Single South Florida women are outperforming single men, new studies show. They are getting better educations. They are buying twice as many homes. And they are out-earning their male counterparts.
Michelle Friedman, 28, exemplifies the new breed. The senior account executive at a public relations firm already has received several promotions after graduating with honors from the University of Florida. Next up for her: buying a house and opening a retirement savings account.
Other South Florida single women — including widows and divorcees — are forging ahead with their careers and personal finances.
Young single women with no children earned more than their male counterparts in most metro U.S. areas, including South Florida, according to a 2010 study by New York-based Reach Advisors that analyzed U.S. Census Bureaudata. The median annual income of unmarried childless women, ages 22 to 30, was 17 percent more than what their single, childless male peers took home in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, said Sally Johnstone, senior consultant at Reach Advisors.
South Florida women are earning more because they are generally better educated than men, who have had to contend with job losses in male-dominated industries such as construction, Johnston said. The trend should continue as “women continue to go to and graduate from college at much higher rates than men,” she said.
At Florida Atlantic University, 58 percent of the student body in the fall will be women, while Florida International University will have 55 percent women. A record 36 percent of all U.S. women ages 25-29 have a college degree, compared with 28 percent of men that age, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Single women also have been moving ahead of their male counterparts on the home front. They have been buying homes at almost double the rate of single men, according to the latest statistics from the National Board of Realtors. Single women are the second-biggest market behind married couples; they’re ahead of single men and unmarried couples, board spokesman Walter Molony said. Almost one out of five home sales across the nation involve single women buyers, he said.
Sheila Austin, 37, bought her first house in Sunrise last month after renting for years. She said she would have bought sooner, but she couldn’t afford to until the housing bust caused prices to plummet.
“I got a three-bedroom house with a screened-in pool,” she said. Her mortgage is hundreds of dollars a month less than her rent was at a Davie complex.
Lisa Green, a financial services coordinator, will have her oceanfront condo in South Palm Beach paid off in two years. She also has made it a point to fund retirement accounts and savings.
“It has worked out well,” said Green, 53. “I feel strongly about living simply.” She said she also didn’t fall into the trap of waiting for a man to make financial decisions.
Women today have emerged from the tradition of putting their finances on hold until they are married, Boca Raton financial planner Mari Adam said.
Many South Florida women are realistic that they may not marry or they may end up divorced, said Adam, herself a divorcee who counts herself lucky that she always had a career.
So does Darran Blake, a divorced senior vice president of a bank who ran a bathing suit manufacturing company by age 21.
“I’ve always worked hard; I started working at a young age,” Blake said.
But there is a downside to the economic advances women have made: they may have to pay alimony, child support or both if they divorce, according to a recently released survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. About 56 percent of surveyed divorce lawyers report a jump in the number of mothers paying child support in the last three years, while 47 percent say more women are paying alimony.
“It’s no longer assumed that the husband will be the top wage earner,” Fort Lauderdale family law attorney Barry Finkel said.
One Broward County doctor was outraged when a judge ruled she had to pay alimony to her former husband, he said.
But the husband had sacrificed so his wife could go to medical school and become the big wage earner, Finkel said.