Linda: I am a romantic. I believe that people should marry for love, but I am also practical. If being married will assist in the process of being financially fit, I’m all for it. And if being extremely happily married will increase your wealth, well then, why not go for the gold, literally wealth? Why not go for the gold of the greatest possible marriage, with the material wealth as a delightful side effect. According to the Census Bureau, in 2010 the median net worth for a married couple between the ages of 55 and 64 was $261,405. That compares to $71,428 for a man heading a household, and $39,043 for a woman heading a household. Combining the net worth of these two individuals, their joint net worth would be $101, 471, less than half of the married couple.
There is an old adage that says, “Two can live as cheaply as one.” It’s not true, but two can make a lot more money. Jay Zagorsky is research scientist at The Ohio State University who has studied wealth trends by marital status, says that people who got and stayed married each had about double the wealth of single people who never married. Cohabitating couples, because they are living together on a trial basis, often have not committed to the idea that they will be together forever. That means they aren’t combining resources as significantly as married couples.
Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia says that it’s not only because they can combine their salaries and share expenses once they get married, that they are more financially fit. Spouses are better off because of a combination of factors. “It’s more educated, more affluent and also more religious Americans that tend to get married in the first place,” Wilcox says. That gives them a starting advantage over their peers who aren’t married. Once they are married, the couples also are able to take advantage of buying just one of each expensive item like furniture and appliances, and relying on one another’s health insurance. That allows them to build wealth more quickly than their peers who are single, divorced or living together.
Pamela Smock, director of the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor says that advantages go beyond just sharing expenses. People who are married also are able to divide up responsibilities in financially beneficial ways. If one of the pair increases their hours at work in an effort to finish a big project, seek promotion, the other spouse is poised to pick up the slack with household chores and the children. At a later date, the situation may reverse, with the other spouse needing more coverage at home to go back to school, stay home with children, or advance professionally. Such accommodations are not as available to single parents or those with less commitment in their system.
These impressive figures apply only to those who remain married. Zagorsky’s research found that those who got divorced tended to see their wealth fall dramatically, leaving them worse off than those who were single and had never married. Knowing what a serious financial setback divorce is can be a powerful motivator to heal a damaged marriage and get it back to a stable emotionally and financially rewarding status whenever possible.
Abbigail J. Chiodo and Michael T. Owyang, writing in the Regional Economist article (2002) For Love or Money: Why Married Men Make More, state that economist’s statistics show that married men earn approximately 11 percent more per hour than men who have never been married, even after controlling for work experience, education, age and other factors. Economists also find that divorced or separated men make about 9 percent more than never-married men do. The wage gap, present at all ages, is even wider for those 45 and older.
This phenomenon is explained by employer’s belief that a man’s marital status is a signal of how stable or responsible he is. When a boss is considering promotions and raises, he makes his decision on the grounds that the married employee has a family to support. Is that discrimination and bias on the part of employers, or it their truth to their view? It is the view of these researchers that it is not exclusively bias on the part of the employers. Because the earnings of divorced or separated men are higher than those of never-married men, earning advantages remain even after the marriage is dissolved.
It is also possible that married men to make more money because the qualities (responsible, honest, mature, logical, intelligent and efficient) that make a man a professionally capable, are also the traits that make him a good marriage partner. Even if they had many of these signature strengths coming into the marriage at the start, there is clearly additional productivity that accompanies marriage, which promote success at work. Men are learning to be more productive from the marriage itself due to enhanced alertness, responsibility, cooperation, and enhanced communication and conflict management skills, all requirements around to keep a marriage in good condition.
I’m sure that the very same benefits that men get from marriage that make them better employees stands true for women as well. It stands to reason that those marriages that are the happiest will have the biggest financial results. There will be the greatest amount of cooperation in the areas of making accommodations when work requirements accelerate. There will be a wish on the part of both partners, to do their part to contribute to the stability that comes with running a financially fit household.
There is a built-in business consultant with whom to create and continually refine a vision and an action-plan. Our partner can be our “believing eyes” who give us confidence when we may lack the courage to risk. There is a trusted confidant to turn to in times of frustration and confusion. Our spouse is a dear friend with whom to celebrate our successes. There is a sense of generosity that inspires both partners to put their life energy towards acquiring those material assets that make life easier and enjoyable.
There is a lightness that comes with working to give to a beloved spouse, to make their life easier and more enjoyable. And over time, there will be enough accumulation of wealth, that there is no longer a need to work for financial gain, only continuing working professionally if you derive great satisfaction from the work itself. It will be celebration time when because of your combined, collaborative, cooperative, co-creative effort, you have amassed a fortune.
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate