Marriage Truth Bomb$
Picture the scene.
I'm at an offsite office party somewhere downtown, eating, drinking and chatting with co-workers.
A group of 4 or 5 of us are assembled at a small table making fun of each other in between talking about life.
One of my colleagues begins discussing her impending divorce. Another lends his support--having gone through a couple of divorces himself--by assuring her of the positive things she can expect to experience when the legal proceedings are final.
"You'll be better off. You'll have more peace. And you'll find that you'll have more money," he says.
There's something about "more money" combined with "you'll have" that grabs my attention, so I immediately jump in, "Wait. What? What do you mean she'll have more money?"
She chimes in to confirm what he predicted, "Yeah. I already do."
You know how you know something, but that thing doesn't hit home until someone says it in a way you've never heard it said before, then all of a sudden it's resonating for the first time?
That's the moment I had when I heard "You'll have more money."
There are undoubtedly a number of benefits that spring from marriage. Some minor. Some major. And some that will make the difference between happily ever after and divorce.
From everything I know from studies, surveys, written pieces, my life with formally married parents, and conversations among married people, money is so critical that it's among the top 3 reasons why marriages end. Perhaps it's even the top 2, tied with a lack of communication or infidelity. One old adage implies the importance of money with a warning, "Don't mess with my man or my money. And not in that order."
So when I talk about my desire to one day marry, there's a lot behind that statement.
From household chores to planning for retirement and everything in between, my statement is heavily-loaded with idealism. I call scenarios that don't match my vision of what's best one of three things: (1) compromise, (2) promotion (where what I think is best isn't--there's something better), or (3) demotion (where ground is clearly lost).
In my world of best case scenarios, when I think of marriage, I think of two money centers merging to build wealth, not to destroy it.
My optimistic self has it all figured out. Living expenses will decrease since they're split, tax incentives will boost our coffer, and we'll retain even more money by sharing expenses like food, entertainment, and vacations, all things I currently pay for on my own. Although expenses double, I'd still expect some degree of savings because of economies of scale. The more you buy, the less you pay in unit cost. That cost split between two people would be less than the cost paid by one.
What I never factor is a spouse who has poor spending and saving habits, a false sense of abundance when there are suddenly two incomes instead of one, bad investments, materialism, damaged credit, student loans, expensive taste, a bleek financial future (even in the presence of good earnings), and financial infidelity, for starters.
I recently read a comment posted in response to an article published on a popular blog for men.
The commenter said the real reason why men don't want to marry is because they don't want to go broke. His point was obviously generalized, and I imagine oversimplified as well, but I assumed he was talking about going broke if the marriage ended. But maybe he wasn't talking about an end. Maybe he was talking about smack dab in the middle, because as we know, there are ways to go broke while in a marriage, while earning dual incomes, while splitting expenses, while in good health, and while having no children.
I saw the conversation between my co-workers as a strong reminder and universal warning: You may not get wealthier when you marry. You may get poorer.
Every union brings it's own unique circumstances to the relationship. I know for at least two friends, male and female, one since divorced, that marriage has been (and was) a financial boost for different reasons--none having anything to do with either being exploitative (a.k.a. a gold-digger).
I'm glad I was at the table that day listening because it blew my mind in that it heightened my resolve to have conversations early-on about financial standings, histories, philosophies, goals, and activities, so that my marriage will be, among other things, an exercise in building sustainable wealth.
Photo credit: Jesse! S? via CC Flickr