9%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020

7 financial tips for singles

1. Make a budget with goals in mind

There’s no absolute right way to budget, but it’s important to outline a financial plan when you’re single to help keep your spending habits in check. A budget can help you stay ahead of monthly payments, like rent and utility bills, while also strengthening saving habits.

When you’re single, you’ll also likely have an array of personal goals that may include things like buying a house, starting a business and building up a retirement fund. It’s important to plan for these goals early, which a budget makes possible by setting a standard for how much you should contribute to your goals each month.

Make sure to transfer your extra money into a savings account at the beginning of the month, to help prevent yourself from spending it. A good amount to aim for is setting 20 percent of your income aside for savings. This standard comes from the 50/30/20 rule, a popular budgeting strategy that allocates 50 percent of your income to needs, 30 percent to wants and 20 percent to savings.

2. Get out of debt

With potentially fewer financial responsibilities while single, more of your income can go towards paying down debt. You might have student loan, credit card or auto loan debt that will become increasingly more burdensome if you wait to pay it off.

“​​If you desire to get married, getting out of debt beforehand can relieve a lot of stress,” says Jarrod Sandra, the owner of Chisholm Wealth Management in Crowley, Texas.

“If you have no desire to get married or at least not any time soon, you’re still doing yourself a favor,” he says. “It’s much easier to get one person [you] on board with a plan and sacrifice to get there. By taking this approach, I think it will set your future self up for more success [saving for retirement, avoiding additional debts in the future, etc.].”

3. Build a firm emergency fund

When you’re single, you have one stream of income to rely on. That means that in the case of an emergency, it won’t likely be as easy to fall back on someone for support.

Establishing an emergency fund  is crucial to avoid a situation where you find yourself with a sudden, large expense or an abrupt loss of income (such as from losing a job). Aim to have an emergency fund that can cover at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Remember to consider rent, food, utilities and phone bills as categories to account for.

You don’t need to have this saved up all at once — rather, try to work your way up to a secure emergency fund by saving a little bit every day. Even saving $50 more a month than you currently put away can amount to $600 more in your emergency fund by the end of the year.

4. Take on side gigs

You’ll likely have more time when you are single to pursue passion projects and work on side hustles. There are a variety of ways to make some extra money on the side of a full-time job, including:

  • Starting a blog
  • Writing a book
  • Selling artwork
  • Assisting in paid research opportunities
  • Dog-walking

The supplemental income you get from a side gig can be used to treat yourself to a few extra purchases, or it can contribute to your emergency fund.

5. Learn how to cook

Singles, on average, spent slightly more of their budget on food than married individuals did — 11.5 percent for singles and 11.2 percent for married individuals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Couples can share more food and may be more inclined to cook at home when they have someone to cook for. However, singles can take this as an opportunity to work on their cooking skills and avoid the cost of a dinner date.

You might consider investing in a cookbook, though there are plenty of free recipes to be found online. It might also help to do some weekend meal prep — assembling meals for the coming week. This can help avert the need to order in when you don’t have time to cook.

6. Travel cheaper

Being single doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel. In fact, traveling solo can be more affordable than traveling with a partner, and it means you alone decide where to go and what to do, without compromise.

A plane ride is one area where you can save as a solo traveler. While single, your schedule may be more flexible, so you can look for dates that have cheaper flights. You can save on international trips by taking red-eye flights, which travel overnight. For regional flights, you can save by sacrificing a little comfort for a budget airline.

When it comes to accommodations, you can bypass the romantic hotels and find somewhere a little more affordable to stay. In addition to hotels, consider looking at hostels and Airbnbs, which can also provide an opportunity for getting to meet new people.

Here are some additional tips for saving on travel expenses:

  • Budget for the trip ahead of time.
  • Avoid using your credit card as much as possible, since conversion fees are typically higher for credit than debit cards.
  • Alternatively, find a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
  • Pick up a few groceries to avoid eating out for every meal.
  • Spend more time exploring free attractions, such as museums and parks, rather than paying for expensive activities.

7. Find someone to hold you accountable

Just because you don’t have a romantic partner doesn’t mean you have to be totally alone on your financial journey. Consider finding someone who’s reliable and responsible to turn to for advice or who can simply tell you “no” to curb impulsive spending.

“Saving money and personal finance more generally can be a lonely journey, since it’s not often something that’s talked about in social settings,” says Shane Sideris, the co-founder of Synchronous Wealth Advisors in Santa Barbara, California.

“It can be helpful to have someone, or a group of people, you can turn to that will hold you accountable and help talk through any financial questions you may have,” Sideris says. “This can often be a family member, a financially savvy friend or a financial planner.”

Financial planning by generation

Generation Z

Age range: 10 to 25 years old

How many are single: 41 percent (data includes ages 18 to 29)

What should you have established financially by this age? Those who have finished school and are ready to work should aim for a steady source of income, get a credit card to build good credit, and contribute to a savings fund.

What goals should you work towards at this age? Build credit to get good rates on future loans, save for big milestones such as going to college or buying a car, look for career opportunities, start an emergency fund.

Millennials

Age range: 26 to 41 years old

How many are single: 23 percent

What should you have established financially by this age? Have an emergency fund that contains at least three to six months’s worth of expenses, start investing in a retirement account.

What goals should you work towards at this age? Reduce debt, focus on advancing in a career, save for becoming a homeowner, increase your retirement fund, improve your credit score.

Generation X

Age range: 42 to 57 years old

How many are single: 28 percent

What should you have established financially by this age? Reduced credit card and personal loan debt, a solid emergency fund and a retirement fund.

What goals should you work towards at this age? Pay down mortgage and other consumer debt, continue to build a retirement fund, focus on health to limit future medical bills.

Baby Boomers

Age range: 58 to 76 years old

How many are single: 36 percent

What should you have established financially by this age? Create a will (or revocable living trust) that designates beneficiaries, have a significant amount invested in a retirement account.

What goals should you work towards at this age?: Continue to save for retirement and create a retirement budget, stay healthy.

Financial resources for singles

  • Money-saving apps: There many apps on the market, including Digit and Chime, that can help you save by automating savings and allowing you to easily organize savings priorities.
  • Retirement fund calculator: This can help you figure out how much you should save at each age, at your specific income level, to achieve your retirement goals.
  • Savings goal calculator: This can help you determine how much to save monthly, weekly or daily to reach various personal goals, such as a future vacation or a down payment on a house.
  • High-yield savings accounts: A high-yield savings account is a great place to store your money, since it will help to boost your savings over time. Make sure that you can meet any minimum requirements and avoid maintenance fees.
  • Scott’s Cheap Flights: If you’re a traveler, this is a great resource that finds deals on flights and sends you alerts when cheap flights become available. There is a free limited version, a $49 per year premium version and a $199 per year elite version — the free version includes alerts on international economy flight deals.
  • “Your Money Briefing” podcast: The podcast by the Wall Street Journal comes in bite-sized episodes (typically 10 minutes or less) that explore personal finance topics as well as keep you up to date on money-related news.

Bottom line

Being single is a great opportunity to achieve a variety of personal goals. However, you’ll have to commit to important financial decisions and develop effective savings habits to meet those goals. Without a partner to help manage your spending, it’s essential to have a budget outlined, which you can use to track your expenses, plan for bills and make sure you’re saving each month.

Remember, also, that being single isn’t the same as being alone. Reach out to those you trust who can hold you accountable and support you on the way to achieving financial goals.

Written by
René Bennett
Banking writer
René Bennett is a writer for Bankrate, reporting on banking products and personal finance.
Edited by
Consumer banking reporter