Those married or partnered are more likely to have a positive outlook on their finances, consider themselves planners and savers and have a focus on saving for retirement, while those who are single are prioritizing affording everyday bills and paying down student debt, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) has found.
These differences are even more dramatic for older generations, including their financial outlook and planning horizons. There are wide gaps between married or partnered individuals and those who are single in how they address their financial priorities and their relationship with debt. These findings are potentially troublesome, given that these older generations are generally approaching or in retirement, the SOA says.
The sixth report in a series that analyzes financial priorities across generations using results from an online survey of 2,001 individuals, conducted by Greenwald & Associates, reveals half of those who are single report they can only plan from paycheck to paycheck or two to three months ahead when reviewing their financial situation compared to one in three of those married or partnered. These differences are particularly stark for Late Boomers, Early Boomers and members of the Silent Generation. Among these older generations, 25% of those who are single can only plan paycheck to paycheck, while only 11% of those married or partnered do so. On the other end of the planning timeline, one in five of those married or partnered plan for the rest of their lives, while this is true for only 14% of single individuals.
Those married or partnered are more likely to place a high priority on saving for retirement (64% vs. 52%), saving for vacations (38% vs. 27%) and saving for their children’s education (26% vs. 18%) than those single. On the other hand, single individuals’ financial priorities are more likely focused on being able to afford everyday bills (74% vs. 67%) and paying off student loans (17% vs. 13%).
When asked about what strategies they are using to address their financial priorities this year, individuals of all generations who are in relationships are putting money into an employer’s retirement plan, targeting investments to grow their money, targeting investments to produce income and working with a financial adviser more often than those who are single.
One area that has considerable contrast when viewed by marital status is debt. Overall, 32% of single individuals agree that their level of debt is complicating their ability to manage their finances, a statement that only one in five married or partnered individuals agree with. Where the contrast manifests itself most is among the Silent Generation. Single individuals in this generation are much more likely to have debt (75% vs. 53% of married or partnered), especially credit card debt (49% vs. 26%). The impact debt has on these individuals is substantial, with paying off credit card debt being one of their top financial priorities (62% vs. 36%).
Saving for retirement is a high priority for 64% of those married or partnered, much higher than single individuals, where it is a high priority for 52%. Those married or partnered are more likely to consider their planning for a financially secure retirement to be on track and are also more likely to be taking steps to prepare for retirement, including putting money into an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
Concerns around retirement are relatively similar across marital status with a few particular areas of more concern for those single, according to the study report. Not being able to maintain a reasonable standard of living for the rest of their lives is more of a concern for those single (68% vs. 60%), especially for the middle three generations. Additionally, that there might come a time when they are incapable of managing their finances is another higher concern for those single (62% vs 55%), with single Gen Xers leading the way (70% vs. 52% of married or partnered Gen Xers). According to the SOA, for those married or partnered, these worries may be less pressing due the fact that their partner can help prepare for retirement as well as issues that may occur during retirement such as cognitive decline.
A separate SOA report about financial fragility says financial wellness programs need to be designed so individuals of different fragility levels can connect to what is useful and important to their situation.