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More Americans are going solo

There are several factors that could be contributing to this trend of solitary living. More Americans are choosing to marry later (if at all), Census Bureau data shows, while some are opting out of having children.

More women are also participating in the workforce and becoming financially independent.

“You don’t really see people living alone until women have control of their own lives and their own bodies,” Klinenberg said.

But this trend isn’t necessarily being driven by the young. While the overall share of Americans living alone increased between 2010 and 2020, so did the proportion of one-person households headed by older adults (age 65 and over).

Meanwhile, the share of “soliaries” — or single-person households — among the 15 to 64 age group declined slightly during the same decade.

This could come down to the surge in “gray divorce,” where couples call it quits later in life and often after decades of marriage. According to Pew Research, the divorce rate for Americans aged 50 or older has roughly doubled between the 1990s and 2015.

As for where these singles are situated — the counties with the highest percentage of one-person households seem to be concentrated in the Midwest (like in Minnesota and Nebraska) as well as in Alabama and Mississippi.

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Consequences of solitary living

While some researchers see this as an exciting trend for the future, others are more pessimistic about the potential implications.

For one, America’s rapidly aging population and declining birth rate means there are fewer prime-age workers in the labor force.

“I think it’s something we should be worried about,” Wendy Wang, director of research at the Institute for Family Studies, a conservative think tank, told The Hill. “If we have fewer and fewer children, that means we have fewer people to work, to be consumers, to pay taxes.”

Here are the pros and cons of solitary living.

More independence

Living alone definitely has its perks — you don’t have to answer to anyone or compromise on your living situation.

You can decorate your home how you see fit, blast your music and eat your favorite food whenever you want.

You get to operate at your own schedule and wake up and go to bed as you see fit. Plus, you’re free to spend more time with your friends and travel.

“Living alone can be a dream come true,” Bella DePaulo, social psychologist and author, told The Hill. “You get to curate your own life.”

Higher living costs

Keep in mind that with great independence, comes great responsibility. You don’t have another person with whom to share chores or split bills.

In fact, renters living alone in a one-bedroom apartment contend with a “singles tax” of up to $19,500 a year in America’s priciest cities, according to real estate giant Zillow. Nationwide, singles pay almost $7,000 extra per year to live alone in a one-bedroom apartment.

That said, if you’re single, you have only yourself to pay for, which can give you the flexibility to build your savings and take more risks with any investments.

Career advancement potential

When you live with a partner or children, you have other people to think about before making major life decisions — and this can impact your career by closing you off to more opportunities.

Bonnie Scott, therapist and founder of Mindful Kindness Counseling, told Insider that singles often enjoy more workplace opportunities.

They can "take a job in a new city, or go to the book club meeting and make new connections, or have the ability to commit to an exciting project at work if they choose," she said.

Singles may even have more time to take extra work on the side and expand their income potential.

Aging alone

If you’re not careful, aging alone can have implications for your finances.

About half of older adults living alone have annual incomes below the “Elder Index” — the income needed for older adults to meet their basic needs — according to a report out of the University of Massachusetts Boston published in 2019. That’s why it’s crucial to start building a solid nest egg as early as possible to support yourself during your golden years.

Whether you live alone or with a partner and kids, make sure you’re setting some income aside into a retirement savings fund to prepare to pay for things like medical bills, housing and groceries after you’ve stopped working.

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About the Author

Serah Louis

Serah Louis

Reporter

Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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