Perhaps you’re finally earning enough to leave your family’s home and get your own place. Or maybe you’re tired of roommates or recently uncoupled with your partner. In any case, you’re a part of the rising demographic of people living by themselves with no partner, no kids and no roommate.
Ever wonder what’s driving the trend and what you need to know about living solo? If so, read on.
Then and now
According to the U.S. Census, our living arrangements have changed considerably in the past 50 years. Back in 1967, 70 percent of the adult population lived with a spouse, while less than 8 percent lived alone. Today, just more than half of Americans live with a spouse while 15 percent live alone. (Some researchers even think the single-living percentage is as high as 27 percent.)
Here’s an even more surprising shift: More people live alone today than those who live with a child or some other relative. This represents a complete reversal of American living arrangements from 50 years ago. Single dwelling isn’t the rule, but it’s clearly a way of life that’s gaining traction in the U.S.
Who is most likely to live alone?
Traditionally, those who lived alone were widows, widowers and the young and unmarried. While that still holds true today, solo living is rising across all demographics.
Right now, 30 percent of women ages between the ages of 65 and 85 and 46 percent of women ages 85 and older live by themselves. (Men in these groups are less likely to live alone—just 27 percent of 65- to 85-year-olds and 17 percent of those 85 and older.)
Today’s young adults are much more likely to live with their parents than to live alone. Just 7.1 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are living by themselves, while a full 30 percent are with their parents.
Solo dwellers are more common in big cities. That makes sense when you contrast the housing stock in a major metropolitan area to small-town America. While one favors apartments, the other favors houses. In some urban neighborhoods, the number of single-person households can be as high as 66 percent.
Why are more people living alone?
The reasons for living alone are as complex and varied as individual situations. Perhaps a young college graduate just landed a first job in a faraway city. Or maybe a divorced woman in her late 40s just saw her youngest leave for college. And everyone knows at least one bachelor with no interest in marriage.
But what it often comes down to is economic independence. Without a good living, living alone is hard. (This explains why we're seeing the biggest surge in young adults living with their parents in recent memory.) During times of economic expansion, when jobs are plentiful and housing is available, you can expect to see more people living solo across all demographics.
Here's another way to look at it: Generations ago, it was expected that a recent widow would settle in with one of his or her grown children. However, thanks to better retirement planning and entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, older people who find themselves on their own due to death or divorce are more likely to have the means to keep a home of their own.
It’s also worth pointing out that young adults are getting married at a later age than their parents and grandparents did. In fact, 59 percent of young adults this generation have never wed, and 60 percent don’t have children at home. Pew Research estimates that one in four millennials will never marry.
What are the risks of living alone?
Great things about living solo include always knowing that your leftover pizza will be right where you left it and that you’ll never have to compromise on TV shows.
However, like anything else, it has some downsides. Here are a few worth knowing.
- Social isolation: Is living alone good or bad for you? Some researchers say those who live alone have more of an incentive to put themselves out there and build a robust social network. On the other hand, research has shown that people who live alone are in poorer health, especially men. These two facts point to the importance of having a routine and making an effort to interact with others if you live alone.
- No helping hand: While home is your haven, it's not uncommon for people to be seriously injured by a fall or some other accident at home. With no one around to help, a long delay in assistance can make the situation dangerous at times.
- Lack of shared resources: Though you may enjoy living alone, sometimes it’s easy to miss the extras an old partner or roommate brought to the arrangement—for instance, their willingness to scrub the oven or their knack for fixing computer problems. When you live solo, it’s on you to learn how to program the new HDTV, financially weather an emergency or job loss, and much more
How to take care of yourself
For many, having a place of your very own is nothing short of great. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind so you stay safe and enjoy the experience as much as possible.
- Meet your neighbors. Look around you. Do you know who lives next door? If not, take some time to introduce yourself and share your contact information. (Or consider doing something nice for them when it’s winter.) Take it a step further by inviting people over for a backyard potluck. You don’t have to be best friends, but if the people who live around you know who you are and are familiar with your routine, they’ll be more likely to raise an alarm if something seems off.
- Keep your cell phone within reach. Whether you’re lounging in your jammies or cleaning the house, make it a habit to keep your cell phone in your pocket so you can call—or text—for help if you’re ever seriously injured (or just locked out of the house).
- Up your security. With only one person coming and going, it will be that much easier for a burglar to know whether your home is empty. Consider investing in a security system. Today’s smart home systems come with advanced features you can activate with a swipe of your smartphone, even when you’re not around. In addition to alerting authorities of break-ins and fires, these systems can notify you of other serious events, such as a burst water pipe. Not in the market for a smart home system? Then check out low-cost upgrades like motion lights, lamp timers and radios that give the impression you’re home Finally, keep your curtains closed and never post vacation photos on social media until you return.
- Protect your cash flow. No one knows what the future will bring. If you break your arm and can't work for two months, would you be able to pay your bills? What if you're out of work for more than a year? For these unknowns and many others, we all need a safety net. Financial experts advise having three to six months’ worth of expenses in reserves, so make room in your budget to set aside extra money.
- Insure your abode. If you think your landlord’s insurance policy would replace your possessions in the event of a disaster, think again. After a fire, that policy would most likely cover damages to the building—but your personal property probably wouldn’t be covered. These are costs that can add up pretty quickly. Fortunately, renters insurance is an inexpensive way to protect your stuff. If you own a home or a condo, it’s always wise to review your homeowners or condo policy with your insurance agent each year to make sure your coverage is where it needs to be. An Erie Insurance agent can help you renters, condo and homeowners insurance.
- Consider life insurance. Asset-protecting policies like life insurance policies are often associated with families with children to protect. But singles should definitely take a serious look at taking out a life insurance policy. Having an estate plan and money to cover your funeral expenses, as well as any remaining bills, will offer your friends and family peace of mind should the unexpected happen. With a life insurance policy, you can also leave money to a charity, friend or family member that’s near and dear to your heart. An insurance professional like an Erie Insurance agent can tell you about life insurance options to fit your lifestyle.
With a few things in place, you can enjoy the peace of mind, freedom and satisfaction living alone offers. Now, go meet those neighbors!