When it comes to finances, unmarried men and women needn’t march to a different beat than their coupled-up counterparts, according to East Valley financial experts.

The same guidelines apply, but abiding by them is usually more difficult — and, unfortunately, more imperative — for singles.

"You need to have a cushion that could cover all your expenses for about six months," said Linda Milhaven, president of Wells Fargo Bank in Scottsdale and a single woman. "Everybody should, but if you’re a married couple it’s easier."

Saving is comparatively more difficult for singles, said Rebecca Warren of Warren Financial Group in Mesa, because a couple living together can live on "quite a bit less" than two singles supporting separate households.

In fact, Warren said saving enough money to meet life’s adversities (and still bankroll an adequate retirement) is often the greatest challenge for single people.

"If you’re dual-income, you’re probably living up to what you’re making and saving some portion of it," Milhaven said. If one partner becomes disabled or loses a job, the couple could probably survive on the other partner’s salary.

But single people have to create their own safety net.

"If you get sick, there is no salary," Milhaven said. "Who’s going to pay for medical insurance, bills? How are you going to support yourself?" Planning for such contingencies is "even more important when you don’t have someone to fall back on."

That means singles must be more disciplined about saving the discretionary income they have — married people are often parents, after all, which means shelling out money for everything from diapers to driving lessons for their children.

Singles don’t have to earmark any money for such expenses; Milhaven said it’s crucial to use the money that normally would go to such expenses and earmark it for savings and investments.

Such proper planning, she said, along with the current financial situation, could help them afford items many singles think they’d never be able to afford — like houses.

"Single people are a bigger and bigger percentage of homeowners," Milhaven said. (The National Association of Realtors reports that 29 percent of homeowners are single, and the number continues to grow.) "The biggest hurdle isn’t that they can’t afford the monthly mortgage payments, it’s that they usually don’t have the down payment."

Those who’ve been disciplined enough to come up with an effective down payment can take advantage of one of the silver linings of the lagging economy: Low interest rates.

Milhaven said an individual who makes $50,000 a year would probably qualify for a house in the $200,000 range. (A Web site that calculates more specific numbers is at www.calcbuilder.com/cgibin/

calcs/HOM1. cgi.)

"And think about it: If you can get a fixed-rate loan, you’ve just frozen your housing expenses for the next 30 or 40 years," Milhaven said.

Other securities especially important for singles

• Renters insurance. Even if you think you don’t have much, "Imagine having to replace all of your stuff at once if someone breaks in" or there’s a fire, said Linda Milhaven, president of Wells Fargo Bank in Scottsdale.

• Organized personal records. "In the event of disability, a designated individual can assume important record-keeping chores, including bill paying, banking and income tax preparation," said Rebecca Warren of Warren Financial Group in Mesa.

• Disability insurance. "Singles do not have the luxury of falling back on a spouse’s income in the event of an under- or uninsured disability," Warren said.

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