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Money and marriage

“Money, sex and children will be your biggest stress points,” said my father-in-law over 30 years ago as my wife and I were about to get married.  At least that is what I remember. Following are a few points I found interesting from  The State of our Unions, a study done on marriage in America at the University of Virginia in 2009. The report contains tons of data and lots of charts if you are interested.  After each point, I make a little comment.

The Great Recession’s Silver Lining by W. Bradford Wilcox

  1. “Credit card debt is corrosive in marriage, whereas shared financial assets sweeten the ties that bind couples together.” 17
    I wonder if this is a reason that some couples that have been married for a long time suddenly divorce.  When the financial rewards are not there, it is easier to walk away?
  2. “Husbands are significantly less happy in their marriages, and more likely to contemplate divorce, when their wives take the lead in breadwinning.” 19 “more concentrated among working class and poor men” 19 “dramatically higher rates of divorce among those without college degrees” 20
    I guess this does not surprise me although most of my friends are in the more educated group. Few men seem to be able to handle  the wife being the bread winner (would be hard for me as well).  I give a lot of credit to my brother-in-law who retired from the military to stay at home and take care of the kids while his wife continued her military career.

Bank ON IT: Thrifty Couples Are the happiest by Jeffrey Dew

  1. “Consumer debt plays a powerful role in eroding the quality of married life.” 24
    Debt seems to be a significant reason people do not go into missions service!
  2. “When individuals feel that their spouse does not handle money well, they report lower levels of marital happiness.” 26  “Only extramarital affairs and alcohol/drug abuse were stronger predictors of divorce.” 27
    I am so blessed by a wife who handles money well and is not a shopper.
  3. Compared to other topics, “financial disagreements last longer, are more salient to couples, and generate more negative conflict tactics, such as yelling or hitting, especially among husbands.” 27
    Sounds painful.  We have had small disagreements but I think by avoiding debt, this has not been a huge pressure point. I need to do a better job at keeping to a budget.  My wife finds it harder than me to spend money!

Marriage and the great recession Alex Roberts

“Marriage, in short, has become less economically necessary (though it remains economically advantageous in most cases).” 42

Why, you might ask?

    • Prevalence of marriage has declined significantly in recent history.
    • Divorce rate has increased tremendously. 42
    • Number of cohabiting couples has increased roughly sixteen-fold since 1960. 45
    • Many of those couples that would once have delayed marriage or divorce due to an economic downturn are now cohabiting 46


  • “Marriage . . . creates substantial economic benefits for families. Living apart, the parents must earn $7,090 or 39 percent more to avoid poverty.” 47
    • Those married saw income increases of 50 to 100 percent, and net wealth increases of about 400 to 600 percent.
    • Continuously married households had about double the income and four times the net worth of the continuously divorced and never-married 48

If anyone is thinking that living together is the way to get the best of both worlds, my next post will be on that topic and the data does not look good.

Question: How has money put pressure on your marriage?  What would you do differently?

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