We all want to earn more money, and there are a lot of ways to do it -- like going to college, pursuing graduate studies, and working hard to excel in our respective fields, for example. But if you're a woman, there's one more tactic you can employ: holding off on marriage.
Wait longer, earn more
That's right. A 2013 study suggests that delaying marriage might actually lead women's salaries to go up. Specifically, the report found that women with college degrees who waited until age 30 to get married earn significantly more than college-educated women who married at younger ages. Whereas those who married before age 20 report an average annual income of just over $30,000, those who married at 30 or later earn about $50,000. Even marrying between 24 and 26 had a big impact, with college-educated women in that age range bringing in salaries of roughly $45,000.
The fact that women frequently enter the workforce at a disadvantage, earning just 76 to 79 cents for every dollar their male colleagues bring home, kind of makes the case for delaying marriage (or at least softens the blow for those who have no choice but to marry later in life). But while a woman's age at marriage is only one of many factors that might determine how much she earns, those who do bring in the bigger bucks can use those earnings to their advantage.
Earn more, save more
A higher salary certainly has its benefits, not the least of which is the opportunity to sock away more money for retirement. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the more time you're giving your money to grow, and the more you contribute up front, the better.
Let's say you're 35 years old, and that your salary leaves you with $500 each month to save for retirement. If you invest that money and generate an average annual return of 8%, which is actually a somewhat conservative estimate given the stock market's historic performance, by the time you reach 65, you'll have roughly $680,000.
In our example, that ending balance comes as the result of not just saving a nice chunk each month, but saving from a fairly young age -- because watch what happens if you don't reach that same savings level till 10 years later. If you wait till you're 45 to start putting $500 a month toward retirement, even with that same 8% return, your ending balance will only be about $275,000 -- not shabby, but a whopping $400,000 less than what you would've wound up with had you started sooner.
What about the men?
We've learned that women who marry later tend to earn more money than those who marry young, but when it comes to men, the opposite seems to be true. According to the same set of data, college-educated men who waited until 30 or older to get married earn less than those who got married between the ages of 24 and 29. While those who married between 24 and 29 report annual earnings of just over $80,000, those who married at 30 or older lag behind by roughly $5,000.
Of course, as is the case with women, age of marriage is only one factor that contributes to the average man's earning power. But just as women need to be smart about putting their salaries to good use, so too do men need to practice the art of saving -- and in this regard, their female counterparts might actually teach them a thing or two. According to Vanguard's "How America Saves 2015" report, women are more likely to participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans than men. And across all income levels, the women surveyed managed to save at a rate of 7% to 16% higher than men.
Of course, higher earnings don't always correlate with higher savings, just as your age at marriage doesn't always dictate how much you'll earn in your lifetime. But whether you remain single forever or marry in your 20s, 30s, or beyond, the key is to prioritize retirement savings and make the most of whatever money you do bring in.
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