Consumer Trends

Hitched or Flying Solo: Who’s Better Off Financially?

A closer look at he financial realities of America’s single adults

September 21, 2017 — OMAHA, Neb.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The single life is appealing to a growing number of Americans, but married couples may tend to have the edge when it comes to money. They are more likely to own a home, save and invest more, according to a new survey from TD Ameritrade.

With singles accounting for 45 percent of all U.S. adults, it’s more important than ever for those choosing the single lifestyle to empower themselves financially. TD Ameritrade’s Singles & Money survey of 1,000 unmarried and 1,000 married adults (ages 37 and older) reveals that less than one-third of single Americans (29 percent) rate themselves as very financially secure compared with 43 percent of married individuals.

Research shows that singles tend to have more friends than married people, are more likely to volunteer their time and are as healthy or healthier as their married peers. When it comes to finances, however, the picture isn’t as rosy:

  • Singles make an average of $8,800 less in personal income than their married peers ($52,900 versus $61,700)
  • They’re much less likely to own a home than married couples (58 percent versus 90 percent)
  • Four in ten working singles spend their entire paycheck each month with no money toward savings (versus 37 percent married)

“While an increasing number of Americans are finding that remaining single can have its virtues, there is one key area making the single life potentially more difficult – money,” said Lule Demmissie, managing director of retirement and long-term investing at TD Ameritrade. “Having a spouse to split the mortgage, household expenses and insurance can make basic living costs more manageable. On top of that, for couples who file jointly, marriage can help reduce their tax burden. The logical conclusion is not that one should simply marry to save money! The substantive insight is that both married and single investors can learn best practices from one another.”

Singles’ Financial Habits

Nearly one-third (29 percent) of singles cite “having complete control over the household finances” as the biggest benefit to not being married. But, when it comes to saving and investing, two heads may be better than one:

  • Fewer singles believe they are very knowledgeable about the stock market (16 percent of singles versus 26 percent of married individuals)
  • Three in 10 unmarried Americans aren’t saving for anything, compared to 17 percent married
  • A quarter (27 percent) have emergency funds, versus 39 percent married
  • Don’t mess with their food or coffee; in tough times, four in 10 singles would be unwilling to cut back on eating out and about a quarter wouldn’t sacrifice coffee or take-out

Retiring Solo

Three in 10 (28 percent) singles classify their retirement savings as “I’ll scrape by,” while nearly a quarter (23 percent) identify as “super savers.”

  • Forty-four percent are saving for retirement, versus six in 10 (63 percent) married
  • One-third (34 percent) of unmarried Americans expect to be very secure in retirement, versus 52 percent for married
  • Almost half (46 percent) of singles are worried about running out of money in retirement, versus 38 percent for married
  • More than one-third (36 percent) of singles want to fully retire but believe they won’t be able to afford it, versus 29 percent for married

“The good news is that singles can redefine the American dream on their own terms by taking financially prudent steps such as saving for retirement early, sharing expenses with a roommate or family member and establishing an emergency fund. This can help level the playing field with their married peers,” Demmissie says.

Three in 10 unmarried Americans aren’t saving for anything, compared to 17 percent married

Demmissie points out a few ideas to help get singles on the path to financial security:

Enlist a financial accountability partner
Married Americans say the single biggest financial benefit of being married is the moral support offered by their partner to keep them on track/on budget. Find a friend or family member who can fill this role.

Knowledge is power
An educated investor is a confident investor. Take advantage of free tools and resources to learn investing and saving basics.

Take a cue from the Golden Girls
Roommates can provide companionship and help lessen the financial burden whether you own a home or rent.

Establish an emergency fund
The usual rule of thumb is to build up three to six months of living expenses, but it can vary based on individual circumstances.

Save early for retirement
The sooner you start, the longer your savings have to grow. Aim to max out your 401(k) and when your budget allows, also contribute to an IRA.




TD Ameritrade’s financial consultants want to help investors of all ages and experience levels set and pursue financial goals that fit their lives. They will take the time to listen and understand what matters to you before you invest. Learn about the four steps to goal planning at
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Survey conducted by Head Solutions Group
Head Solutions Group (U.S.) Inc., is a leading market research partner for Financial Services companies in North America. With offices in New York, Toronto and Montreal, Head delivers the deep customer insights that increase institutional knowledge and propel business action. TD Ameritrade and Head Solutions Group are separate and unaffiliated firms and are not responsible for each other’s services or policies.
About the 2017 Singles & Money Survey
A 20-minute online survey was conducted with 2,019 American adults aged 37 and older by Head Solutions Group, between August 11 and August 14, 2017, on behalf of TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation. The statistical margin of error for the total sample of N=2,019 within the target group is +/- 2.19 percent. This means that in 19 out of 20 cases, survey results will differ by no more than 2.19 percentage points in either direction from what would have been obtained by the opinions of all target group members in the United States. Sample was drawn from major regions in proportion to the U.S. Census.
Source: TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation