“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 Mode, Time to Reflect and Be Like Neil Young. Follow Dennis on Twitter @dmfrie.