How Are My Finances Different If I'm Single?

Dr. Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP®

The U.S. Census collected data on childless American adults over age 55 in 2018, and found that 32.1% of those surveyed had never been married, as compared to just 2.6% of parents. That's a pretty startling statistic, and it might give you pause if you've ever heard the line, "But who will take care of you when you're old?" in reference to being Childfree. Of course, if having kids was an assurance of having someone to care for you in old age, there would be no parents in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and we know that isn't the case. Your finances are different if you're Childfree and single, however. You only need to worry about yourself, but that can be a double-edged sword. Let's take a look at some of the considerations that should be on your financial radar.

Housing Costs

One of the biggest financial issues for single people is the cost of housing, because you're not necessarily sharing those expenses, like you might if you were married or living with someone. Whether you're renting or hoping to buy a home, costs are up across the board and living alone is becoming increasingly expensive. If you're not capable of affording your housing payments and utility bills on your own, you can look at getting a roommate if you don't mind sharing space. If you do, however, you're going to have to figure out the balance between your budget and your expenses. That might look like living in a smaller place, moving to a cheaper part of the country, or increasing your income.

Financial Accountability

If your finances are solo, you don't have a built-in accountability partner like a spouse. This person is really important, because we all need someone to give us another perspective on our budget, our spending, or our financial planning. If you're single, find someone you can talk to about money, like a trusted friend. This might be hard, because talking about money is a big taboo for a lot of people, but it's important. Many people would rather talk about their sex lives than their finances, but it'll be easier to stay on track with your money goals and sticking to a budget if you have someone you can share this information with. If you have fellow Childfree or permanently childless friends who are also single, you can fill this role for each other. If you share your plans and goals with others, you might be more likely to achieve them.

Estate Planning & Long Term Care

Another consideration for single Childfree people is estate planning and related documentation. It's extremely important to consult with an estate planner and get your documents (such as a will) in order. If you have a good friend or close family member who is willing to serve as your trustee, that's great. If not, you'll need to pay someone for that service.

You'll also need a plan for long-term care, and unfortunately, long-term care insurance plans are more expensive for single people and especially for single women. Working with a Certified Financial Planner can really help when it comes to figuring out who will take care of you when you're old.

Who will help you?

Finally, if you're single, you'll need to think about and plan for who will help you with all the other tasks and considerations of life. If you own a home and have a career, it probably doesn't leave you much time to do a lot of home maintenance tasks, for example. So you might need to hire someone to help with lawn care or cleaning. This can be planned and budgeted for, too. From an emotional standpoint, it's wonderful to have people who will cheer you on and be your support network. The 1980s-1990s TV show The Golden Girls resonates with a lot of Childfree and childless people for just this reason.

If you're on your own, you're responsible for managing your own finances, which can be wonderful (you choose the home to buy, you choose the city to live in, you choose where to go on vacation), but it can also be stressful. Lean on your friends, find an accountability partner, and work with financial professionals to learn how to effectively budget and save money now, so you can make your future financial goals a reality.
Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP® is the Founder of Childfree Wealth, a life and financial planning firm dedicated to helping Childfree and Permanently Childless people. Dr. Jay is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Childfree Wealth Specialist, and author of the book “Portraits of Childfree Wealth.” Dr. Jay is the co-host of Childfree Wealth Podcast. His Ph.D. is in Adult Learning from the University of Connecticut.

He has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, and many other publications.