It’s the end of the year, holiday bills are coming in, and the recession is still grinding on. Money has to be on all our minds.
People who are married, or expect to be married one day, should know social scientists have been studying the role of money in marriage, and they have great news.
Marriage is a wealth-building institution.
And we’re not talking about a few extra bucks.
Married couples had a median net worth of $132,000 - $65,000 each - according to a study cited in the 2000 book, “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially.”
This meant individual spouses had almost twice the net worth as the typical never-married person ($33,670) or divorced person ($33,670).
Moreover, “the longer married people stayed married, the greater their wealth accumulation,” wrote authors Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher.
The median net worth of couples married fewer than five years was a decent $96,000. But if they stayed married 15 to 19 years, the median net worth rose to about $125,000, and after 35 years, it was $158,000.
So, bottom line, marriage is associated with the acquisition of financial assets, and the longer the marriage, the fatter the bank accounts.
Does this mean married households are somehow impervious to the Great Recession of 2007?
No, not at all.
In fact, one could argue that economic downturns are especially perilous for married households because money woes raise the risks for divorce.
When financial assets are plentiful, they “sweeten and solidify the ties between spouses” and “decrease the likelihood of divorce,” Jeffrey Dew wrote in the newly released State of Our Unions 2009 report from the National Marriage Project at University of Virginia.
If couples accrue substantial debt, however, it puts a strain on their marriage, said Mr. Dew, a professor at Utah State University.
For husbands, the most common “predictor” of divorce is conflict over money, he said. Finances and sex are top divorce predictors for wives.