Married or single, which is a better life choice?

by Karen

Every one of us want to have “this friend” a brilliant, smart, funny, independent and among many other admirable qualities that you want to have and aspire to be. This is “the friend” that you want to hang out with and have a life-long friendship. I am fortune enough to have a friend like that and she is fabulous. We met in the MBA program and have become good friends. I introduced her to my sister and they also become good friend.

This brilliant friend of mine and my sister are both single and they have a lot in common. Top of their list is travel, eating and shopping. Yes, they do know how to enjoy life.  Ignorantly, I held this belief that my friend and sister life was much easier than mine. They could go anywhere    anytime and never had to compromise with a partner on any issue. I often joke that they are “the single and fabulous aunties” that my daughter loves them more than me. Actually, she does love the aunties as they are her main suppliers of chocolate, ice cream, bubble tea, cakes and they never discipline her.

Over of one of our frequent brunch, I complained to them the compromises that I had to make with my hubby on several issues. I concluded: “You two have it easy. You don’t have to compromise with anyone and on anything. Your life is much easier than me”. You know the moment that you just became an insensitive jerk? Well, that was the moment for me.

One admirable quality that my friend has is her forgiving nature. Gently, she told me that there were other aspects of being single that would not be easy on someone. When my friend was sick for days and she had to take care of herself while she tried to recoup. Things in the house broke down, she had to take care of it, there was no husband or partner who she could delegate the task to even though she was in middle of year end reporting and had to pull a 60 hours work week.

It was an eye-opening moment for me to realize that I was so caught up in my own bubble and problems that I didn’t see the challenges that my friend and sister had to handle on their own. It got me to think about our life choice of being single or married. Being single is not that easy as it seems. But being married is also not easy either. I would venture a guess that there is moment in every married woman’s marriage which she wishes to be singled and free.

Perhaps, it is when your kid was screaming, you are exhausting from work and your husband choses this perfect moment to ask: when dinner would be ready? Don’t you just want to dump the dinner on his head? I had a few of those moments with my husband.  Does getting married make you happier, healthier, and better off physical and emotionally? Or single is a better choice for a woman mentally and physically? I don’t know the answer but I want to explore it.

Let’s talk finance!

When you have another person to pool your financial resources and share expenses, chance is you will have more financial advantages. Unless your partner is gambler or has bad spending habits, then you are out of luck. But in general, if both people work and generate similar level of income, you will have larger income to pay for expenses as well as investing. There are many researches that reached the same conclusion. One research in particular sited married couple would get a 77% increase in their net worth compared to a single person. That’s a hefty advantage. With the combined wealth and earning, there is higher chance of getting more return because you will have more funds to invest. Volume matters and it matters even more with time due to compound interest. My husband and I have a joint investment portfolio which we both actively manage. We started with $5,000 and in the next 10 years growing it to a $450,000 portfolio.  We have our own individual portfolios so our combined assets make us attractive customers for bank. And we used this to our advantage and leveraged our assets to grow more assets over the years. Lastly, financial safety net is always on my mind and having a partner means that if I ever lose my job, we will have my husband income to fall back on.

Tax is a big part of your finance, and the tax man doesn’t discriminate married or single because your marital status has no impact on tax. Married couples don’t automatically benefit from tax but depending on income, some are eligible for deduction where single may not. For example, there is spousal RRSP contribution in Canada.  The higher-income spouse can contribute to a spousal RRSP and get a tax break which can go up to 45% of the contribution depending on the income level and few other factors. In the US, there are a lot of tax breaks for the married folks as well.

Now, there is no joint asset and leveraging for single but it doesn’t mean there is no benefit.  When you are single, you only have to take care of yourself and spending for one. So if you are single and earn a decent income, you can afford to do a lot of thing your way and to your heart desire.

Take my traveling gypsy sister for example. My sister makes good income which allows her to live a very comfortable middle-class life.  As she has to no child care expense (well, because she can be the child sometime), she has more disposable income for her own enjoyment. She has one rule: travel to 2 destinations per year (last year it was Taiwan and Portugal, that travel junkie). And she took pictures of herself enjoying foods at Michelin restaurants and sent them to me. I could overlook Portuguese foods (not a big fan), but Taiwanese noodles and dumplings were a different story.  And let’s not forget Taipei night market. That’s heartless punk.

On top of which she can afford all kinds of specialty tea and coffee and still has enough money in her budget to go out to eat with her friends on regular basis. Whereas, I got to spend time with mini-me in all-inclusive resorts. Ok, I start sounding like a brat now, but you get my point. When you are single, you can make all financial decision for yourself and your enjoyment. When you are married, you will likely have to make some compromise.

 What about your health?

 Most study show that married couples have more health benefits, (mainly man). A prime example is my husband. Before we have our daughter, I went on a vacation by myself because I wanted to have “me alone time”. I came home to boxes of frozen pizza and Costco pre-made salad. Needleless to say, he was thrilled to have home cook foods again. It is not just for man (though I suspect men are the winners), woman also have health benefit from being in a relationship.  A 2013 study from the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that being married may improve your chance of surviving cancer. Having a loving partner and children is a powerful motivator and emotional support that you will need to fight deadly disease. Mind over matter, and so when you are fighting deadly disease, the emotional support is just as important as medicine you have to take.

On the flip side, you will also have to make compromise when you share your life with someone. Most of us would want to do things our ways, so it can be challenging and stressful when compromise is needed. It can be a source of tension and stress for a relationship if both sides are not willing to collaborate and compromise. When we re-built our house, interior design was a source of many disagreements. I love classic and clean look while my husband’s taste is a mix of colours and shapes that my sister calls  “Vatican meets Forbidden Palace”.

To make both of us happy, we agreed that the kitchen and 2 of the bathrooms were mine while he got to go wild with the master bathroom, living room and dining room. Well, we end up with a contemporary looking dining and living room; a classic white and grey kitchen with crystal chandelier, a very funky master bathroom with 5 different tiles and 2 soft and neutral looking bathrooms.

All or friends agreed, it is a case of compromise went BAD on interior design! These are just minor stresses. If you are in an unhappy marriage or relationship, the stress and potential mental effect on your health can be propounded. It is not just a funky and confuse looking house but it could also be your mental and physical health.

However, when you are single and doesn’t have family or back up, you will end up in the same spot as my friend and my sister.  Whenever my sister got sick she just took care of herself even though we were literally 5 minutes’ walk from her house. Good thing is: she is very independent, but it can also very bad.  When I found out that she was sick and was really upset that she didn’t let me know, she usually replied: yes, I deal with it. My friend is the same way. She was sick for 2 weeks and didn’t call or let me know.  I was very annoyed with both of them for not asking for help when they needed. Their replies were: we deal with it. That was when I realized the trade-off for freedom of being single is self-reliance and sufficient.

When you are single, you have to make all decisions and shoulder all life challenges alone. It took a lot of guts, courage and healthy dose of confident be a single woman.  I consider myself an independent woman, but I admit that I depend on my husband on a lot of things and vice versa. There are a lot of benefits of having a dependable partner and I don’t know if I can make single as easy as my friend and sister do.

Society Pressure

My sister once asked me “how is it our society accepts divorce and unhappy marriage but we don’t celebrate someone who is single and happy?” I don’t have an answer for her but the question stayed with me. It is true that most singles get pressure from family and friends to start a family.

My sister is a classic case. My mom pestered her at every chance she got about having a boyfriend and getting married. When she realized that my sister won’t budge, she re-negotiated for a grand-child by suggesting that my sister could adopt or make use of sperm bank. I didn’t think that my mom knew what a sperm bank was, but clearly she did. My sister is happy and content with her choice, but my mom just can’t accept it. She thinks that a woman needs to have a family of her own even as a single mother.

In contrast, my mom thinks that I have a good life because I have a good husband and a child that I love dearly. I don’t deny the fact that my family brings me joy (my daughter is my endless supply of love and rejuvenation) but both my husband and I have to continuously work hard to make our family and relationship last. There were many fights and near break-ups in between our 20 years together.

My sister commented that she didn’t want my life because I had to comprise with my husband and lost part of me in the process (yes, we’re very honest and blunt with each other).  While I don’t think that I lost who I am in my marriage, I will admit that I have had to make a lot of compromises to make the relationship work. There were many things that I and my husband had to swallow and compromise. Top of my list is a very confuse looking house, and many other things that I can’t list them all.

After looking at the researches out there and re-examine life as single and couple, I don’t have a clear answer. From a financial and wealth building perspective, there are clearly advantages for married couples. But both choices can have positive as well as negative consequences on one’s health. These are logical reasons for this important life choice but there is also the factor of love. When you love and care about someone, you will compromise and have the kind of rewards that supersede everything else.

So, to be married or remained single, it is a choice that only you can make. Deciding whether to stay single is no small thing because it is a long and tough road ahead. You have to be self-sufficient and independent. Yet, getting married is not a guarantee to more wealth and happier life despite so many researches indicated so.  So is staying single, by the way. I have seen how staying single can be happy and blissful while staying in an unhappy relationship can be detrimental for one’s health. And, the opposite is also true.

At the end of the day, you are the boss of your fabulous body and mind, so make the decision that is right for you and make you happy. Don’t let anyone pressure you or run to the nearest sperm bank because your mom’s nagging. It is not the answer and it won’t make you happy.

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