By Craig Erwin, Ph.D.
Marriage in centuries past was often viewed as a path to financial security for women, but today many of us overlook the financial benefits of marriage. In addition to helping us live a longer, healthier life, marriage can provide a very effective way to accumulate enough wealth to retire comfortably and provide financial security in our later years.
In 2007 Joyce A. Joyce published a book titled Women, Marriage, and Wealth. The book summarized the findings from her doctoral dissertation research, which centered on the ways in which marital status affects women’s wealth. Joyce identified the financial benefits of marriage. Married women tend to have greater financial security and wealth than unmarried women because they tend to have more assets and sources of income and they can use their spouse’s income, pensions, and Social Security income, in addition to their own income. Joyce also found that financial insecurity is especially common among older women. When they hit the age of 65 their financial situation often becomes more precarious, whether they are married or not, but marriage can often help.
The end of a woman’s marriage, whether due to death or divorce, is likely to result in increased financial hardship both in the short and long term. But, getting old is especially fraught with risk for unmarried women. Elderly unmarried women are more likely than elderly married women to live in poverty. This is true, in part, because elderly married women are likely to derive income from more sources, such as wages, salary, assets, private pensions, and government pensions.Many couples give up on their marriages too quickly, opting for divorce when their marriages might be saved with professional help, persistence, and effort. Although divorce is sometimes unavoidable, such as when there is abuse or violence, if couples better understood the increased financial risks that divorce can bring, they might be less quick to throw in the towel. The time and effort needed to preserve a marriage might be well worth it, in many cases, especially if the lifelong financial benefits of marriage are considered. And there are often other good reasons for preserving a marriage, such as the toll divorce takes on children and the hardships that come from being without a partner in old age.
So, don’t take marriage lightly. Rather than letting your impulses or infatuation drive your choice of a mate, be more careful, deliberate, and rational. Use your head. Marry someone who can be a lifelong friend, that you can work with and live with, and who will pull their weight. Do your best to build a strong relationship and nurture it. And be sure not to give up on your marriage too easily when things get rocky; consider the consequences far into the future. When you retire, it may become very clear that it was a great idea to get married and stay married, Remember, marriage tends to increase financial security by increasing both wealth and income. Divorce rips it away.
Do you believe that you will be better off financially if you are married? Have you ever divorced or considered divorce? If so did you consider the financial consequences?
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