When it comes to who has it better financially, married couples or singles, the answer could be: both. It depends on the people and situations involved. A married couple could be penalized for being married in one instance and benefit in another; likewise for singles. If financial stability entails curbing costs and saving for the future, neither married couples nor singles have a monopoly on that.
Financial stability requires that your spending stays within your means. When the amount you spend on necessary items takes a larger bite out of your budget, you erode some of that wherewithal to apply that money toward a secure future, such as investments. Singles, aside from having to pay for daily needs like toiletries and food by themselves, must also shoulder housing costs and health care expenses on their own. Singles could pay more than $1,000 more in housing annually than a married couple would and almost $100 more in health care per year.
Married couples can benefit from a tax standpoint, and it may be especially beneficial when the incomes of the spouses are widely disparate. For instance, if one spouse has a much lower income than the other, joining the two incomes can result in moving the couple into a lower tax bracket than if the higher income were counted individually. Other perks married couples may accrue over a lifetime include Social Security benefits, assuming those will still be available in the future; a larger tax break for selling a house; estate tax exemption and widow/widower benefits. In one respect, singles could be in the better position because a combined income does not increase a couple's permitted retirement contributions.
The so-called marriage penalty contributes to one of the arguments that being married is not what it is cracked up to be financially. Certain couples may find that they pay more in taxes as a married unit than they did separately as singles. In particular when the two make comparable salaries, combining them could push them into a higher bracket and thus amplify their tax burden. However, it is also possible that combining two incomes will not affect the amount of tax to be paid.
While it may be tempting to make a decisive case for either marriage or singlehood being more conducive to financial stability, doing so would neglect the individual nuances of each marriage or single person's experience. A prudent single person might save and prepare for the future much more conscientiously than a couple who squanders money on an overly lavish lifestyle. Your husband might be a compulsive spender, or be in debt, which can curtail you both from advancing toward financial security. On the other hand, as a single, you are less likely to prioritize retirement planning over dating, entertainment and personal care, so stability may be far in the offing for you as well.
Timothea Xi has been writing business and finance articles since 2013. She has worked as an alternative investment adviser in Miami, specializing in managed futures. Xi has also worked as a stockbroker in New York City.