93% of Single Americans Feel the Immense Weight of the “Singles Tax”
Being single is expensive, and inflation makes it even more so. There are many benefits to living as a couple that leave single people behind financially.
Many Americans are used to paying extra for things that are out of their control, such as the “pink tax” on products with a traditionally feminine aesthetic and the “tall tax” on larger clothing. But it seems one group carries a heavier burden than most: unmarried adults facing the “singles tax.”
Single adults and married couples agree: it pays to have a partner. New data from Forbes Advisor closely examines how the single life impacts ordinary Americans’ finances and how that affects their view on long-term relationships.
Paying the “Singles Tax”
According to the Forbes Advisor report, 93% of single Americans feel the burden of the so-called “singles tax.”
A majority of married couples share all household bills and everyday expenses. Sharing the load this way usually scales down the per-person cost of living. For example, two people living in a one-bedroom apartment will pay a similar total amount of rent and utilities as a single person in a similar unit. The difference is that spreading that same expense across two people leads to a far lower average cost per person.
This discrepancy in cost of living is what some call the singles tax.
Like the pink or tall taxes, the singles tax is more of a metaphor for uneven costs than a literal, regulated tax. However, an individual’s actual tax bill can be part of the problem. Married couples, particularly those who file jointly, tend to have additional options for reducing the amount of annual income tax they owe.
Many examples of the singles tax are simply a matter of sharing an expense to reduce the average per-person burden. However, there are instances of a more overt singles tax, such as cruise lines charging a “single supplement” surcharge to solo travelers.
The Role of Inflation
As with most stories of financial difficulties facing typical Americans, inflation stands to exacerbate matters here. Specifically, 59% of the Forbes Advisor respondents say that inflation has made the singles tax even worse than it already was.
Of course, no one is immune to the rapid rise of household bills like gas and groceries. People from all walks of life feel the increasing squeeze on their income to make ends meet.
However, singles already bore disproportionate weight in this arena and feel the burden more heavily than most. For example, if a grocery bill increases by 20%, it is more like 10% per person for a married couple. Couples with multiple incomes will have an easier time rising to this challenge. On the other hand, singles generally don’t have the same option for diluting the extra expense; for them, it’s an unavoidable 20%.
More than one-third of these singles have sought other sources of relief from the singles tax. Living with roommates or family members such as parents and siblings to reduce housing and utility costs is one of the most effective. Some also share expenses such as groceries with others. In addition, buying perishable food and other home supplies in bulk is a great way to reduce costs, although this option is often unavailable to single-member households.
When Personal Finance Becomes Family Finance
According to Forbes Advisor data, 76% of married couples report being more financially stable since getting married. In total, 85% of respondents, regardless of relationship status, believe people in relationships are better off financially than singles.
Married couples, particularly those in DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) households, have several clear financial advantages.
Dividing expenses is a significant factor, as multi-income households will likely spend a smaller percentage of their take-home pay on ordinary expenses. In addition to recurring bills such as food and utilities, it is cheaper for couples to buy things like furniture, appliances, and tools. For many of these things, a household only needs one, no matter how many people use it or contribute to its cost.
However, there are other factors at play as well. For instance, having multiple earners gives a family more stability in the face of a job loss or another income disruption.
Even married households with only one income have some economic advantage over single adults. With two partners, there is more time and other resources to invest in things like DIY projects, home-cooked meals, and hunting for deals on regular expenses. In contrast, many singles may find themselves paying more for alternatives to these solutions.
Overcoming the Singles Tax
The single adult life can be incredibly fun, with a degree of independence that most others can only dream of. However, that independence comes at a cost. Most Americans, both singles and married couples alike, find that life is far more affordable for married couples than for singles.
Of course, thriving financially as a single American is far from impossible. Many succeed through a mix of good money habits, growing their income, and sharing expenses with non-romantic connections. But for now, it seems that married couples have an easier road to walk financially, and singles have their work cut out for them.