Because personal finance advice is often geared towards families, topics like marriage and money, budgeting for day care and saving for college are always relevant and easy to search. But where do single adults fit in
The single adult demographic tends to slip through the cracks when it comes to personal finance buzz—and it doesn’t help that single adults lack the accountability that a significant other can provide. So let’s bridge the gap, starting with the five essential finance rules for single adults.
1. Don’t give into home ownership pressure.
Renting is often seen as bad thing, something everyone should get out of as soon as possible. This is a myth. Renting allows flexibility and can be very cost-effective. Remember it costs the same amount to heat a 1,500 sq ft home regardless of the amount of people living in the home. A down payment, repairs and Homeowner Association fees add up quickly. Couples or families can share living expenses, but a person living alone bears the brunt of all these costs alone. But regardless of if you rent or buy, always try to keep your housing expenses under 25% of your take-home pay.
2. Shift your budget to accommodate going out.
Not to encourage a stereotype, but single people probably spend more on drinking and dining out than a married couple with young kids. Find places in your budget to accommodate your higher entertainment needs. An ideal budget allocates 5 percent of your take-home pay to medical expenses, yet chances are a healthy single adult won’t need the entire 5 percent. Entertainment should also be allocated 5 percent of your budget, so if you save some in medical, you can move any extra into your entertainment fund, amping it up to 7-8 percent of your take-home pay.
Budgets are often derailed by spontaneous trips and expensive events. If you want to do something extra, set a goal and save up for it. Doing so will allow you do what you want while creating a great financial habit.
3. Examine your habits.
Just because you are single doesn’t mean you have to strip your life of all luxuries to save money. Being aware of your habits and where your money goes will make a big difference. Don’t cancel cable if you use it often. If you know you won’t cook, don’t buy a lot of groceries. Knowing your behavior can make your budget realistic and easy to maintain—and prevent you from unnecessarily overspending.
4. Don’t ignore the future.
There is a common misconception that marriage is the time to buckle down and plan for the future. Don’t buy into that. Your future is worth investing in. Get your retirement contributions up to your employer’s match immediately, pay down any debt, and start building an emergency fund that holds up to three months worth of expenses. Regardless of your future relationship status, planning for the future now is just plain smart.
5. Find a financial accountability partner.
When a couple gets married, they often learn about their financial habits through their partners’ observation, but a single person can go a long time without catching a bad financial habit. A single person can essentially do whatever they want without their bad financial decisions affecting anyone else. This is dangerous.
Accountability can be the key to financial success. Find a trusted friend or family member to confide in. Ask them to check in on your financial goals once a month. Or hire a financial advisor. Either way, you will be more aware of your finances if you have someone to encourage you towards your goals.
If you are an adult living on your own income, then there is no excuse not to save and budget. Don’t let the single life be an excuse to develop bad financial habits. Financial success is all about behavior. Being aware of your habits will take a little work, but it will prepare you for a healthy financial future.
Peter Dunn, aka Pete the Planner, is an award-winning financial mind who has authored five books, hosts the popular Pete the Planner radio show and travels around the country offering financial education. His signature wit will have you laughing as you learn. For more from Peter, visit www.petetheplanner.com.