herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

being single c an set us free... so why can't we have some respect?

chosing to be single is not just about a relationship status, it's a financial and even political stance. As ever more irish people reject social pressures, it's time to embrace this individualism

Remaining single is a legitimate lifestyle choice, which is increasingly popular in this country.

Irish people have cast off the shackles of the past - when pairing off was a more frantic decision led by societal pressures - and embraced the era of individualism. So why are single people, who pay their taxes and get very little in return, still so invisible in modern Ireland, particularly when it comes to the Budget?

Singles are a quiet bunch or so it would seem. Most media and political concerns revolve around the more emotive collective issues - couples, children, the family.

Our constitution blatantly sidelines single people with its positioning of the family as "the natural primary and fundamental unit of society".

The lives of single people are considered marginal and often less important than the average worker, who has a family, runs a car, owns a home, pays their taxes... even though singles do all of the above, just minus the matrimony, co-habiting, and sprogs.

luxury

Many view being single as a walk in the park from a financial perspective, a life of luxury with no ties.

But the reality is that with increased financial instability, many more Irish people are staying single for longer; and those who choose to remain single throughout their lives are becoming more vulnerable to financial risks than those who have families or partners to lighten the load.

The number of singles in Ireland is a largely fluid affair, but in the last census in 2011 a whopping 1.5 million respondents described themselves as just that. Single people represent 45pc of urban residents and 36pc of those living in rural areas.

Yet, the financial plight of the single person will get no reference when the Budget is announced on October 14.

Given the fact, that many of us will spend at least some period of our lives being single, or perhaps choose to live alone for the rest of our lives, shouldn't singles get some sort of break?

In the same way as couples benefit from maternity leave, a better shot at mortgage approval and decreased gym membership rates; shouldn't singles get some sort of kick back for working all of their lives, not taking maternity leave, buying or renting smaller more economical homes and allowing the gym to make the profits necessary for the couples' and families to be offered these group deals?

Singlism - the stereotyping and stigmatising of people who are single - is a vast problem in modern life and prevents singles from having their views respected or even considered in many areas, according to Dr Bella DePaulo (who has written books such as Singlism and Singled Out) .

In an interview earlier this year, actress Cameron Diaz (41) spoke out on the "chauvinism and misogyny" in society which assumes that no single woman chooses to be alone.

"I get that a lot, being a single woman," she said at the time. "I clock it. I notice it. And then I let it go because there is nothing I can do about it."

Money

In financial terms, there is often the misconception that being single is pretty cost effective, but there are many ways in which single people are discriminated against when it comes to money.

If you add a spouse or partner to your motor insurance policy, for example, the cost will almost always decrease.

When you are single household bills, like the household charge, refuse, or even the broadband bill are all down to little old you. And even as a holiday maker you will be charged a single supplement for many hotel rooms.

That's not even considering the other costs/benefits such as wedding, christening or even birthday gifts that a single person does not have the luxury of splitting with anyone.

However, according to Bob Quinn of Money Advisors, the costs paid by singles versus what couples have to pay will even themselves out over the course of our lives. The real area of inequality for singles is the huge financial risk to which they are exposed, simply because they are not in a committed, live-in relationship.

"It's economies of scale: double income households are safer than single income households financially," Bob explains. "There are huge risks to being single. If you are out of work through illness or disability and you don't have any benefits from work, you are relying on your own savings or the State illness benefit, and an awful lot of single people have zero savings," he adds.

"Being single from a risk perspective, if you haven't made adequate provisions, isn't a great place to be."

Gamble

Stylist Maria Fusco, who is in her 50s, has an interesting view on singlism, having experienced life both as a wife and now as a single person following a divorce some years ago. All things considered, she is willing to take the gamble and stay single.

"I think being single is obviously a choice," Maria explains. "I am not looking for anyone. If I were to meet somebody whom I shared that je ne sais quoi with I'd go there, but I'm not looking for it."

Being married or living with a partner may mean more of a financial safety net and even more political clout or representation, but for Maria, the downsides far outweigh the benefits.

"I am a very independent woman. I think when you're dependent on someone financially there is always a clause. I don't think it's a good idea for either person.

"I think a woman should be able to pay her own rent or buy her own house. It's like everything in life: you do what you need to do. I think if you want to rent an apartment, you rent an apartment you have the means to rent," she explains.

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