One of the major life milestones that our society still encourages is marriage. The idea of marriage as a cornerstone of society is one that has been around for millennia. However, these days it seems as though people are putting off marriage. Among the major reasons that people put off marriage is due to financial considerations. Many couples like to feel as though they are starting out from a place of financial strength, rather than a place of financial weakness.
Samuel Rines is an analyst and economist at Chilton Capital, and he specializes in current demographic and consumer trends. “Over the past decade the average marriage age has increased from 26.8 to 28.2 for men and from 25.1 to 26.1 for women,” he says.
That’s a rather significant jump. Marriage stats differ by state, though. When I married 11 years ago, at age 22, I was old for my state’s median marriage age. Now, though, Utah’s median age for first marriages (women) is 24.
Rines says that finances is a big factor in putting off marriage. “A major change has been seen in the economy of late,” he points out. “People are living at home longer, and have difficulty finding jobs.” Rines says that more than 30% of people aged 18 to 34 live at home. As long as financial difficulties keep young singles from moving out, they are unlikely to marry. “The delay in the ability to move toward independence has caused many to delay marriage until they find a job or have adequate earnings,” he continues.
Another factor Rines thinks might be at play (although he is quick to point out he doesn’t have the data to back it up) is that more women are getting advanced degrees, and that could be leading to a delay as well, as they make themselves more career-ready.
My husband and I didn’t put off marriage for financial reasons. We married with student loan debt and credit card debt. And neither of us had a job at the time, since we were undergrads. I was in my final semester, so I when I did graduate, I looked for a job and began supporting our little family — and we began looking for ways to pay down our debt.
Many couples, though, wouldn’t make our decision. They might choose to live together for awhile, and get their finances in order first. If one partner has a significant amount of debt, and the other doesn’t, there might be a reluctance to combine finances. Even keeping things separate during marriage might not be the solution for some couples.
Creating a financial plan as a married couple presents a number of challenges, and sometimes it’s easier to put off marriage until things are more stable, or until a couple feels as though the situation has improved. In some cases, a couple might decide not to marry at all. For some, being in a committed long-term relationship is enough, and there is no reason to marry — or to combine finances.
Many couples see marriage as a joining of financial resources as well as a joining of two people. However, you don’t necessarily have to combine your finances if you get married. Separate finances can work really well for some couples.
In some cases, though, combined finances are necessary. If you decide that one of you has to stay home to take care of the house and the kids, then it makes sense to combine finances. However, in these cases it’s important to tackle the issue as a couple, and make sure both partners are on board with the arrangement. And once this decision is reached, you really have to think in terms of “ours” rather than “mine” and “yours.”
The decision to combine finances with another person is becoming increasingly complicated as couples put off marriage, and as each individual makes his or her “own” money.
What do you think? Would you put off marriage for financial reasons? Would you combine finances?
Photo by Katsu Nojiri.
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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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