Say Yes

Dennis Friedman

“I DON’T GET IT.” That’s what my friend said when I told him I would consider marrying my significant other.

“Why do you feel you need to get married?” he continued. “You’re both in your 60s. You’re not going to have any children. There’s no reason you should get married. If you did, you would make the relationship more complicated. You both probably would want a prenuptial agreement protecting your assets. That, in itself, could create some hard feelings. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Is he right? Is marriage unnecessary for an older single person who’s retired or close to it?

According to the Institute of Family Studies, “Among those ages 18 to 64, the share of currently-married adults has decreased consistently, reaching a record low of 48.6% in 2016, when the most recent Census data was available. In contrast, the share among adults ages 65 and older has increased slightly over the past five decades. As a result, adults ages 65 and older became more likely than younger adults to be married in the mid-2000s, and in 2016, a majority of older adults were married.” One reason for the rise of married older adults: People are living longer, so there are fewer widowed adults.

Maybe, for many older adults, there’s no reason to get married. Living together may indeed be the right financial answer. Let’s say your spouse passed away and you’ll be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits at age 60. You would lose those benefits if you remarry before age 60. If your previous marriage had ended in divorce, remarriage might also end alimony payments.

Marriage means different things to different people. Rachel, my significant other, sees marriage as a boat. Couples spend their days traveling up and down the waterways, with a harbor to come home to. That harbor is marriage, full of warmth and sweetness. Marriage is more of a state of mind for Rachel.

When I think of us getting married, I see it more as a business transaction that will bring greater happiness and security to our relationship. I’m six years older than Rachel. I want her to quit work at age 65, so we can travel more. I will be 71 years old. I feel we should travel while we’re still healthy.

For us to do so, she needs to feel financially secure about retiring at age 65. My Social Security benefit will be significantly larger than Rachel’s. If we got married, she would be eligible for a larger survivor benefit after my death. Hopefully, that would make her feel more financially secure.

And I would get what I’m looking for, more time for us to travel the world together. I see it as a win-win proposition for both of us.

My friend might be right that marriage is not for everyone. After listening to Rachel’s views about marriage, I do know marriage is not age-related. As Rachel would say, thinking of marriage can make you feel young again—no matter what your age.

Dennis Friedman retired at age 58 from Boeing Aerospace Company. He enjoys reading and writing about personal finance. His previous articles include Subtraction ModeTime to Reflect and Be Like Neil Young. Follow Dennis on Twitter @dmfrie.

Do you enjoy HumbleDollar? Please support our work with a donation. Want to receive daily email alerts about new articles? Click here. How about getting our newsletter? Sign up now.

Browse Articles

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Langston Holland
Langston Holland
4 years ago

Financial, emotional, etc. are all worthy of consideration, but in my opinion marriage means you declare to your spouse, your friends, the world and even to God that you are going to spend the remainder of your life putting their happiness and well-being above your own. Imagine someone choosing to spend everything they are, everything they’ve learned, everything they’ve worked for and saved – for the primary purpose of making the rest of your life as full of joy as possible. Consider doing this for her. Sounds like a one-way street and it is in a way, but the long-term reward is the greatest available in this life in my experience.

Then again, it’s reasonable to hedge your bet and stick with a bond type relationship, but if you really want a shot at getting rich – you’re going to have to buy in, take the risk and ride out the rough places with patience knowing that the trend is biased upward. I want an invitation if you go for it! 🙂

4 years ago

Good for you. There’s more to marriage than dollars and cents. Mazel tov!

Free Market Apologist
Free Market Apologist
4 years ago

Being married generally simplifies estate planning and inheritance. For same-sex couples it may be the only effective way to ensure that your partner receives benefits.

Free Newsletter