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Being Single Will Cost You

Senior men often tell me that the single women they meet are dishonest about their motives. “They say they want companionship,” complained one, “but they’re really looking for someone to pay the bills.”

This assessment seems unnecessarily harsh, but there is reason not to ignore it at its core. What if women – senior women especially — are looking not merely for love, but for security? What if after decades of shelter in marriages that ended with death or divorce, we are confused and fearful about how to maneuver the financial part of our suddenly-single lives?

This blog post is part of  #SinglesBlogfest, an effort organized by the Communication League for Unmarried Equality (CLUE),along with dozens of influential bloggers,to call attention to marital status discrimination, and the way our tax system discriminates against single people. There are some shocking numbers in this report, and I urge you to read it at


Men have told me that it’s common for women to bring up finances before they’ve finished their first date lattes. Some women are not shy about asking brand new acquaintances to enumerate their holdings in stocks and bonds. Others take a more subtle approach – they suggest dinner at an upscale restaurant. If the guy balks, the relationship is doomed before it begins.

I have no sympathy for anyone whose reason to partner up is entirely financial. On the other hand, money fears can unbalance a senior woman who has lost a spouse who managed the family assets by himself. It’s foolish to say that in such a case, wanting to tie up with a solvent man is not very near the front of her mind.

If a widow or divorcee has been single long enough to file an income tax return, she’ll have been exposed to the disparity between filing married and filing single. For marrieds, joint returns are the sweet spot. “A single person never pays less than a couple with the same amount of income as the single person,” writes Dr. Bella DePaulo, author of   Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.

Much of the fight against marital status discrimination is led by young or midlife women in the work force, like Dr. DePaulo. Many of them are single by choice, with salaries high enough to cause them serious distress when it comes to paying taxes and managing IRAs and Social Security. According to the website, a single person earning $80,000 per year could easily spend a million dollars more than his or her married peer over the course of a lifetime – and this is based on only a few of the most discriminatory laws!


Sixty-plus women are in a different category. Most of us who were born in the 1940’s and 1950’s, when marriage was an imperative, are not committed singles. For us, being abruptly single is socially startling, like realizing that you don’t have a date for the prom.

We chose to be married, and were enveloped in those marriage structures for large chunks of our lives. Some of us are still active in the workforce, and some of us are living on retirement income. Some of us were involved in family finance, but many of us didn’t want to be — or had husbands / partners who held the money reins tightly.

At our age, “single” is another term for “widowed” and “divorced.” This status will bring us sometimes shocking penalties, but too few of us have yet grasped the extent to which marriage status discrimination has affected our bottom line. We need to pay better attention to the effect of singles penalties.


At our age, if we’re really looking to un-single ourselves, there’s no shame in being curious about a potential partner’s income level. Later-in-life partnerships are about sharing, ideally on an equal basis. What’s shameful is demanding to know a man’s financial worth only hours after you’ve learned each other’s names. Singles penalties are deplorable, but what can be much worse is tying up with a man whose best feature is his stock  portfolio.


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'Being Single Will Cost You' have 13 comments

  1. July 7, 2013 @ 5:04 pm Iona

    A man I’m seeing reversed this process. He asked me on our first date about my financial status. He went about it rather delicately, so I didn’t mind and he is a retired professional who has his own money.

  2. May 16, 2013 @ 1:59 pm Sienna

    Jaicy – Among the available men who might insist on a woman without the close ties you describe, there are certainly those who would be attracted to your compassionate nature and would respect the relationship you have with your grandson. A man who’s looking to inherit your money when you die is not a someone you’d want anyway. The right man will want to be a part of your grandparenting experience, and he’s out there waiting for you. Don’t give up the search.

  3. May 15, 2013 @ 12:44 pm Jaicy

    I am 61 and widowed. I am raising my 5 yr old grandchild. Not many senior men want to take on a woman with a young child at their age. I have to balance that with the fact that even if a guy is still interested, pedophiles frequently target single women with children (and I have a friend it happened to). Now, consider while financially independent and comfortable with two homes, my assets are all tied up upon my death in a trust fund for my grandchild. When the remaining men hear the last, they run for the hills. The dating pool for me has shrunk to a puddle.

  4. April 17, 2013 @ 8:05 pm Claire

    The assumption is that we’re better off as a nation if more and more people get married; tie the knot and we’ll let you keep more of your income. Ridiculous! Along those lines, maybe we should try to reduce the number of failed marriages by raising taxes on divorced couples….(NOT!)

  5. April 17, 2013 @ 4:53 pm Sienna

    Li, thank you for pointing out that for a variety of reasons marriage can elude some people who would be open to it if the right person came along. On the other side, there are those (like most readers of this blog) who spent decades with a partner whom they lost through death or divorce. They have the habit of sharing their lives with someone, they’re uncomfortable with a suddenly-single status, and they’d like to find companionship with someone new.

    You’ve made the very important point that women who have been single long term are self-supporting. This is something men are slow to understand. Older men in particular were socialized to think a woman needs a man to do the heavy lifting financially. We need to give them proper perspective.

  6. April 17, 2013 @ 5:24 am Li

    I’ve read this post as part of the blogfest going on (I SO love the whole event!). Though I am not a “senior” yet (I’m close), I just want to point out that many always-singles, even always-single seniors, are always-single by circumstance rather than by choice. It is a bit disconcerting to find that, at least within a certain population, it is assumed that all who have always been single have happily chosen it. I would just remind you and your readers that there have been some throughout time that just didn’t find the right person. I know that may not seem to matter, but to those of us who have not only struggled with discrimination and marginalization but also with living our best lives even if they aren’t what we had originally chosen, we have a certain pride about our ability to live happily and independently. Many of us are still open to long-term relationships, maybe even marriage. And most of us are no longer looking for “financial security” – we established it for ourselves or have spent an adult lifetime adjusting to living without it.

  7. April 16, 2013 @ 7:37 pm Singles Strike Back: #UnmarriedEquality | Onely: Single and Happy

    […] Dating Senior Men: “Being single will cost you” […]

  8. April 13, 2013 @ 9:32 pm Alabama Girl

    I am single by choice. I make good money and some of the men I have dated seemed to want to marry me for that reason, so I opted out. I don’t care about the singles penalty because I’m willing to pay for being alone rather than being with a man who loves my salary more than me.

  9. April 13, 2013 @ 10:14 am TinaB

    I’m divorced, and my ex-husband gets all the perks, including, while they were still kids, tax deductions for my children. In order to get rid of him I was forced to allow that in the divorce agreement, and it still infuriates me. Yes, somebody has to look at these laws and figure out how to be fair to single people like me.

  10. April 13, 2013 @ 10:09 am Sienna

    You’re so right, Walker, and it’s time to put that way of thinking to rest. In today’s world, single status is a good choice for an increasing number of women. Thanks for your comment.

  11. April 13, 2013 @ 6:17 am Walker Thornton

    As a single woman, going on almost 10 years now, I’ve been in 2 long-ish term relationships. I ended both. One brought some financial security as we shared living expenses. Nice, but not an adequate substitute for compatibility, love and all the other delightful benefits of a strong relationship.

    But as you note it’s tough being single at this age–I’m approaching 59. No matter how independent or capable one may be, in the end there are people who judge ‘us’ as some how lacking!

  12. April 12, 2013 @ 8:11 pm Penelope

    It’s nice to have a partner’s income but one should never depend on anyone but themselves in the end.

  13. April 12, 2013 @ 8:50 am Rebecca Jones

    Excellent article, Sienna ~ many good points made!

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