Transforming Ordinary into Extraordinary Marriages
Spring 2001

Marriage: Your Best Financial Strategy

It seems unfair that some people get all the lucky breaks. A CBS News Poll, conducted in February of this year found 84 percent of respondents earning more than $30,000 a year say they are very satisfied with their marriage while only 69 percent of those earning under $30,000 feel they are very satisfied.

It may be difficult to feel happy about your marriage when you feel poor. Or maybe the relationship between marital happiness and financial wealth is the other way around, that marital happiness and the choices you make determine your chance of accumulating wealth.

There are at least two ways that being married helps couples accumulate wealth. Married people make more money and keep more money. According to "The Case for Marriage" co-authors, Waite and Gallagher: "Husbands earn at least ten percent more, and perhaps as high as 40 percent more than similar single men." Married men earn more both because they work longer hours, and because they produce more than single men with similar work and education histories.

Slowly, with changes in increased education and full time work, married women's incomes are catching up to their husbands although gender differentials still remain. According to an analysis by Richard B. Freeman, a Harvard economist, of data from the most recent federal population survey, 30 % of working wives aged 20s to 60s - are now paid more than their husbands.

Married couples keep more money according to Waite & Gallagher,"…the longer you're married the wealthier you are." One reason: while two cannot live as cheaply as one, married adults spend less to live together than two single adults living apart and maintaining similar lifestyles.

Marriage may be helpful when it comes to managing money, At any given income level, married couples are much less likely to experience "economic hardship"-that is, to sometimes lack the money to pay bills. Like other financial partnerships, marriage allows individuals to specialize and trade goods over time, making each partner more productive. Higher production out-side the home combined with more in-home production (shopping for bargains, home-cooked meals, arguing with insurance companies) translates into more savings to invest for the future. Marriage partners also encourage each other's good spending habits and discourage impulse purchases.

Wealth and the Happily Married

Instead of just envying those who seem to get richer in love and money, the rest of us can learn something from how those in extraordinary marriages handle money. Several behavioral studies of Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth and Millionaires Next Door have found similar strategies used by your ordinary neighbor next door who is getting rich slowly. These findings translate into tips for couples who want to decrease money fights and increase wealth.

Money the #1 reason for divorce?

Popular folklore gives money conflict as the chief reason for divorce. However, the research finding that divorcing couples mention money in the top five if not the first of all conflict areas might be more the results of what memory researchers call "the recency effect," where people tend to recall the most recent events in their life. It makes sense that the last fights divorcing couples have as they exit their marriages are about money as they argue about the division of bank accounts, furniture, or 401K's.

When married couples argue about money and emotions run high they are talking about more than money.

To decrease arguments about money:

Teaching Your Children to Manage Money

Start teaching your children money management skills when they are old enough to count. School-aged children should have a small allowance so they have money of their own. It may or may not be tied to the completion of chores.


Our audiotape series, Secrets of Extraordinary Marriages, covers conflict and marital sit-downs.

Olivia Mellon. Money Harmony
Ric Edelman. Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth
Stanley & Danko. The Millionaire Next Door

Copyright 2001 Drs. Susan & Philip Robison. Feel free to copy and reproduce as long as you print with contact information:

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