It’s Valentine’s Day today!
A commercialisation of romance? Or a genuine celebration of love and commitment?
Guess that depends on where you are in the relationship spectrum.
I am a single woman. Not in a relationship. Not dating anyone.
In my forties – but that’s another story!
Is pursuing FIRE as a single person a disadvantage?
The main disadvantage from my point of view is that I only have one income whereas a couple potentially has two incomes, assuming both partners bring in an income each.
A couple may temporarily depend on one income while children are young or whatever the family circumstances are but they have the potential to return to work and earn another income.
Yes, I can earn extra via side hustles and develop additional income streams but that effort and hustle still just depend on me and me alone.
From this one income, I have to save enough for daily living expenses, entertainment and travel, debt repayment, investing and retirement.
Speaking of retirement, the statistics are not good for an older single woman. An Australian study published in 2016 found that in 2011, 34% of single women over 60 were in permanent income poverty, compared to 27% of single older men and 24% of couples. I am terrified by these statistics.
So I must plan for contingencies – what happens if I am sick and cannot work? The scarier thought is … what if I did not save enough for retirement?
There is NO ONE else to rely on or fall back on.
I am my own back up plan.
Nearly the same expenses
According to moneysmart.gov.au, a single person needs $42,764 to live comfortably in retirement. Whereas a couple requires $60,264. That is, a couple does not need double what a single person needs, only 50% more.
Maintaining a single person household is only slightly less expensive than a two persons household – utilities, council rates, car maintenance etc. I may spend less on food & groceries but everything else is pretty much on par with a couple’s.
And I seldom save money by buying food in bulk – there is only so much oats I can eat. A 10kg bag of potatoes may cost less per kg but I cannot eat them fast enough before they deteriorate.
I suppose I can mitigate these expenses by living with a house mate or two. I did that as a university student renting a one bedroom apartment. However, I value my privacy and independence now so it is not an option at the moment.
One person to do the work
There is only me for all the tasks that need doing.
For example, I cannot delegate to someone else to research how to invest or learn about superannuation. I must do all the reading, the asking questions by myself. Sure I still have to do that even if I have a partner – but the task will be easier as he can contribute to shared knowledge. Or maybe he can be the expert on investing while I am the expert in saving. In my case, I have to be the expert in everything.
Sometimes, this leads to paralysis by analysis – I am afraid to make the wrong decisions.
Are there any advantages?
I enjoy my freedom – the freedom of making my own decisions. Little decisions about what to eat, who to socialise with, what time to wake up or go to bed; and bigger decisions about my goals, how much to save towards what, where to holiday next and with whom, what to invest in, how much to invest , so on and so forth.
On the flip side though, I have no one to consult with or share these decisions with which can be a potential problem. This is where good friends and family come into the picture and there is also you, my friends in the blogging world.
I also have the freedom of making my own mistakes. There is no one else to blame or make excuses for. I am not worried that my decisions may adversely affect my partner or our joint lifestyle. My mistakes cost me or my lifestyle only.
It is empowering to know that I am capable and able to make my own decisions and mistakes.
I am responsible for myself.
It is a myth according to some of my married friends that couples have the same goals & dreams for the future. Perhaps initially but sometimes they drift apart. Of course this does not apply to all couples – I am sure there are many whose goals and dreams are perfectly aligned.
My point is that I don’t have to worry about bringing my partner along on the path to FIRE. I don’t have to convince or cajole or negotiate with anyone else to give pursuing FIRE a fair go. I simply decided to pursue FIRE and voila! I am on my way to FIRE.
There is also no conflict with another person about their spending habits or lack of savings power or money habits in general. I just have to manage my own habits, curb my own spending sprees and save however much I like. I only have to argue with myself!
I am responsible to myself. And I am accountable to myself.
Sometimes that makes me lazy. If I don’t have to be responsible or accountable to anyone else, then I can also get away with mediocrity or not trying hard enough. This is another reason I started this blog – I want to be accountable to somebody, even if I have never met you in person. I know it is easy to be distracted or derailed on my FIRE journey.
But that distraction or derailment is within my control. I don’t have a significant other to talk me out of pursuing whatever plan I come up with, or following the steps on the path to FIRE.
There are so many stories of women being left with their partners’ debts or get into debt because of their partners. As a single person, I don’t have to worry about my partner making a decision without consulting me. Or worse still, committing funds to something that I know nothing about or diverting funds to something illegal or unsavoury.
Related to the above point, my income for better or worse, is mine alone. In that I am not worried should there be a divorce or separation, I would lose half my income. Yes, I suppose I could also take half his income but a man has never been a part of my financial plan. Ever. I remember telling my friends in my younger years that if I want to buy a nice car, I would buy it myself and not depend on a man to buy it for me.
Isn’t this journey a lonely one then, I hear you ask?
Only if I allow it to be.
Nothing is stopping me from making friends, travelling the world, connecting to other people (on line and off line). Since starting this blog, I have been amazed with the warm connections I have made with people all over the world with a common vision & shared goal of achieving FIRE.
There is a whole on line community of people wiling to support me and walk with me on this journey. People who have reached FIRE, others yet who are still on the journey. People from all walks of life and in different stages of life. Bloggers with stories that inspire me and who I constantly learn from; stories that motivate me daily.
The only person holding me back is me.
While it may seem disadvantageous to be a single woman pursuing FIRE, I relish the freedom and independence to make my own decisions and mistakes too much, to relinquish it easily.
I am not advocating the single life over being a couple, but merely pointing out that being single and pursuing FIRE is possible.
It is empowering and a privilege to be able to pursue FIRE as a single woman.
Are you also pursuing FIRE as a single person? What are your challenges? And wins?
21 Replies to “Pursuing FIRE as a single”
Lots of great thoughts! I think the biggest key to whether there is an advantage or diasadvandage is really just the “shared goals” part. If you find someone who is comfortable making the same sacrifices, you’re golden. If not, then the benefits of two incomes and shared expenses can vanish pretty quickly…. especially if those shared expenses start to include luxuries that you don’t want or value!
And therein lies the challenge – “If you find someone who is comfortable making the same sacrifices, you’re golden.”
Lovely to read and insightful, thank you.
Thank you for your kind words and for stopping by
I’m in my 50’s and single.
I also brought up 4 children on my own.
You absolutely CAN do it.
I’ve written about the advantages of being single on this path – it’s definitely not something that disqualifies us from FIREing!
I know! Your story always inspires me 🙂 I LOVE being single and value the freedom and independence I have to make decisions and execute them but sometimes, a very small part of me goes … wouldn’t it be nice to have 2 incomes … the savings / investment funds would grow soooo much faster … it’s a case of the grass is greener on the other side, haha! But yes, I absolutely believe that being single does not disqualify us from FIREing
Thanks for writing this! As a single woman in her 40’s pursuing FIRE I am happy to know there are others. Additionally, I love that the advantage list is longer one! I agree with what you wrote and I remain open that things could change….
Thanks, Deanna – so good to ‘meet’ another single person in your 40s pursuing FIRE! I too remain open that things could change but I am not depending on that happening. Therefore I am planning for being single forever – and making sure my finances do not hold me back!
So smart. Me too 😊
Part of me feels envious that you and only you make decisions about how you live your life, maybe because when I discover something I go all out and would go to extremes if I could. My partner is the one who says, hey , hold on, we still need to enjoy life and can’t live like hermits whilst we save every penny. He is probably right though and he is happy for us to be on this journey. I suppose we do have shared goals to some extent in that he understand what I want, but isn’t prepared to make as many sacrifices as I am. On the positive side he is the one who is doing all of the decorating in the house and if it was only me I would be spending a fortune on tradespeople. I lived on my own for eight years and I know it can sometimes be a lonely place when you have to do everything yourself. It does make you more self-sufficient though and you have to learn how to do things rather than just be able to rely on someone else. Sometimes you can surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
It is terrific having a partner who understands what you want and is handy around the house! I outsource my gardening at the moment and can save so much more money if I were to do it myself. So my aim this year is to start learning and start doing something simple eg plant a herb garden.
Thanks for sharing these thoughts on singledom and FIRE. As a mid-30s single Australian woman, I relate to many of the points you wrote. The freedom that being single offers is so appealing for me, especially in the context of long-term travel which is one of my priorities. Being able to choose where I want to go, how to travel there, where to stay, what to eat or what attractions to see (or not see) gives me great satisfaction. I can flit between having date nights with myself in nice restaurants (with no one to judge when I order three courses), or stay in with instant noodles.
On the flipside, I do occasionally miss being able to reminisce on my travels later with people who were there. To combat this, I write a daily journal to note down what I did and take plenty of photos to complement my own mental recollections. I also share on social media with friends back home, plus reach out to meet others in FIRE-related interest groups while in different places.
As a final note, that was a scary statistic that “34% of single women over 60 were in permanent income poverty”! In the past, I worried about being childless and not having support in old age. However, getting to learn from older single female role models (such as Vicky Robin) and ensuring I have a good financial base before retiring has made these concerns dissipate.
Travel is very important to me too – what I love best about traveling alone is not having to compromise about what I value. For example, I absolutely loved my one week in San Sebastian by myself in 2017 – I ate wherever I wanted, whatever I wanted and walked for miles, wandering by myself. So satisfying, with no one to judge or criticise me. I always communicate with my friends back home via WhatsApp in nearly real time (taking into account time differences) and they feel they are sharing my experiences with me.
I was stunned too at the statistic of older single women living in poverty in Australia. Being financially independent irrespective of whether I can retire early takes on even more significance. Whenever I’ve commented to friends with children about being childless and having no one to support me in my old age, their response has been ‘there is no guarantee that our children will support us in old age’ which is true. So childless or not, we need to be financially independent.
I am in my late 50s, and not single.
You’ve listed some great advantages of working toward FIRE as a single. Although it can be helpful to have a bigger shovel (dual incomes) to dig out of debt or pile up savings for retirement, it can still be done on one income.
In fact, you probably have less distractions as a single!
My spouse, who became disabled after a ruptured brain aneurysm, is retired. He’s always trying to get me to retire, too. I don’t want to retire yet because I want to keep building our savings, since we didn’t start saving for retirement until late in life. The healthcare & other benefits I get through my job are nothing to dismiss lightly, either. On top of that, I like my job!
As a social worker, I see people every day who are old, sick & poor. I want to paint a different picture for my retirement. The FIRE movement has really helped us turn our finances around, but I have to keep reminding hubby of why I’m working, why we’re saving…
I think you may be right that as a single, I have less distractions. But it is good though if you have someone to remind you or push you along if you are slacking off or on the flip side, tell you to slow down if you are pushing too hard.
I understand where you are coming from – to have a secure retirement is so important and if that means working a few more years while we are still healthy, then so be it. It is exciting to see that savings going up and up!
Agree with all of your points about being a single woman on FIRE! I’m also single but at a much earlier stage in life (28 years old). Technically still young enough to find someone and get married, but I’m not entirely convinced it’s the best way to go! We’ll see how the next few years go…
Plenty of time yet 🙂
I’ve read this post before but always thought I’d left a comment! A great read (even second time round!)
At first, I wasn’t sure I would be able to aim for FIRE as a single older woman – all the people who had successfully FIRE’d did so as couples, with dual incomes.
But apart from the income aspect, doing it on your own can be easier due to the freedom you mention, the fact you can make decisions on your own.
Oh yes, I definitely enjoy that freedom of making my own decisions and acting upon them without the need to consult anyone. The only downside is sometimes I second guess myself and suffer from paralysis by analysis. It would be nice to bounce ideas off someone – but that’s where the broader online FIRE community comes into it, I guess – for me anyway as I didn’t know anyone in real life pursuing FIRE when I started. Since then, I have met a few fellow bloggers in real life 🙂
It’s nice to finally see someone writing about ‘single FIRE’! I think it’s the biggest missing puzzle piece, as all the ‘gurus’ are with partners and we’re unlikely to see many new people come along with ASIC watching everyone in this police state.
I find the biggest issue is meeting people esp after Covid and the Andrews lockdowns, but also with saving money in mind. I’ve seen a few Zers avoid the Aussie alcohol culture but Xers and Boomers are pretty much all pubs, and I want to find other scenes. Anyhow nice to see you and i think you’ll find more and more readers (esp if ASIC lays off)!
Hi David, not only am I single but also ‘old’, haha! Yeah, it’s a shame that the ASIC crackdown may discourage people from sharing their financial independence journeys. It’s so important to see oneself reflected in what we read and consume. Maybe you can try connecting with like minded FIREes in local FIRE facebook groups eg Aussie Firebug has one.