According to the latest survey research from uSwitch.com, a single person will spend £250 000 pounds more in their lifetime than if they were part of a couple.
According to everyinvestor.co.uk http://www.everyinvestor.co.uk/personal-finance/banking/the-penalty-for-being-single—250-000-over-a-life
“ While the average annual income today is £23,960, someone living alone will be spending £11,904 of this on housing costs, essential bills and food, whereas somebody living as part of a couple will only be spending £7,110 a year. This means that those running a household single-handedly are forking out £4,794 or 67 per cent more just on the essentials.”
The article claims that single people will find it increasingly difficult to maintain a decent standard living, and given that the number of single person households are expected to increase to roughly 9 million in ten years, this means a lower standard of lving overall in the future.
As always, you need to be critical of this research – As Stuart Adam, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), says
“The quarter of a million figure depends first on whether you believe their £5,000 a year finding and I’d need quite a lot of convincing that they’d got their methodology right. Then to get from £5,000 a year to a quarter of a million over your lifetime they’ve based it on 53 years alone from 22 to 75. But nowadays people change their status all the time, going into couples and splitting up.”
In short, this means that this kind of comparison, which takes a hypothetical single person and a hypothetical couple and assumes that their status won’t change for the next half a decade is pretty worthless – as it simply does not reflect the life course of most people – according to this site – http://uclue.com/?xq=1533 - the median length of a marriage is less than 12 years – and given this roller coaster ride of the lifecourse, there are many factors that will affect one’s consumption habits
For a start it is quite likely that a couple in a long term relationship will have children, in which case the difference in living costs referred to above is nearly wiped out because the cost of having a child is £200 000 over the course of the child’s life - http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/feb/23/child-cost-inflation
Secondly, some people will end up living in single parent households, and are more likely to experience poverty than couples of any status or just plain single people.
Thirdly, and Interestingly, according to the BBC article mentioned above, single people are better off at the bottom of the income scale because benefits are set up to favour them rather than couples, however, this could change when the Tories change the benefits regime.
Where I can see support for the ‘pity the poor singles’ tone of the article is when it comes to those people not on benefits but in the fourth quartile of income earners – I would imagine that being a minimum wage income earner and being single is pretty grim – and here I can see how being in a couple would be an economic advantage –
(A quick aside – fear poverty is one of reasons why victims of domestic violence do not leave their partners – interesting research idea – are affluent victims of DV more likely to leave their abusers than poorer victims? There must be something out there on this!)
Finally, whether or not a single person or a couple will spend more also depends on what type of person, or what type of couple they are – it depends on their values and their lifestyle. A materialistic couple may well spend more than a non-materialist single person –the naked guy – http://www.abqtrib.com/news/2007/oct/12/don-schrader-reveals-inner-layers-his-life/ certainly bucks the expenditure trend mentioned above.
Something else worth noting is that it is mainly housing costs which make the difference, which are so expensive because of our desire to own our own homes which means we spend a lot of our adult life in debt – which means we end up paying a lot of money in interest – I have a fairly good mortgage deal and will be paying back about £170 for every £100 borrowed from my bank! So whether in a couple or single – the bank’s a winner -
My mortgage will last for fifteen years – longer than the averge marriage – and so doing a ‘static comparison’ on this is much more valid than is the case with the uSwitch research – lets keep the maths simple – on a £200 000 house (although you wouldn’t get a house for that where I live!) I will end up paying the bank and additional £140 000 in interest – so I say stuff these silly comparison sites – lets socialise lending for housing – this makes a huge different to our life quality too.
To conclude – have a look at this blog -
Having pointed out that the survey was probably done in order to generate publicity for the uSwitch website, she reminds us that the equation – relationship – cheaper – happier – is a pretty mercenary view to have of relationships!