Is Marriage Good for Your Financial Health?

There’s an old maxim that “Two can live as cheaply as one.”

Is that true? Or is it what people used to call “an old wives’ tale”?

Consider…

In 2006, in a State of Our Unions report from the Institute on Marriage at Rutgers University, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead declared, “Marriage is a wealth generating institution.” 

She elaborated, “Married couples create more economic assets on average than do otherwise similar singles or cohabiting couples.”

Now, don’t read into that last statement something that isn’t there. Whitehead is only stating the general, overall effect marriage has on the population. We can all cite exceptions. A person can be financially healthy…and single too.

However, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that marriage tends to be good for us financially. 

As recently as 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported, “A walk down the aisle can be a route to greater wealth and prosperity for couples in the U.S. Married people have higher net worths and are more likely to be homeowners than their unmarried counterparts their age are.”

One reason marriage may be economically advantageous is the basic financial principle of specialization. “Each spouse focuses on those areas in which they excel and, working together, accomplish more than they can apart,” writes Charles M. North, an economics professor at Baylor University. 

“But couldn’t two people just live together and each specialize?” They could…but the evidence suggests they don’t always do that.

“Ironically, one of the strategies (living together) that some couples thought would strengthen their marriages ended up weakening them, North writes. “They live together but pursue individual agendas. It’s a lack of commitment that keeps them from specializing.”

Again, this is a general observation, but here’s more data. The Rutgers Marriage Institute found that people who live together prior to marriage report higher rates of divorce, more instances of domestic violence, and lower levels of happiness. 

None of this is meant to suggest that marriage is a “get rich quick” strategy. Quite the opposite, actually. 

Good marriages that prosper tend to take time. Certain character traits go into a successful, long-lasting marriage—things like patience, kindness, humility, delayed gratification, thoughtfulness, forgiveness and hopefulness. My observation and experience is that the longer one stays in—and works on—a marriage, the more these character qualities have an opportunity to grow. 

Interestingly, these are also the same kinds of virtues that typically result in economic success in life. 

But it takes time.

Probably a lifetime.

If you’re trying to strengthen your finances here at the start of a new year, make sure you’re asking all the right questions. Write to me at bmoore@argentadvisors.com, and I’ll send you a free list that will ensure you don’t forget any important matters.

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

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