“Sure you can get out of debt; you're married!”
If I had a $1 for every single woman that said this to me I'd be in Paris right now versus sitting in my office on a rainy day in Chicago. I'm not sure why some women feel that being boo'd up is the solution to getting out of debt; or that having a mate makes it easier to master their money management and improve their scores – like seriously I'm clueless.
I never considered my husband my ‘get out of debt' card. Sure the combined income is nice; however the combined debts and the ‘combined' opinions on what we should do with ‘our' money comes with it.
I've often heard financial experts comment on how getting out of debt is more difficult for singles because they don't have a ‘fall' guy (spouse) or familial responsibilities to keep them in check. I personally feel those are the very reasons why it's easier to get out of debt and make wiser money decisions.
What most of these financial experts leave out is that in order to create better money habits, get out of debt, invest, save for retirement, and improve your credit scores as a married couple, you must be in sync; on the same page, and in total agreement with your financial decisions. Unfortunately that's difficult to achieve for most married couples, which is why many never get to the point of becoming ‘that‘ power couple. Further, I had more cash on hand as a single person than I ever – let me repeat that – EVER have as a married woman. All that ‘extra income' is going towards ‘extra' living, savings, kids and student loan expenses, etc which greatly reduces that ‘extra' income.
And here's where the beauty of being single comes in. You're free! You don't have someone else's debt, someone else's opinions, someone else's money habits adversely affecting the flow of your finances. And because of this it's easier for you to make budgetary cuts that are sucking up your positive cash flow, increase your income to take care of unnecessary debt, pump up your savings, and curb unhealthy money habits that are pushing you further and further away from your goals.
I've always mentioned that I was a pro at getting out of debt while single, however, I was also a pro at getting right back into debt. Money habits don't always change just because you're married or have children; in fact it can get worst, especially if you have a partner who's habits are just as bad or worst than yours! Money habits change because we make a concerted effort to change them, plain and simple.
Now, I will say that there are times when an extra income does help:
1. Layoff/Job Loss – The best way to plan for this is to have a fully funded Emergency Fund (6-12mths depending on how competitive your field is), keeping your skills up-to-date via training/certifications in order to remain desirable in the job market
2. Unexpected Disability/Illness – This is definitely a biggie. I'll never forget when a MetLife rep did a presentation in our real estate office and told a story about a realtor becoming permanently disabled when they fell outside on their concrete stairs during a Chicago winter. It really struck a cord with me. If something happened to me I had no way of covering my expenses! Insurance is a biggie. Disability insurance is provided by most employers; it's important to review the policy to see if supplemental insurance is necessary.
3. When You Have A Child – I was raised by a single mom and I can tell you we had some rough financial times, especially when a job loss or illness were involved and we went through both of them. This is when a second income or a second person period is desired; a partner who's supporting you emotionally, financially and physically. As a single mother, building a strong support system is key, in addition to managing the heck out of your finances to ensure that your necessities and saving/investment goals are being met. I have never raised children alone, but I can tell you that some of my best budgeting tactics come from single moms who have mastered the heck out of ‘stretching a dollar'. I suggest you do the same. Over half of my clients are single moms and they are more dedicated to achieving their financial goals than anyone else I work with. If meeting necessities are difficult for you, then that should be priority Number One: increasing income, taking advantage of community and/or governmental resources, while reducing expenses.
If you are single, use your status to your advantage! Take the time to tackle financial setbacks so that when Mr/Ms.. Right does come along (if that's what you want), you'll be financially sound and can immediately combine your incomes to build wealth versus tackling poor credit and bad debts.
Hope this helps!