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Singletons Segment Summary April 2012

Source: 2010–11 MacroMonitor

Singletons—households with a head who is single—constitute one of the largest segments in the United States. One would be mistaken, however, to lump all Singleton households into one category. Singletons include household heads (HHHs) who are single (never married), who are widowed, who are divorced, and who are legally separated. Some issues and concerns are common to all Singleton households, but their differences far outweigh their similarities in terms of financial needs. Overall, Singletons represent nearly 50 million households; the majority have never married (20.4 million). Divorced households number 16.5 million; widowed households, 9 million; and legally separated households, 3.3 million.


  • Singletons' average age is 53, but their ages range from 44 years for never marrieds to 71 for widowed HHHs. Divorced heads' average age is 56—considerably older than the average age of separated heads, which is 49.
  • Singletons' average income ($41K) is much lower than that for all US households ($67K) and does not differ among the subsegments.
  • Singletons who have never married are more likely than all US households—and other Singleton subsegments—to have a four-year college degree (26%). Divorced heads are more likely than other Singletons to have some college (38%); widowed and separated household heads are more likely to have a high-school diploma or less: 56% and 45%, respectively.
  • Singletons are much less likely to have dependent children than are all US households (20%, in comparison with 33%); separated households are more likely to have both dependent children (53%) and Boomerang kids (26%, in comparison with 10% for all US households).
  • Singletons are more likely to be financially responsible for another adult than are married households (17%, in comparison with 12%); divorced (22%) and widowed (20%) households are the most likely to be responsible for another adult.
  • Singletons are more likely to live in an apartment (24%, in comparison with 15% for all US households) than in a single-family home (50%, in comparison with 65%); never-married Singletons are especially likely to be apartment dwellers (33%). Singletons are also more likely than others to live in a large or medium-size city: never married, 51%; all Singletons, 43%; all US households, 35%.

Products and Services

  • Assets: Somewhat unexpectedly, Singletons are just as likely as all US households to own most assets. They are less likely, however, to own any vehicle (67%), a home (55%), a 401k/403b/457 (33%), or an IRA (32%). Incidences and amounts vary considerably between Singleton subsegments.
  • Accounts: Singletons are just as likely as all US households to have checking, saving, investment, wrap, custodial, 529, and brokerage accounts—and even trusts.
  • Debts: Singletons are less likely than all US households to have a first mortgage (31%), a HELOC (8%), or a vehicle loan (24%). Overall, they are more likely to be debt free (31%, in comparison with 24% of all US households).
  • Insurance: Relatively low vehicle and real estate ownership means that Singletons are less likely than other households to have any property/casualty insurance. They are also less likely to have any life insurance (59%), whether group insurance (37%) or individual insurance (36%) or health insurance (60%) or health-related insurance (54%).

Financial Attitudes That Differentiate Singletons

Overall, Singletons are more concerned than are all US households about keeping up financially or securing a loan when they need one. They are more likely to believe that they are living on the edge—one paycheck, illness, or accident from being unable to make ends meet; in particular, legally separated HHHs are the most likely to agree with this statement. Almost two-thirds of Singleton households, in comparison with one-half of all US households, agree they will rely on social security for retirement.

Singletons are less likely than average to agree that they will keep paying on an underwater mortgage, feel comfortable doing financial business on the internet, or be able to meet their long-term financial goals.

Interesting Tidbits

  • Singletons are less likely than married households to have goals for saving or investing. The idea of Revolving Retirement also has less appeal for these segments than for other households.
  • Singletons (38%) are less likely than all households (45%) to have a specific or general financial strategy or to be extremely or very confident about achieving their goals (24%, in comparison with 28%)
  • Singletons are just as likely as other households to select savings and investments that provide a guaranteed income and are safe, tax advantaged, and liquid.
  • Singletons do not differ from other households in the list of topics about which they would like to learn more—such as managing debt, choosing investments, buying insurance, and preparing for retirement.


Several recent articles point out that single-headed households represent a huge, potentially overlooked opportunity for many businesses, especially financial-services providers. However, one should not stereotype Singleton households as Gen Yers getting started, single mothers, divorcees, or widows, because Singletons' needs and financial approaches differ significantly Singleton subsegment. More than all other households, Singletons look for convenience, easy access, and product and service bundles not advantaged by the economic efficiency of a dual-headed household. The general trends of consolidation and concentration among providers are especially important for Singleton households.

Hidden among Singletons is another segment: single by choice. This segment has potential to be very profitable for financial institutions. Once institutions identify this segment, they can appropriately design products and services for this segment's needs. Single-by-choice households are at the cusp of general-public awareness. Financial providers have an opportunity to capture and build this business.

For more information, contact CFD.