[Confidential to Alicia: I will respond to your post later this week! I already have a Weds post scheduled, so probably Friday will be a good day for it.]
So, for tl;dr reasons I went back and looked at Cindy from Growing Her Worth’s first post, in which she linked to this terrifying article about how single people (especially women) need to be insanely frugal in order to ever even dream of retiring.
As it happens I haven’t written nearly as much about issues of single-woman finance as I’d intended to when I picked my blog name. But it’s not like I never think about them. I actually think (and worry) about them all the time. There are a slew of issues: no help with the rent (unless you live with a roommate, as I currently do), no backup if you get sick or are unemployed, etc. However, what caught my eye was the net worth chart. Citing the Census Bureau in 2004, she gave a median net worth of $30,026 for single women, compared to $144,580 for married couples. For ages 55-64 (that is, approaching retirement) the median net worth numbers were $62,140 for single women (oof) and $268,835 for married couples (still not great, but much better.)
I was all fired up to set some new goals for myself based on this information when I realized that the financial picture in the U.S. has changed just a little bit since 2004. It took some digging around, but I finally ended up looking at the Census Bureau’s data from 2011, which is available in some detail on their website. There have been some net worth studies since then — like the one summarized at the Times, here, but when I looked at the data I didn’t see it broken out either by gender or by married/single (maybe I just missed something?) The upshot is that the 2011 numbers are probably a bit high, as net worth has been declining for everyone but the wealthiest. But I’ll roll with 2011 for the moment.
Median net worth numbers of interest to me, as of the 2011 census:
Married-couple households, 35-54 y.o.: $116,170
Married-couple households, 55-64 y.o.: $239,847
Female householder, 35-54 y.o.: $9640
Female householder, 65 years and older: $104,000
A couple of notes: That’s a huge decline in median female wealth. I assume most of it is attributable to housing issues (either drop in home value, or foreclosure, since I know single mothers were very hard hit by cruddy mortgage issues.) The wealth drop wasn’t nearly as bad for older single women; in the 55-64 age range, median net worth was almost identical between 2004 and 2011. Of course, that’s without accounting for inflation, so I guess there was still a serious drop.
OK then — how am I doing? I’m 35 years old and my net worth ought to hit $10,000 in mid-November (there’s a slim chance of getting there by the end of October, but I think that’s unlikely; it should be very close, though.) So, I’m right around the median for single women, and since I’m on the very low end of the age range there, I’m probably doing rather better than the median for 35-year-old women. However, obviously that leaves me in terrible shape, so I’m not going to get all happy.
I think instead I should take aim at the married couples. Damn it, why should I let not having had the good sense to either get married, or pursue some career that paid, hold me back? At my current rate of net worth growth, I should be able to hit $116,000 in about four years, by age 40. (Oh my God, I’ll be 40 in four years. I am so not ready for that.) Ideally, of course, I’ll get a better-paying job soonish and be able to increase it faster!