5 Things Every Single Person Needs to Do With Their Money

By Denise Hill on 12 March 2018 0 comments

The number of Americans who wait to get married — or never get hitched — is growing. In fact, for the first time in history, the number of unmarried Americans almost equals those who are married. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there were 110 million unmarried adults (age 18 and older) in 2016, which is 45 percent of all U.S. residents over the age of 18.

Living a Sex in the City lifestyle may be alluring, but it also comes with hidden financial pitfalls. This is especially true for singles who have never been married. While divorcees and widows have distinct challenges, there are resources and services out there to assist them through their transition. However, if you are someone who has never been married, you're pretty much on your own.

With that in mind, we've compiled a list of the top things that every single person should do with their finances.

1. Make saving money your top priority

As a single person, you only have one income. You have to pay for living expenses and handle any emergency that arises on your own, so having a true emergency fund is paramount.

Financial experts advise that singles have as much as a year's worth of living expenses put away in lieu of the traditional three to six months' worth. A larger emergency fund will help sustain you for longer during lean times or a job loss. Married couples have the benefit of sharing expenses and may have a second income to help them through difficult times. As a single person, you don't have that luxury.

It is also highly advisable that you begin saving for retirement now. Look for ways to maximize your contributions. Take advantage of things like a company match, and contribute 10 to 15 percent of your pay to your employer's 401(k) or an IRA. Educate yourself on the different types of investments and pay particular attention to index funds, which usually have low fees. (See also: 5 Actions Women Can Take Right Now to Get Their Retirement On Track)

2. Stick to a zero-based budget

As a single, your budget is your financial guide and road map. It undergirds your financial success.

It's a good idea to use a zero-based budget as your cash flow plan. A zero-based budget makes you account for every single dollar you spend before you spend it. It makes you accountable for how you choose to allocate your funds and makes you cognizant of where all your money is going. If you earn $3,000 per month, your monthly budget — including every cent you spend, save, or invest — should be accounted for and should total $3,000.

It's also a good idea to institute a routine system to track your expenses. Every few months, keep an extra keen eye on the dollars that go in and out. This will help you gauge and adjust how much you are spending on things like gas, eating out, groceries, and clothes. It will also show you where you can cut back during lean times or if you want to build a fund for a specific purpose such as a vacation or a new vehicle.

3. Protect your credit and avoid debt

Protecting your credit is very important no matter who you are. When it comes to using credit, make sure you use it responsibly. If you use credit cards, keep your balances low enough that you can pay them in full at the end of each month. You should also strive to keep your credit utilization ratio below the recommended 30 percent threshold. (See also: The Fastest Method to Eliminate Credit Card Debt)

If you do have debt — including the dreaded student loans — prioritize paying it off as soon as possible. And once you've gotten rid of it, only use additional financing for large purchases such as a home or a car.

Another part of protecting your credit is routinely reviewing and correcting any mistakes on your credit report. You're allowed one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can obtain these reports from . You can also use free resources such as Credit Karma to check your credit score and monitor your information to ensure it's accurate and that your identity hasn't been stolen or misused. (See also: How to Read a Credit Report)

4. Get disability insurance

Disability insurance is critical for all singles, but especially for single women. A 2012 study from the American College showed that women were more likely than men to have a disability that prevents them from working.

The study also found that women were more vulnerable to experiencing tremendous financial distress if they became unable to work due to a disability. Nearly 50 percent of the women surveyed categorized experiencing a disability as "somewhat devastating" in regards to their family's finances. And 22 percent believed that their savings would last less than a month if they were unable to work.

Regardless of your gender, if you are single and employed, your entire source of income could be in jeopardy if you suddenly become disabled. It is imperative that you have adequate disability insurance (especially if you are a single parent).

If your employer offers both short- and long-term disability, take both. Choosing to forgo disability insurance to save a few dollars a month isn't a gamble worth taking. Sure, you are healthy today, but what if …? Insurance helps you plan for and protect against life's what-ifs. (See also: 4 Things You Need to Know About Disability Insurance)

5. Get an accountability buddy

Discipline is easier when you use the buddy system and when you are required to account for your actions and decisions. Married couples often rely on each other for this, but you can rely on the advice and motivation of a trusted friend or family member. Making good financial decisions is tough. Having someone to help you weigh your options will save you time, energy, and money.

When choosing a financial accountability buddy, choose someone who is financially astute, knows you well, is frugal, and has your best interests at heart. Get someone you know will be brutally honest with you and will make you talk through financial decisions. It should be someone with whom you are comfortable sharing financial intimacy.

This may not be your best friend or the one you go to when your heart is broken. This person should be practical, pragmatic, and analytical. He or she should make decisions from the head, not the heart.

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