The Cost of Staying Single (Hint: It Could Be in the Millions!)

Pin it

Over a lifetime, unmarried women can pay as much as a million dollars more than their married counterparts for healthcare, taxes, and more, thanks to more than 1,000 laws that provide legal/financial benefits to married couples. Here are a few of the biggest ways, according to The Atlantic, that singles get the financial shaft.

Income Taxes:

In 2010, a single woman earning $40,000 paid $6,181 in income taxes. (Her married peer paid more than a thousand dollars less: $5,162)

In 2010, a single woman earning $80,000 paid $16,125 in income taxes. (Her married counterpart paid almost four thousand dollars less per year.)

Projected over 40 years based on 2011 rates:

A single woman earning $40,000 per year paid $245,000 in income taxes. A married woman earning $40,000 paid $206,000 in income taxes—a difference of $39,000.

A single woman earning $80,000 per year paid $645,000 in income taxes. A married woman earning $80,000 paid $490,000 in income taxes—a difference of $155,000.

Social Security Benefits:

• If a single person dies without children, her money will go into the system to be provided to whoever needs it most. However, if a married person dies, the money can go to her family.

 A married woman could receive up to 50% of her husband’s benefits while her husband is alive.

 Spouses can also receive 100% of their dead spouse’s benefits, if the deceased’s benefits are higher than the recipient’s would have been.

• A married woman has the option to collect on her retired husband’s Social Security (in addition to her own income).

 If her husband has earned $51,000 per year for the last 40 years, she could choose to receive $39,768 for the four years she deferred retirement, which is half of his Social Security (and doesn’t diminish the amount he receives).


A married person can put away $5,000 a year for her spouse for every year the spouse isn’t working. A single person can’t put away that money in support of someone else, nor can someone else put away money for her if she’s unemployed.

Spouses can withdraw money from an IRA early, for medical or education expenses, without the usual 10% fee.

Single people overburdened by unplanned medical expenses will lose 10% of the withdrawal amount even if the expenses are high. In other words, single people are penalized when they make the same choices as their married counterparts.


Couples spent 6.9% of their annual income on health on average; single men spent 3.9%; and single women spent 7.9%.

A married woman with an income of $80,000 spent $331,200 on health over 60 years, and an unmarried woman with the same income spent $379,200—a difference of $48,000.


Couples spent 23.9% of their annual income on housing; single men spent 30.3%; and single women spent 39.8%.

A single woman making $80,000 spent $1,910,400 on housing over 60 years, whereas a married woman making $80,000 spent only $1,147,200 — a difference of $763,200.

Marriage versus singlehood can’t be weighed in money, but it’s kind of hard to ignore figures like these. Have the cold, hard numbers of the one-sided, financial fulcrum changed your outlook on walking down the aisle?