For many individuals, the financial repercussions of getting married is about the last issue of consideration when the decision is made to tie the knot. When you’re in love, it is unlikely that you “count the costs” of the impending nuptial. Will we be able to support ourselves? What about insurance, medical costs, and the expense of a larger home? While these questions are very important, we usually do not let them drive the overall conversation. But we should… We must.
Getting married later in life comes with significant financial pros and cons. While none of these pros and cons are “sure things” or “deal breakers,” they should be thoroughly examined and weighed. We explore some of the big ones below. As you peruse this list, be in conversation with your partner. Ask one another, “Will our individual financial situations hamper or enhance our future nuptials?” And, relatedly, “Should we seek the counsel of someone removed from our situation and family experience?”
1. Healthier Fiscal “bottom line”
For most older couples, combined income is greater than one would expect in the earlier stages in life. With job experience, duration, and growth in responsibility, comes greater financial benefit. Older couples often benefit from a healthier fiscal “bottom line.” The higher income means more flexibility for travel, investment, and other discretionary expenditures. Multiple homes, land holdings and the like also bolster the fiscal bottom line. What’s to lose, right?
2. Robust safety net for lean times
Older couples tend to have a bevy of assets at their disposal. From stock portfolios to real estate holdings, they often benefit from a host of financial resources that can provide a robust safety net for the lean times. All of these assets, under the right conditions, can be liquidated and transferred. We can marry a partner knowing that our income stream can provide him/her with stability if we encounter an untimely death.
3. Companion for financial consultation
Seasoned individuals often have a good handle of their revenue and expenditures. Engaged in a consistent pattern of financial management, they know how to manage their money in a principled way. This disciplined approach to financial management could mean financial stability for the marriage. Sharing the best of your financial insights and methods with a partner may be a win-win. Having a companion to consult with on a bevy of financial issues may also be a wonderful asset.
4. Both partners are independent financially
Older couples also step into a marriage with experience “paying their way.” Well versed in the costs of maintaining a household, they may not be dependent on their partner’s income when they step into the marriage. This implied financial independence may serve the couple well as they begin their married life together. The old “his, her, mine” approach to bank accounts and other assets honors independence while also creating a beautiful sense of connectivity.
1. Financial suspicion
Believe it or not, financial suspicion may creep into the psyche of individuals who are giving a late-stage marriage union a shot. As we age, we tend to guard our interests and assets. In the absence of some sort of full disclosure with our potential mates, we may become quite suspicious that our significant other is withholding “lifestyle” enhancing income from us. If our loved one is continuing to enrich his/her life and we are continuing to struggle, do we want to be part of a “sketchy” union?
2. Increased medical expenditures
Medical expenses rise as we age. While we can often manage the first decades of life with limited medical expense, later life may be inundated with trips to the hospital, dental clinic, rehab center and the like. It we are married, we pass these expenses on to our significant other. If we face a catastrophic illness, or worse, death, we pass the hefty expense on to those remain. Is this the kind of legacy we want to offer those we love the most?
3. Partner’s resources can get diverted towards their dependents
Adult dependents often seek financial support from their parents when the financial ship is listing. When we marry an older adult with adult children, his/her children become ours too. If we disagree with the financial approach our loved takes with their adult children, we are positioning all parties for significant conflict. Is it worth it? It’s up to you.
4. Liquidation of a partner’s assets
Eventually, most of us will need medical care that far exceeds our capacity. When we are unable to care for ourselves, assisted living/nursing homes may be in the cards for us. The financial impact of this level is tremendous, often leading to liquidation of one’s assets. This is an important consideration for older adults contemplating marriage.
Overall, there are myriad reasons to yoke our financial ship to our partner’s. While it can be quite scary to “open the books” on our financial matters, it is important to offer as much information as possible as we step into the joys and challenges of marriage. In the same way, our partners should be willing to disclose their financial information too. The intent is to foster healthy conversation about how the two independent households will work together as one unit.
On the flipside, our disclosures may show that a physical and emotional union is possible, but a financial union is not possible. When partners share their financial stories in a transparent manner, they may discover their management and investment styles are fundamentally incongruent. What to do? Ask for help from a trusted counselor and discern whether or not the union will be a viable union of a potential catastrophe.