Despite our nation's alarming divorce rate, marriage continues to be an American institution. Considering that about 50% of the adult population is married, the notion of finding that special someone is clearly alive and well. Still, fewer young people are married these days, and many are waiting longer to tie the knot. And one big reason has to do with money -- or the lack thereof.
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, finances are a barrier to marriage across a wide range of age groups. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 26% of singles feel they're not financially prepared for marriage, and among those aged 25 to 34, 34% say finances are the main thing holding them back. The same sentiment holds true among the 35-and-older set, with 20% of single folks pointing to finances as the reason they aren't married.
Among women surveyed, the most important quality in a husband is job security, and in that regard, millennials seem to be falling short. As of 2012, 82% of men aged 25 to 34 were active members of the labor force (compare that to 93% in 1960). If that weren't bad enough, median hourly wages have dropped in real terms over the past few decades, and millennials, true to American tradition, are generally doing a terrible job of saving money. A 2015 study by GOBankingRates confirms that over 40% of millennials aged 18 to 34 have no savings whatsoever.
But while money may be the major obstacle preventing you from taking that next step, you should realize that marriage comes with a host of financial benefits and money-saving opportunities.
Getting married has its perks
Even if you're starting a marriage on financially shaky ground, don't forget that tying the knot comes with some pretty sweet financial incentives. For one thing, your new partner in life is also your partner in housing, which means you'll benefit when you combine your expenses by living under the same roof. Say you and your partner are each paying $1,500 a month in rent. Chances are you'll be able to find a large enough space to accommodate both of you for around $2,000, which equals $1,000 a month in collective savings.
Of course, the same holds true for couples who aren't married. However, unlike those who refrain from making things official, married couples may enjoy tax benefits by filing jointly. If anything, you'll save on filing fees alone by submitting a single return as opposed to two separate ones.
Furthermore, being married means getting to take advantage of each other's workplace benefits, namely health insurance. If your spouse's out-of-pocket cost for health coverage through their employer is $300 a month, but it only costs $150 a month for you to add them to your own plan, then the two of you will save $1,800 a year right off the bat.
Being married can also save you money in other unexpected ways. Combining your auto insurance with your spouse's, for example, can result in a lower payment than what you and your spouse would otherwise pay individually. And let's not forget about Social Security. Once you get married, you become eligible to receive spousal benefits when your spouse retires or in the event that your spouse becomes disabled. Furthermore, if your spouse passes away, you may be eligible to receive survivor benefits for the rest of your life (see the SSA website for more details on survivor benefits).
Borrowing money as a married couple
Borrowing money can also be easier for married couples. For one thing, you get to combine two salaries when applying for a loan, and the more you earn, the more attractive a loan candidate you become. Furthermore, you and your spouse may qualify for a lower interest rate if you apply for a loan together. In many borrowing situations, one spouse's good credit can even help compensate for another's bad credit.
Say you're looking for an auto loan, and your credit is awful, while your spouse has a stellar credit score. On your own, you run the risk of getting denied -- or getting approved at an exorbitantly high rate. However, if you and your spouse apply for that loan jointly, you're more likely to get approved and secure a better rate.
Marriage isn't for everyone, and if you're fundamentally opposed to tying the knot, then there's nothing wrong with that. But if money is what's holding you back from saying "I do," then you may want to reconsider that position. Although it's nice to start marriage from a place of financial security, there's also strength in numbers, and if you and your would-be spouse commit to a fiscally responsible lifestyle, you can grow your savings together for many years to come.