There are many advantages to being single. Among them: you can make the decisions in your life without compromise.
But being single can cost you more in expenses, savings and benefits than being in a relationship with someone who shares life’s financial obligations.
The glaring exception, of course, is if you partner with someone who is in debt, financially abusive, a gambler, or just plain bum.
But generally speaking, here are just five ways that flying alone can put you at a financial disadvantage and some ways to mitigate them.
YOU WILL PROBABLY PAY MORE FOR THE BASICS
To state the obvious, paying 100% of the bill to keep a roof over your head, lights on, refrigerator stocked, and water heater in working order will be higher than splitting the cost with a partner. That assumes you and your partner aren’t buying a home and lifestyle that costs more than twice what you live on now.
The same goes for a down payment on a house, as well as the purchase of furniture, appliances, and household items. Beyond splitting those costs, couples who choose to marry have another advantage: They often receive financial help in the form of cash and gifts from wedding guests.
YOU DO NOT HAVE FINANCIAL BACKING
If you are single and lose your job, you lose 100% of your earned income. If you live with a spouse or partner who also works, you only lose part of your household income.
In other words, you will have no one to support you while you look for another job or try to start your own business. The same goes for any other financial interruption in life, such as a medical problem that prevents you from working.
That’s why financial planners often recommend that the sole breadwinner have six to 12 months of expenses saved for emergencies in case of job loss or large, unexpected expenses, as well as extensive disability insurance that can replace much of your income should you be lying down for a long time.
YOU MAY BE CHARGED EXTRA ON A GROUP TRIP
Going solo can sometimes cost more if you opt for a group travel experience or retreat. This is because you may be charged an additional fee, which actually means you’re paying a higher per person rate than each of the two traveling companions checking in as a couple.
It feels unfair. “People often think ‘Why am I paying more if I’m traveling alone?’ said Yves Marceau, vice president of G Adventures, which offers small-group adventure travel tours.
The reason, Marceau said, is that the per-person cost of the total package takes into account negotiated room rates based on double occupancy. Let’s say a negotiated rate is $200 per night. The package cost for each member of a couple assumes that each person will pay $100 per night for accommodations. That’s why solo travelers may be charged a supplement to account for the additional cost of using a room priced for two.
“Most operators don’t make any money off the individual supplement. But they charge it to cover the cost,” Marceau said.
Some operators, like G Adventures, will offer to put you in a room with another solo traveler of the same gender if you want, so you don’t have to pay more. But not everyone does, he said.
Another way to avoid the supplement is to ask if single room occupancy options are available.
YOUR BENEFITS ARE LESS VALUABLE
Let’s say you never get married and never have kids. When you retire, assuming you qualify, you’ll receive benefits based on your lifetime earnings. When you die, those benefits will stop.
But the benefits of your married or divorced colleagues will effectively be more valuable because other family members — that is, their spouses, ex-spouses (to whom they were married for at least a decade), and, in some cases, the children, they may be entitled to an additional payment calculated as part of their benefits, not only while they are alive but also after they die.
YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO RUN OUT OF MONEY FOR RETIREMENT
When they retire, single women, which include divorcees and widows, have a retirement savings shortfall that is three times that of their married peers, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute.
The deficit is a measure of how much more money a person needs to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, transportation, clothing, and medical care.
There are many reasons for this shortfall, including lower career earnings overall. But one key for those who are single and never married is that they don’t have the same opportunity to save as much as a married couple, said Craig Copeland, director of wealth research at EBRI. “As a single person, you can only save a certain amount, while two people can save more in tax-deferred accounts and each can reach the maximum.”
Also, Copeland said, if a couple divorces, generally speaking, the spouses split the retirement savings they built up during the marriage.
All in, he added, “[a couple] can save more.