Saturday, January 26, 2008

Single versus Coupledom?

Is it better to be single versus coupled? Is it easier or harder? In so many casese it would seem being coupled is easier but then there are many cases where being single is easier. This week a prime example happened about what my DH's life would be like if he were single. Honestly I have to say it would be awesome.

But my DH and his best (single) friend entered a business competition. They are semi-finalists and have to go end of March to Denver. I mentioned starting to research the costs of going.

The Single Friend (SF), says why bother. We can book it at the last minute. I say, so I can work it into the budget and account for it now. Then set it aside the money. The SF why do you need to work it into the budget. Just use your incoming money. I respond that's because you don't have anyone else to worry about and save for.

The truth is that SF does not make a lot of money but it's all his and he has complete control and freedom over it. He can afford to eat out every meal, do any activity, and has no responsibilities for his money.

For example he makes $3k gross but nets probably $2500/month. He doesn't save for retirement or a house or anything because he lives simply. Retirement is not an option being a foreigner, house is unnecessary for the same reason (and his parents are giving him a DP), and so he has $2500/month to blow on anything he wants. That's way more than my DH who makes 3-4x as much but has to pay for our mortgage, retirement, college, cars, etc.

When you are coupled, you start thinking more long term. You are unable to just buy what you want when you want. You suddenly worry about emergencies, you want to replace your car if you have children. Or you worry about retirement. Or you worry about things like college for your children or how to pay if they are ill. Basically you worry more about the future in a couple.

I wonder though if it wouldn't be more fun sometimes to still be single? If I had spent my 20s untangled in a relationship would I be more carefree about money? I think so. If not in a relationship, I would not save for a wedding until I found someone. I probably would not save for a house because I'd be thinking more about where I could move or travel. I would buy less things to tie me down, certainly I'd have no pets.

So which is better single or coupledom? There is no easy answer, but it is fun to see the differences we have in budgeting money. And how being a single versus in a couple changes a person's perspectives on money.

And when I say single I mean really single. Not single living with a significant other or in a long term relationship but unmarried. Those usually have significant financial implications, but single as in not in a relationship, living alone, etc.


SingleGuyMoney said...

I love being single and I have NO plans to change it anytime soon. Alot of my good friends are married and just hearing there stories makes me NEVER want to get married.

For example, one of my married friends hides money from her husband.

Living Almost Large said...

SGM, are you ever becoming more and more TYPICAL! Most of our friends are still single.

M. said...

I agree that things change when you're partnered, and certainly I became more explicit about writing down budgets once my partner and I merged our money, because I needed to communicate plans and track multiple incomes. But I do feel like while many single (and, for that matter, partnered/married) people do have a more transient view of money, many single people aren't quite so footloose as your friend. I think many single people look to the long-term, or to more stable things, choosing to save for retirement or for an eventual down payment. Plenty save for emergencies! Some of my single friends have mortgages. Some single people even save for the education of children they might have, either once partnered or on their own--it makes sense, if you think your life will have children in it, to plan for that, no? Essentially, although I do agree that there are differences in the ways single and partnered people handle money, I'm not sure that that's defined so clearly by the extent to which they value stability.

DogAteMyFinances said...

I would think the family DP, more than the single status, would change your life.

But $2,500 doesn't sound like a lot to me, after rent and clothes and bills..., even for a single guy.

Besides, most single guys I know can tell you their car payment and exactly how much their car is worth. They have no idea what they owe on their car or what the interest rate is.

Anonymous said...

It's more about point of view. You basically just said single people don't save which is kinda ridiculous. Single people still need to retire, deal with car repairs etc.

Maybe your DH's single friend has a unique situation on retirement and housing but that would be the same even if that person was part of a couple right?

Then there are also some couples who don't plan on having kids and so saving for those expenses don't come up.

For single people in hopes of being in a relationship and having kids someday ... why does the saving not start before you find that perfect person to start that family with?

People who are in a couple and don't discuss money ... people who are hiding money from their spouse ... that's just a problem. Money problems are one of the top reasons people get divorced.

My boyfriend of many years and I - we keep our finances separate. We discuss and make some of our financial plans with each other but ultimately if one of us goes and buys something it's that person's money (unless they have to ask the other person to pay the bills as a result.) We have an understanding and we also discuss.

Saving for emergencies and for retirement etc is the smart thing to do whether you are single or a couple. Might be different if we were trust fund babies with so much money socked away we didn't even have to really give it a second thought.

Living Almost Large said...

Um, $2500 is a lot. He doesn't own a car, doesn't buy clothes, doesn't spend money on anything but himself.

Also we know many singles in the same situation. And no many singles do not save before meeting someone because it's more fun to go out. It also is hard to think of a future when you have no idea where you'll be.

Will you live in the US? Or you can move to Europe, Asia. Or you can backpack 6 months no problem.

There is so many choices, no strings for selecting a job. You apply where you want, and take any job you like. You do not consider a significant other.

Hence why I specifically excluded people in long term, serious relationships. Why? Because they still consider the other person's feelings.

Fun and fancy free. You don't have to think about saving for the future when you aren't sure what the future holds.

MB said...

I bought an apartment in NYC when I was 27 and totally single. I planned and saved to pay for it, and had very little help from my parents (a ~$5K loan, which I repaid with interest). Believe me, it was the best thing I ever did financially, and I am still proud of myself for taking that plunge.

My point is that long-term thinking is more common when you are married/settled down, but it also has a lot to do with your personality.

frugal zeitgeist said...

I agree with mb. I've been married and I've been single and I'm currently in a getting-increasingly-serious relationship. Through it all, I've been a saver and a planner. That's just who I am. My ex , on the other hand, (a British guy, for what that that's worth), didn't give two hoots or a holler for saving or planning ahead and would have been just as happy to keep on going down that road as a married couple. I certainly know plenty of other couples with a similar mindset.

MEG said...

I think savings habits and outlook have more to do with age (and potentially income level) than with relationship status.

Single people who are over 30 (or at least over 40) usually are still very interested in saving, investing, and owning real estate. Similarly young people who make a lot of money (doctors, lawyers, etc) are generally investors whether or not they are attached.

The stereotype (which I hope is changing but doesn't seem to be in my experience) is that single women spend freely and don't worry about the future until they get married. Single men on the other hand often want to establish themselves in solid careers, save money, and sometimes even buy a home before "settling down."

Sure, some men spend freely too (especially really young ones), but I think there's a reason that's the stereotype. Women are respected if they are high achievers, but they're not disrespected by society if they choose not to be--unlike men who don't have the choice. So at a certain age men generally start to buckle down - if for no other reason than to fit in with their peers with comments about their investment activities.

I am trying to buck that trend. As a young very single female I've always saved aggressively, I own my own home, and I'm about to purchase a rental property. Take that, stereotype!

I'm Grace. said...

Provocative post and interesting discussion. I've never been married, and I've never been in a relationship where we pooled our finances. While I can think of a great many reasons to stay single (and I don't regret that I've done so for the past 58 years), money ain't one of them! It would have been so nice to have had a second income. Dang, it would be nice NOW. If only it weren't for all those OTHER reasons to stay single.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the other commenters. I think you're mixing apples and oranges -- how one handles money has nothing to do with one's relationship status except that someone who's single with no dependents doesn't need life insurance.


Living Almost Large said...

What about not having to compromise about how to spend money? That you can go out to eat and blow it all because you don't have to discuss whether to buy the new couch?

As a single there is no discussion, no compromise. Only one way or the highway.

Jim ~ said...

I can't say what it would be like financially if I were single. Marriage requires more decision making and accountability to each other. When you're single and only you answer to you, it can be more difficult. I find that financial opposites attract and savers and spenders have to get along with each other. This creates a balance in the end without extremes to one side or the other.

I wouldn't rip on the single guy not doing everything you're doing. He still has responsibilities to himself and you can't assume he's only making dumb choices. Maybe he sends money back home? You wouldn't know because he only makes his decisions. If he came to you for advice, then that is a different story.

Living Almost Large said...

He likes being single and not compromising. I'm not ripping his choice, he was shocked when I said, it's not in the budget. We'll have to see and work on it.

Why? Because he doesn't have to consult anyone. He can freely choose to spend his money anyway he wants. And he should

DH can't. It's not "his" money. It's "our" money. And we've got common goals and needs. It's a choice to get married and compromise financially.

Being single you are the sole decision maker, sole provider. It's a totally different ballgame.

Anonymous said...

But the level of responsibility in the way one handles money is different from individual to individual, whether they are married or single. I know lots of married people who are just as irresponsible with their spending vs saving as your single friend. Just being married doesn't make one responsible. And being single doesn't mean you don't like budgeting your money and saving for the future. You can't draw a direct correlation between the two. Nor should you generalize based on the lifestyle and actions of one person.


Living Almost Large said...

I wonder though if people who are single longer get more entrenched in their own spending habits?

That it's harder to compromise. And he's not the only one. My 2 best girlfriends are single. And they are pretty particular about stuff. Compromising about money is not going to be easy.

Trust me, more than one has mentioned that they would never tell a guy what they spend on shoes or purses. I told them when your married there's full disclosure unfortunately.

And more than them, many single student friends in their 20s hate the idea of sharing. Hence more aren't even living with someone their dating. They live alone if they can hack it.

Anonymous said...

Tell your friends to sign a prenup and to keep their finances separate after marriage. It's not my idea of marriage but it's what many people do whom marry later in life.


Living Almost Large said...

Actually I have told them prenup.