For too many of us, this is how we feel when trying to tackle our finances. I am a single woman with double debt. If you are reading this blog, you are likely a single woman (or man) with double debt. If not, consider yourself lucky. High debt loads are stressful enough for many couples to tackle together. Imagine shouldering six figures of debt on your own. For many of us, student loan debt is the biggest component of debt totals this high, but regardless of what got you here, you’re here now. And you have company.
It’s that time of year. Just when you think your wounds are healing from spending another holiday season and New Year’s eve single and lonely – Valentine’s Day rolls around and it’s chocolate and rose-less passing reminds you that you are getting another year older – alone. Although being a single woman can be a great time of freedom, it can be depressing too. For those of us experiencing moderate to extreme debt burdens, facing it alone can be an additional challenge. What follows are some of the issues that we single women with deep debt have to face.
We have no partner to offer emotional or financial support
I am firm in the fact that I got myself into debt alone, so I will get myself out of it alone. However, having someone to keep me motivated, feels worth its weight in gold sometimes. Too many of us keep the extent of our debt secret out of shame, causing us to bottle up our fears and frustrations.
Most get out of debt articles and blogs with substantial debt payoff are about couples working together to make it happen. Their accomplishments are great, but I cannot relate to those stories. Having two incomes to tackle debt and sharing expenses is a luxury that we singletons don’t have. Being single can keep us in debt longer, and being in debt can keep us single longer. Fun huh?
And let’s not forget that women can stay trapped in stressful, abusive jobs because they have little or no safety net in the form of a partner to support them.
Pay inequality means that debt bites us harder and longer
Repayment affects us more because on average we earn less than men for the same work. Paying off the same debt burden as a man takes more money out of each of our paychecks and/or for a longer period of time. The gap may be shrinking, but there is still a ways to go.
The ticking biological clock or expense of raising kids adds pressure
Ladies, those of us in our 30’s and up are dancing the debt payoff two-step to a to a ticking biological clock. Forty-three percent (43%) of Generation X women don’t have children. Debt has been one factor in that. What if you are six figures in debt and pushing 40? By the time you pay off all your debt you’ll be peri-menopausal in your mid-forties at the earliest. Are you really expected to wait that long? Should you freeze your eggs and use surrogates? Some women with deep debt make the painful decision to never have children. Others become proponents of being child-free. If having children is extremely important to you, then have them; but be prepared for the financial effects and sacrifices that you’ll have to make.
If you already have children, you are more likely than men are to be their primary caregiver. Raising children today is more expensive than ever. Without a partner, even accounting for child support, women disproportionately shoulder the financial responsibility of child rearing, thus slowing down debt repayment.
Dating with debt is more difficult
Research shows that women shackled with debt are less likely to marry. It doesn’t matter how sexy you are, debt is not attractive. Wait, what was I thinking. Of course how sexy you are matters. If you’re a Beyonce or Megan Fox clone, nothing on this list applies to you. For the rest of us, unfortunately, especially those of us dragging around a $100k+ ball and chain of debt and misery; we don’t look like a rockin’ good time to potential partners. We aren’t going to be on vacation with them running on an exotic beach anytime soon.
We often ask ourselves, ‘Am I undateable? Am I unmarriageble? Do I need to to pay off all my debt before pursuing relationships?’ As long as you are taking action to pay the debt off aggressively (not just talking about taking action), the answer to those questions is a resounding “No”. The same goes for anyone you may be interested in dating.
For all of us single ladies without a ring on it, debt does affect our romantic lives. If you can’t afford to travel or get involved with activities, it limits the pool of potential partners that you’ll have the opportunity to meet (online dating nothwithstanding).
Words of warning to my fellow single sisters in debt. Don’t let romantic partners use money as a way to control you. It’s not worth it. Don’t get into relationships for money. As a
wise man Dr. Phil says, if you marry for money, you’ll earn every penny of it.
And, hey, if you can’t trust Dr. Phil, who can you trust?
Debt can damage our independence and self-actualization
Deep debt can change the dynamics of your relationships with other people. If enduring disdainful condescension or looks of pity aren’t bad enough, others may try to treat you like you are less than or helpless. You can’t afford to do the things that your friends and family can, and you may feel that your nose is being rubbed in it.
And if you are single woman and in deep debt, family, especially your parents, may have the view that because you don’t have a man/partner in your life to support you, that you still need their
control help. Really? How many of us enjoy those conversations? Ladies, if this is the case, it’s time to start setting some boundaries.
Being a single woman is not easy. We all know that time is money, and commonly our time is not respected. Family volunteer you for things or pressure you into visiting far more often than you can afford to with respect to time and money. For some of us, the only trips we’ve taken in recent years have been guilt trips (bought and paid for by parents/family). First class.
Like potential romantic partners, some family members with ulterior motives may use money to try to control you and incur a sense of obligation on your part. Again, this is not worth it. Even if you repay the money, you may never be able repay the emotional debt (of their ‘saving you’) as far as the other person is concerned, which they will use to control you. Be very wary of taking monetary “gifts” from anyone that you don’t trust 100%. And of course, avoid taking loans from friends or family unless you want to ruin that relationship.
Harassment by debt collectors takes an emotional toll
We’ve seen the lawsuits and new stories. Women seem to be the targets of unduly nasty debt collector practices. Bullying, intimidation, and threats of sexual violence have driven some debtors to suicide, or the courtroom. Unfortunately, most women suffer in quiet anger, not knowing their rights or to whom to turn.
That is just some of what we deal with. Did I miss any? Are you experiencing any of these? Let me know in the comments.
“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)
As I read this article I found myself nodding my head incessantly. I completely relate with every SINGLE thing you’ve written because this has been my experience too. I was beginning to think it was just me that felt this way/ has this experience. People assume that because I still live with my mum, I have total freedom to up and travel or buy things and do anything I please whenever I want. I may not have children yet (because I’m not in a relationship and am trying to work through huge debt) but I do live with a parent who has always and still does struggle financially and my financial situation is deeply entwined with hers. And as we know, life can be unpredictable with unexpected things arising, which has proven to be a challenge for me to save, pay for basic necessities or manage my finances the way I know I’m capable of.
I’ve also experienced not being able to afford to do regular activities or travel, which is something I’ve always wanted to do as well as have an active social life. And as you’ve mentioned, it limits opportunities of meeting a romantic partner. I’ve been told I “should just go out and have fun”. People’s comments are generally something like, “you’re single and live at home so you must have money to do anything you want. Wait till you get married, have kids, a mortgage etc.” The thing is, I know people who, after having acquired those things still have a disposable income to have leisurely pursuits. At university, I was constantly worried about how the mortgage, bills, loans etc would get paid as my mum had been made redundant and her new job paid even less than mine and I was working part time at a bakery store back then on minimum wages, so was pretty much the main bread winner (even though I lived in student accommodation) struggling to cover the costs of my basic living needs and my family’s. A friend suggested I blow my student loan/ bank overdraft on clothes & shoes because I only live once. I didn’t of course, but this was the kind of ‘advice’ I was receiving and they thought I was crazy for not acting on it.
Over the years some people have insisted that not having any money was a lousy excuse for not going out all the time. A woman once told me in what I thought was a condescending tone that she didn’t have any money either but it didn’t stop her. I asked her how she paid for outings with no money and she told me that her boyfriend paid for everything. I asked, “what if you don’t have a boyfriend?”. She just shrugged. Others have said something similar and suggested I go out a lot, travel a lot, buy expensive clothes and then get a rich man to pay for everything. Although they mean well, I thought their advice was futile! Over the years, the advice from well meaning people has been similar, “just have fun and spend your money and travel”. They failed to take into consideration that I don’t have the spare funds to begin with.
At 32 years young, my financial pattern of trying to work through debt hasn’t improved despite having tried various things over the years. I was starting to feel discouraged and alone and to be honest, a bit of a freak until I came across your website. I never felt I could relate to anyone as over the years my friends (except for one) didn’t get it or thought I didn’t want to hang out with them. Truth was, I couldn’t afford to and the times we went out I didn’t have enough money to go to the places they wanted to. Eventually they stopped inviting me. At times I’ve felt like I’ve ‘failed’ because despite having gone to university with the hopes of making a bright future for myself, I’m a single woman who doesn’t have the ‘high-flying’ career and the funds to travel around.
I’m certainly grateful that I have a job to assist me on a monthly basis (even though I have no intention of staying there until I retire. But the ongoing financial burden has been stressful and discouraging. The above picture of the woman sat with a ball in chain, is how I’ve felt for many years. Still, as long as I’m alive and well I’ll continue to do my best to find a way to create my life for the better. I’m so glad I came across your website today and appreciate that you have the courage to share your experiences with others who are in a similar situation. I generally don’t post comments but your blog inspired me to do so. Oh, I’ve also had a very similar experience to you with the internet dating, except I didn’t have professional photos taken, ha! ha!
Hi Singlegirl. I’m glad that you found my blog. There aren’t many getting-out-of-debt blogs out there for the over 30 set that are written from the perspective of a singleton. I’ve often daydreamed about how much easier things would be for me financially if I were part of a couple. Unfortunately getting a partner isn’t something you can just put on your to-do list. Sorry that your friends aren’t supportive. There are things that they can do with you for free. Perhaps try to find a new friend or two that understand the sacrifices needed to get out of debt. You can help each other find ways to save money. Good luck with the debt payoff and the dating. You have a ‘sister-in-arms’ here. Check in from time to time and let me know how things are progressing for you. 🙂
Thanks for your suggestions, I’ll act on them. I think you’re right about not being able to just put finding a partner on the to-do-list because while we can put ourselves out there as best we can, it’s difficult if it’s not reciprocated. I do hope you find someone suitable not before long. I’ll keep you updated on my progress..
I have been searching for a well-written blog for single women over 35, dealing with debt while wanting to be “out there”. Your blog is it! Thanks for writing this. I can relate because I’ve moved from a large city in Canada, where dating can be difficult, to a tiny village in Spain, where there is a whole other set of dating rules – plus in a different language! Luckily the cost of living is cheap, however the travel temptations are not helping me pay off my debt. Hahaha
You moved to Spain? Wow! What an adventure. 🙂
Many thanks for your very inspiring blog. May I add another good thing about debt:-
When you clear a loan or credit card you get a massive feeling of liberation and achievement way beyond the transitory pleasure of seeing a favourite sports team win a game. I have just 4 payments left on a $22,000 loan and I’m already excited about knowing that this millstone will be gone soon. Then I can focus on each of my 5 credit cards and erase them. Thankfully I’m on top of my debts after 10 years of restrictions. People who have never experienced debt will never know the euphoria of clearing it.
Agreed. I can’t wait until the millstone around my neck is gone. I can only imagine what that will feel like. Thanks, Paul!