Most people don’t consider the financial implications of marriage when they take the plunge.
Inherently, this isn’t a good or a bad thing, it’s simply that we have too many other things on our mind when we’re in love and ready to pop (or answer) “the question.”
But…as we all know, marriage can have a huge impact on our finances. Today, I’d like to consider this question:
Does your money benefit more when you’re married or single?
I invite you to share your own thoughts in the comments after reading the post. I’ve outlined what I think of as the major pros for each arrangement:
The Pros of Marriage
- Consolidating bills. Nearly every living expense imaginable will become shared once a couple moves in together. Mathematically, rent, utilities, cable, cell phones and more all get chopped in half or more, which can easily get into the thousands of dollars saved every month.
- Borrowing power. If both spouses work, a lender is bound not only to consider the combined income potential, but the relative safety of their loan if one spouse stops working for any reason.
- Quality control. The purpose of quality control in most creative organizations (not those who simply put out a repetitive product) is quite simply to prevent utter crap from going out the door. An honest spouse is very much like a QC agent, and will set you straight the next time you try to spend $300 on a pair of shoes or move money out of savings when it’s not prudent.
- Insurance benefits. Many insurance products will get significantly cheaper when you get married, and auto insurance is the example usually cited. You’ll also find that other insurance products are now easier to get–for example, a spouse can easily be added to a health insurance policy at the office.
- Tax benefits. While you might not receive any obvious direct tax benefits when you get married, there are some new avenues that open up when you tie the knot. You could, for example, use a Health Savings Account (assuming you have family coverage) to pay for your spouse’s medical expenses, even if they are not themselves on your medical plan. There are also benefits for your IRAs and other retirement accounts, especially if one spouse earns little to no income.
- Death benefits. Certain benefits are contingent on trying the knot–one example are Social Security benefits a spouse might receive when his or her spouse dies.
The Pros of Being Single
- Sole decision-maker. As someone who’s single, you only have to answer to yourself, for better or for worse. There’s no one to hold you back when you want to spend, and conversely, no one to get in your way when you’re on a frugality kick.
- Play to your strengths. If you’re a saver by nature, there’s no need to convince someone else that it’s really the best thing for your finances. You make the decisions about where you’re headed in your future.
- Less financial inertia. When you want to turn the ship, so to speak, there is usually less to rearrange and reconfigure when you’re single. You’re also not attempting to merge your partner’s finances, which may be better or worse overall than yours, into the picture.
- No risk of a messy divorce. No matter how well-intentioned a marriage is, divorce is a part of today’s reality, and a monumental risk to your personal finances. Divorce disrupts and divides a family’s finances, places a burden in terms of financing the process itself, and can even result in personal bankruptcy.
- No spending out of obligation. As anyone who has been in a relationship knows, there are times when we are overjoyed to give our partner a gift, and there are times when we simply feel like we do it out of obligation. You won’t have the need to do this if you’re single.
- Smaller “big expenses.” While it’s true that expenses combine when you get married, you can live in a tiny home and drive a tiny car when you’re single, something that would be difficult to do when you’re married, particularly when you use each other as an “excuse” to spend.
As I mentioned, the reality is that very few people go into “being single” or “being married” by considering the risks and benefits of each arrangement–we do it because we’re in love, or out of love, or fiercely independent, or whatever the case may be.
But equally real are the financial implications of the decision to be one or the other. I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments.
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