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Here’s Why Single Women Are Buying More Homes Than Single Men

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Right after she turned 30, public relations pro Wendy Hsiao put in an offer on a cute brick townhouse in Atlanta. “For a lot of my friends, being an adult started either when you got married or had a baby,” she said. “I chose to buy a house.”

Why did she buy? She felt ready for a major life change, considered buying to be a smart financial decision and wanted a yard for her Pomeranian named Georgia. “I felt like it was time to make a place my home,” Hsiao said.

Her story is one example of a growing trend: the rise of single female homeownership. Single women are far more likely to become homeowners than single men, according to a study on singles owning homes by LendingTree, which owns MagnifyMoney. In fact, single women own 22% of homes on average, while single men own less than 13%.

This “gender gap” stems partly from the fact that single women prioritize homeownership when setting life goals. In fact, 73% of single women list owning a home as a top priority compared with 65% of single men, according to the 2018 Homebuyer Insights Report from Bank of America.

Single women are “skipping the spouse and buying the house,” according to the Bank of America report, which found that single women rank homeownership as a goal above getting married (41%) and having children (31%).

From homemaker to homeowner

While there’s still work to be done, women have taken huge steps toward professional and financial independence. Homeownership in particular contributes to economic stability, so it’s great that more single women are buying homes. There’s no doubt the increase in the number of women in the U.S. workforce, a figure that has more than doubled since 1975, has contributed to the trend. Here are some other driving forces behind the rise of single female homeownership:

Homeownership empowers women. Homeownership offers a place to live, stability and a way to build wealth, so it’s no surprise women view owning a home as empowering. In fact, 31% of single women (vs. 23% of single men) feel empowered when thinking about buying their first home. A licensed real estate agent in Chicago, Martina Smith bought a condo in her dream neighborhood of Streeterville after she broke off an engagement a few years ago. Her budget only allowed her to buy a “fixer-upper,” but she got a great deal and renovated her place. “It’s been very rewarding and empowering,” she said. And she thinks it reflects a bigger national trend. “We’re seeing more women taking charge,” Smith said.

Women are becoming more educated. Over the past few decades, women have become more educated than men. In 2017, 38% of women and 33% of men ages 25 to 64 had a bachelor’s degree. In that age group, 14% of women and 12% of men had an advanced degree. And women are putting off marriage to pursue that education, according to the 2018 Women in the Housing & Real Estate Ecosystem report. Educational attainment has a positive impact on homeownership rates.

Women are done waiting to marry. There’s been a cultural shift where women no longer feel they need to wait until they pair up to embark on certain aspects of “adulting,” said Kelley Long, a CPA and certified financial planner with Financial Finesse. “I will never forget a friend’s dad chastising me for doing ‘nesting’ things like buying nice furniture before I was married because of his perception that you just don’t do things like that until you’re married,” Long said, adding that women are “rejecting that idea because it’s not true.” If you want to marry in the future, the right partner will likely be impressed that you were financially secure enough to buy a home on your own, she said.

Single moms want a home base to raise kids. “Oftentimes, when people buy homes it’s for lifestyles reasons,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist for LendingTree. Getting married is one big reason, but having children is the other, he said. About 21% of U.S. kids live with single moms, a number that has almost doubled since 1968. In contrast, just 4% of kids live with single dads. “Children prompt people to buy homes,” he said. “So that might be one of the factors at play.” And it’s not just kids. As many as eight in 10 caregivers for elderly parents are women. The median age of a single female buyer is mid-50s, points out Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights for the National Association of REALTORS. A single female homebuyer “may be coming from a past relationship and purchasing a new home for herself, her children and her parents,” Lautz said, adding that single females are “willing to make sacrifices” to purchase a home.

So what does the future hold for single women owning homes? If marriage rates among all U.S. adults continue to drop, it’s likely the number of single women purchasing homes will rise even more, Lautz said.

Turn your homeownership dreams into reality

Strict lending standards can make it more difficult to qualify for a mortgage on a single income. Considering women also only make 80% of what their male colleagues earn, getting to a financially secure enough position to afford homeownership may feel daunting. Here are three tips for single women looking to buy a home of their own:

  1. Prep your finances for homebuying. It’s important to check your credit and your debt-to-income ratio before you start the homebuying process. If you spot problems, work on increasing your credit score and paying down your debt before you try to get preapproved for a mortgage. Getting the best possible rate can save you money over the life of the loan, which is especially important when your household depends on a single income. The upside is that single women have complete control and don’t need to worry about anyone else’s shaky credit or loads of debt. “If you’re in a couple, somebody is going to be dragging the other person down,” Kapfidze said.
  2. Build your nest egg before you buy. Forty-eight percent of women say they haven’t purchased a home yet because they haven’t saved enough for a down payment. But that’s not the only savings barrier to breach before taking the leap into homeownership. “Make sure you have a robust emergency fund,” Kapfidze said. Because single homeowners are on their own, they should set aside at least three months of mortgage payments as part of their emergency fund, Kapfidze suggested. “If you’re single, you’re the only one with income coming in to pay the mortgage,” he said.
  3. Pick a home that comes in under budget. Single women have lower household incomes than single men, so they may need to consider buying a smaller home, taking on a house that needs some work or settling in a lower priced neighborhood. The good news is that single women may be doing exactly that. In fact, the average home purchased by a single woman cost $173,000 compared with over $190,000 for a single man. Single women “may need to make price concessions when purchasing to find a home for themselves and their families,” Lautz said. And buying less house than you can afford can help you make your mortgage payment more easily if you hit financial hard times in the future.

Finally, it’s normal to feel stressed when you think of buying a home. In fact, more women (40%) than men (30%) feel overwhelmed by the idea of homeownership. But even though the homebuying process was scary, Hsiao said she has zero regret about buying a home of her own: “If you love the house, it’s 100% worth it.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Allie Johnson
Allie Johnson |

Allie Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Allie here

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Emotional Spending: What It Is and How to Overcome It

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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If the lamp on your desk, the mirror above your daughter’s changing table and those trinkets in your kitchen were all purchases made after a particularly stressful situation, you might be an emotional spender.

And you’re not alone. In a 2017 survey by CompareCards.com, a fellow LendingTree company, about a third of shoppers pulled out their credit cards in an effort to make themselves feel better. The instinct was even more prevalent for millennials — a whopping 48% reported buying something recently because they were feeling down, upset or angry.

What is emotional spending?

Emotional spending is, as you might have devised, the act of buying things with the motivation to make you feel better. Colloquially, it’s often referred to as retail therapy. “I think emotional spending is very common,” said Megan McCoy, an adjunct faculty member for Kansas State’s Financial Therapy Certificate Program and secretary on the Financial Therapy Association’s board of directors. “Anecdotally speaking, I think we saw a marked increase in this type of spending with the rise of online retailers — especially when free shipping and free returns became a thing. Emotional spending increased then because it became so easy.”

When it comes to emotional spending, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a difference between compulsive spending and spending money every now and then because it gives you a burst of happiness. As opposed to emotional spending, compulsive spending is a disorder where spending has become a customary way of achieving self-esteem or is done to escape reality, and it often interferes with a person’s responsibilities or relationships. It’s best to consult an expert for help if you think your spending has escalated from being prompted by emotional triggers to compulsive behavior.

The root cause of emotional spending

Since emotional spending is the act of buying things to make you feel better, the spending itself is often triggered by something personal that charged you up. Of course, these triggers can range dramatically based on your personality and individual circumstances, but Dr. McCoy said that common triggers for women include relational disturbances (aka fights with a partner or other loved ones) or feelings of loneliness (aka feelings of being unloved or undesirable). Those emotions in turn cause feelings that make us want to spend since we could be thinking that once we buy those jeans or that new makeup, we’ll look different or be loved, she said.

While Dr. McCoy said that a man’s emotional spending is more likely to be fueled by reasons having to do with success (or feelings of inadequacy when it comes to success), for both men and women, emotional spending may not necessarily be something that they are even aware they are doing. “Emotional spending can be an unconscious power trip,” she said. It’s often fueled by a desire to do something that proves a person can make their own decisions and do what they want.

How to break the emotional spending cycle

A habit is, by definition, something that is hard to give up, and if you’re an emotional spender, moving away from the tendency to spend money when you’re feeling emotional can be a difficult thing. On the other hand, emotional spending is often a consequence of impulse rather than thought, Dr. McCoy added, and “by recognizing that this has been a pattern of coping in oneself, you can find other ways of coping and stop emotionally spending quite easily.”

If you recognize yourself in the above description, there are a few things you can do to help break the emotional spending cycle.

1. Come up with a list of other coping techniques. Spending money might make you feel better in the moment, but chances are after you receive your credit card bill or realize your wallet is empty when you need to buy lunch, the feelings of guilt will set in. Instead, Dr. McCoy suggested putting a little thought into some other ways to blow off steam when you feel upset. “Find out what else makes you feel regulated,” she said. For example, maybe going for a run, listening to your favorite playlist or having a cup of coffee will provide you with the same rush that spending does. At the very least, it might cause you to pause long enough to realize that you don’t actually need to spend money to feel better.

2. Do the math. Something that works with spending in general is to take a moment to consider just what that new throw pillow will cost you, even outside of its monetary value. “My favorite trick is to always do this simple math when shopping,” Dr. McCoy said. “Whatever you want to buy, just figure out how many hours you will need to work to buy it. You want to emotionally spend on a cardigan that costs $75. You make $20/hour. Is that cardigan really worth almost four hours at your job?”

3. Have a budget. With a proper budget in place, retail therapy isn’t completely forbidden, which some people might find helpful. Create a budget that provides for some level of emotional spending within those constraints. That way, if you do find yourself feeling like you need to buy that cashmere scarf after the huge blowout you had with your sister, at least you will have factored that spending into your monthly budget.

If you need a little help putting a budget together, get started with our ultimate guide to budgeting, and learn about some of the best apps to help you maintain that budget.

4. Start a journal. Studies have shown that journaling has all kinds of amazing side effects, and helping you combat your emotional spending could be one of them. Dr. McCoy suggested creating a thought journal where you record the events that led up to a shopping spree, along with the actual shopping. “Thought journals are basically the cornerstone of cognitive behavioral therapy,” she said. “According to CBT, thoughts and behaviors are so intertwined that sometimes we can’t remember what came first.”

By using a thought journal to record your spending habits, you’ll be able to identify the anecdotes that caused your emotional spending so you can recognize what’s actually bothering you and work on fixing the root cause. “In other words, it allows you to identify the underlying problem and fix that, instead of just dealing with the symptom — shopping,” McCoy added.

5. Create barriers to spending. Emotional spending (and overspending in general) will be harder to do if you create barriers that make it physically harder to spend. For example, remove your credit card information from being cached in the websites where you frequently spend. Unsubscribe to emails from stores you love. Set a five-minute waiting period before you spend on any nonessential items.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, emotional spending can break the bank, and it doesn’t necessarily help you deal with your actual problem — whatever it was that triggered your spending in the first place. If your emotional spending has already put you into debt, you can learn more about the emotional toll of debt and how to tackle it.

These days, online shopping makes it easier than ever to spend, and social media makes it easier than ever to identify the Joneses we want to keep up with. Luckily, with just a few small steps, emotional spending doesn’t have to be a hindrance on your finances anymore.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Cheryl Lock
Cheryl Lock |

Cheryl Lock is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Cheryl at [email protected]

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