Comparing Money, Marriage & the Unattached
In The Atlantic Monthly’s “The High Price of Being Single in America,” authors Lisa Arnold and Christina Campbell argue that, compared to a married woman of the same income, a single woman, over the course of her lifetime, could pay an extra $1,022,096—just for being single!
The Atlantic authors claim that due to laws favoring married couples, a single person earning $40,000 a year pays $6,181 in taxes on that income, while a married individual with the same income pays only $5,162—a savings of more than $1,000 annually.
Those calculations do not mention the “marriage penalty,” in which married couples pay more taxes if their newly combined income pushes them into a higher tax bracket.
After marrying in 2008, Laurie Itkin from San Diego began paying more than $20,000 extra in federal and state taxes annually. “My husband jokes that we should get divorced not because he doesn’t love me anymore, but because we experience the so-called ‘marriage penalty’ in filing a joint tax return,” she explained.
Even though the Itkins are victims of the “marriage penalty,” some couples actually do receive the “marriage bonus” mentioned in The Atlantic’s article, which typically occurs when the income levels of the two spouses are widely disparate. For instance, couples with only one earner almost always enjoy a bonus, because the higher earner’s income moves into a lower bracket.
Of course, whether or not you pay more in taxes depends on a lot of factors: You can use Tax Policy Center’s Marriage Bonus and Penalty Tax Calculator to see how marriage would affect your tax payments.
The Difference in Housing Costs
While tax breaks may vary person-to-person, data shows living costs such as housing and insurance (essential expenses)—are almost always higher for singles.
Using averages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a single person in his 20s spends about $9,964 on housing where a married couple the same age averages $8,844. Over 60 years this can add up to over $67,200 in savings for a married couple!
Not only do singles pay more in living costs, but they also don’t have a spouse to help them cover the expenses. Kimberly Michel of Columbia, Missouri said, “All of the home expenses fall to me and my one income. If I were married and my husband also worked, my rent and bills on my two-bedroom apartment would be split in half.”| Print
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