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THE COST OF BEING A SINGLE WOMAN

March 21, 2013

 

I have always been aware of the social stigma of remaining single, but early in my life, I made a conscious decision NOT to marry and have children and have not regretted that decision or my reasons why for the last 37 years.

 

However, “The Cost of Being Single” as outlined in the STRIB today was a real EYE-OPENER!

 

Of course I knew the disparity in WAGES between men and women in the corporate world from the 1960s to the early 1990s.  I accepted it, quietly sought to improve the situation for others and moved forward as best I could.  I definitely was of the mind that quietly out-smarting, out-performing and successfully lobbying for those that followed me was a better strategy for success of women in the workplace overall than confronting head on the blatant discrimination experienced by most women in “untraditional” roles in the 1970s.  And over all, it worked for me…and created a pathway for others that followed.

 

Of course I’ve understood that a married male counterpart had financial benefits I did not have in terms of not only salaries, but applicable deductions/costs.  Of course I recognized that two-income families had a financial advantage over me – particularly those without the expense of families.

 

However, I had no idea that the disparities went further than that. 

 

Consequently I bought into the “family” mantra that along with being the dumb one, I was also fiscally irresponsible.  I was caught in a bit of a trap, here, as I knew they had no idea how little I was making, and projected the incomes of males in similar positions unto me; and hence, the judgment….and yet, I could not bring myself to share what I was actually being paid, as to me, it would reinforce their original assessment – I was the dumb one to work for that little money. 

 

Today, however, an article in the STRIB shed new light on disparities that even I, in the midst of it, had no idea were happening!

 

Comparisons of single women to married women show that over a lifetime, unmarried women pay almost a MILLION DOLLARS more than their married sisters for taxes, social security, health and housing “thanks to more than 1000 laws that provide legal/financial benefits to married couples” NOT extended to those of us who remain single women.

 

The most egregious to me personally is the regulation that IRA options allow MARRIED women to withdraw money from IRAS early for medical or education expenses WITHOUT penalty.  This is a very personal issue as those of you who know me personally, know of my fall and resulting health issues in 2002. 

 

The fall coincided with the first recession of the Bush Administration following 9-11.  I had almost no income through three years of physical therapy and who knows the amount of medical bills.  This was exasperated by the fact I learned today that SINGLE WOMEN pay more for insurance than married women do.  So yes, as a small business owner who was self-insured, I had a high deductible catastrophic insurance because that was all I could afford-and paid more for it than either a man or a married woman would have.   And thus, the medical bills just kept coming and coming-quickly depleting “emergency fund savings” and then forced me to tap into a devalued IRA account and before I could work again, what originally was over $200,000 in IRA savings were gone….impacted first by a devalued market and second by a need to withdraw funds paying a 10% penalty – that married women are exempt from!

 

I suppose it is my fault I did not recognize these disparities but I wonder how many other single women had no idea just how much their lives have been impacted by this discrimination. Remember, the study quoted in the STRIB projects the overall inequity for single women at $1 million for just these four categories with no projections for salary discrepancies that once existed and may still be a factor today.

 

Make no mistake, it would not have changed decisions I made, but knowing this may have protected me from falling further in the trap of accepting I was the dumb or irresponsible one all those years and saved me a lot of time trying to figure out how I could be such a loser at personal finances when I generally was known in my business life as the opposite!

 

Guess the lesson learned going forward is that these statistics are startling. When presented in a single article, I am sure there are circumstances overlooked, but we are at a juncture today that as we look toward Social Security and Medicare reform and cost savings, I suggest we look to REDUCE the advantages given to married women/married couples.  I know better than to think single women would get a favorable adjustment upward, but after all, what is socially and politically acceptable for the SINGLE woman should apply to all, don’t you think? 

 

NOTE: And although this was not a test, I expect majority of women reading this nodded yes, and majority of men said no-as some things never change. 🙂

 

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