Even though the glamorous foursome have grown up, and in some cases partnered up, this weekend's box office hit Sex and the City offers a meditation of sorts on money and the single life. It raises the questions: Aside from the emotional ramifications of settling down or not, is marriage also a financial boon? Do single women truly spend outrageous amounts on shoes and clothes? And how do singles go about taking out a mortgage and making other major purchases?
I asked two single women, Deborah Pont, 40, a communications specialist in Connecticut, and her friend Paulette Song, 38, a communications manager in Cambridge, for their thoughts on the subject. Deborah recently bought a home, and Paulette took out a lease on a car. They offered to share their strategies.
Celebrate freedom. As Deborah finished the final paperwork for her new house, she suddenly realized, "I thought I'd be doing this with my husband." During her bout of sadness, she called her grandmother.
"My grandmother said, 'You're in a great spot. You should be glad that you can buy a house by yourself. You just shake that right off.... Soon you'll be busying yourself with renovations, and you'll be glad you don't have to talk to someone else about 'what color we should paint this room' or 'can we afford to paint the cabinets,' " Deborah recalls. That conversation helped her see the positive side of home buying as a single woman. "I don't have to ask permission to do anything," she says. It's a message Carrie Bradshaw would embrace.
Hire experts. Deborah wasn't sure who to assign as heir in her will. "If I were married, I would know, my money is going to my husband and kids," she says. So she turned to the same financial adviser as her parents to simplify the paperwork and "put everything under one roof." She similarly uses professionals when it comes to selecting investments. She goes with trusted mutual fund names that consistently deliver average returns. By using companies with strong reputations, she says, "I have some degree of confidence that I won't lose my money overnight."
Rely on friends. Before heading to the car dealership, Paulette lined up a few friends to help her. "The advantage of being in a couple is that you can bounce ideas off each other," she says. Instead, she used her friends and family. "I got more perspectives because I wasn't just turning to one person," she adds. She also did a lot of research so she knew what she wanted—to lease a compact car.
When she was ready to go try out cars, she brought a close friend who works for a credit union. "She was a tough negotiator and crunched numbers quickly," Paulette says of her friend. She credits that help, as well as how much she researched in advance, for enabling her to walk out with a good deal on her new Toyota Corolla.
Paulette explains, "It doesn't have to be a scary process, and it isn't once you start the research and embrace it. In that sense, it doesn't matter whether you're single or married."