A post I loved recently was Stefanie from The Broke and Beautiful Life on why she’s planning her financial life as if she were going to be permanently single — whether that ends up happening or not. Obviously I’m doing the same thing, although my personality and romantic history make me feel more strongly that I’m likely to stay single than she does 🙂
A pretty interesting discussion also developed in the comments. A number of older women cautioned that everyone should plan not to depend on others; Tonya put it really concisely when she said “It’s too easy to become complacent and dependent on someone else,” citing the example of her friends who married in their 20s and then were unexpectedly divorced ten years later.
A lot of me thinks this is really right; my financial focus as a single person has been on independence, on solidifying my shorter-term savings and retirement funds and increasing my income so I can “make it work” without a second income (or potential second income, because one-income families always have the option of trying to get the other adult back to paid work.) Self-reliance and hardcore planning are the key here.
However, further meditation got me thinking about the flip side of my experience as a long-term singleton, which is the creation of a whole network of dependencies. Let’s start with the non-financial side of that. My emotional eggs are in a lot more baskets than many married people, I think; studies show that with the relatively recent changes in how we conceptualize marriage, married couples are more and more inclined to focus on each other, relying on each other not only for financial support but also for companionship and emotional support. Straight men especially often report that their wives are the only person they talk to about their inner lives! Women are more inclined to have another confidant or two or three, but even they report greatly reduced numbers of really intimate friends as they’ve become more emotionally invested in their primary relationship. I, meanwhile, sometimes feel lonely because I don’t have that long-term deep primary relationship, but as a result of the way my life’s developed, I think I have a lot more invested than I otherwise would in a variety of other relationships, mostly with various women I know but also with men and with couples.  Friendship is how my emotional life is defined. I am absolutely dependent on all these people.
Now, money! No, I don’t take money from my friends. But you know, I would if I had to; I’d be very reluctant to take actual cash, but I know there are several spare rooms that would be available to me in the event of a financial emergency, and I’d be ok with that, and with exchanging services (housework, childcare, whatever) for room and board, at least for a while until I figured something else out. In fact, to me, having that network available so that if I fall off my own personal financial tightrope I have somewhere to fall *into* is pretty key to my confidence in myself. It’s a good idea for women (and men) not to be so dependent on their partners that they’re left devastated if those relationships end for whatever reason; but I think it’s an equally good idea for me as a single person to understand that I depend on all sorts of people, for all sorts of reasons.
This has been kind of a stream of consciousness post, but it’s occurring to me that this is probably why my thoughts about retirement housing run so strongly towards “figure out some way to live in relationship with other people.”
 reading this over, it occurred to me that maybe it looked like I was saying all married people didn’t do this. I don’t think that at all! I just know myself and I know I have a limited amount of time/emotional energy, so I think if *I* had a primary relationship I’d probably end up focusing on it and still have friends, but give them somewhat less of myself.