Financial solvency of married households x single

This weekend has been full of surprises and great stuff to write about.  One request was that I write a post about how finances of married people are different than those of single people. This came about because Lynne wanted to buy a house in a great neighborhood but she couldn’t afford to buy one by herself. Since she can’t find love, she wishes she could find a guy who would be willing to marry her just so they could combine incomes and wealth. Very romantic. Not.

We all know that married people, overall, have longer lives, better mental health, greater safety and better sex. I took on the challenge and this is what I’ve found.

Reading about marriages, in this economic mess that the country has been in for some years now, a lot of people are struggling with unemployment, the mortgage woes, etc. When bad stuff goes down, people get insecure and get desperate. It impacts their sparkling personalities and cuts into everyday happiness.

While researching about marriages and finances, I came upon the National Marriage Project of the University of Virginia. They have been doing all kinds of research on marriages: seeing if people are happy, less happy, divorcing or not divorcing. These are some of the statistics they came up with:

– Overall, 82 % of respondents in their poll reported being very happy in their marriage; however, financial stress was a      strong predictor of lower marital happiness. Among men and women with no financial stress, 87% reported being happy and very happy in their marriages. The numbers dropped to 84% among those who reported one financial worry. Among those who had two or three financial worries, only 67% reported that they were happy in their marriage. While these troubled relationship may end in divorce, the study found that 3 in 10 said the stress of the economic downturn had actually deepened their commitment to marriage.

Even though it was a minority whose commitment to their marriage was stronger, I found it interesting. So, I kept on searching for more statistics about marriage and found these facts put out by the US Census Bureau:

– Married households have more assets; the median asset value held by married coupled households is 4 times greater than that of households headed by unmarried men and 5 times greater than that of households headed by unmarried women.

The smartest thing in terms of solvency turns out to be marriage. Until a while ago, the median value of assets owned by marital status was $145,000 for married couples, $30,000 for unmarried female households and $28,000 for unmarried male households.

Here is the important part; married families have higher incomes than never married men and women. Even among married families with only one income, those families’ median incomes were still greater than those of never married adults. Likewise, married couples were more likely to own their own home and have greater asset accumulation than households headed by one person.

Not only are the financial benefits of marriage important to individuals as they are in families and their well-being, but the relative social economic success of marriage also protects against dependency on the government against poverty. Also, the risk of a child experiencing poverty and public assistance in his or her lifetime is 6 times greater than if the same child was born of married parents.

So, there you have it. If you want to further know why married people fare better financially, than single, my friend Sue told me about a book called The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially by Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher. She said “it is a great reading, full of statistics for the skeptics.” I haven’t read it; thus I cannot give my personal opinion.


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