The following essay is from Karla Ruiz, a social media director for a West Coast advertising agency.
I choose to be single because I love having the freedom to do whatever I want. There are days when I have to stay late at work and, to be honest, I don’t feel guilty about keeping someone waiting at home.
In the past decade, more Americans are living the single life—often by choice. Of the U.S. population over age 18, 45 percent are single. And the majority of them are women, according to recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. Millennials like me are partly responsible for this trend. Before we walk down the aisle, we want to wait until our careers are established, our student loans are paid off, and we feel more financially secure.
Eventually I want to have a partner. But right now, at 31 years old, my life feels wonderfully full. I have my job, friends and family, and I keep myself busy by working out, hiking and traveling.
My mindfulness with money comes from my dad. I was born in Mexico, and while growing up, we talked openly about money. My dad was very reserved and saved as much as he could. He would always tell me, “Money is hard to make. Don’t spend it all.”
My mom, on the other hand, would treat us to vacations and outings, and she was the one who encouraged me to buy a house. I recall telling her, “There’s no way I could afford a house by myself—let alone one in California!”
Hispanics may be newer to credit than other American adults, although research shows we are not only diligent about checking our credit scores but also finding ways to improve them. According to the 2017 Chase Slate Credit Outlook survey, a national survey that looked at trends and sentiments among Millennials who are recent or future homebuyers, 88 percent of Hispanic Americans have checked credit scores for tactical reasons, like buying or refinancing a home. This is an important step in giving us the ability to become homeowners, since good credit is essential when it comes to buying property.
When it came time for me to buy a house, I went to the bank and learned that I could afford a home. I was pre-approved for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.87 percent. I found a real estate agent and put in an offer on a house, but I didn’t get it. I made an offer on another, and didn’t get that either. I almost gave up, until my real estate agent called me to say she found a house in Long Beach, California. It was 872 square feet with two bedrooms, one bathroom and a nice backyard. I put in an offer for $475,500 and got it.
Since I’m building my career and financial foundation, eventually I’m looking for someone who is as responsible as I am when it comes to finances. They should value the importance of saving and planning for retirement. If they’re bad with money, that’s a deal breaker for me, and I’m not the only one who thinks that way. The Chase Slate Credit Outlook survey also revealed that 37 percent of Americans have second thoughts about someone who has high credit card debt.
Still, I try not to talk about money on the first few dates. But if I’ve been dating someone for several months and it’s getting serious, it’s fair game to ask them how much money they make, and where they see themselves in five years. It may be uncomfortable, but these are crucial questions to ask if you’re planning to spend your life with someone.
The one drawback to being single is that you can’t rely on a partner to financially support you if something happens. I feel very stable in my job right now, but my agency could lose a large client or the economy might go topsy-turvy and my position could be eliminated. And given the industry I’m in, there are fewer senior jobs the higher up you move.
To prepare myself for whatever changes might come my way, I make sure to save between $200 and $300 every month. Right now, I have about three months’ worth of income saved, but I would like to get that up to six months’ worth. I also make monthly contributions to my IRA account, and I have a 401(k) with my employer.
As nice as it would be to split the expenses with someone, I don’t need anyone else to feel financially secure. Being on top of my money has allowed me to live my best single life.