How Marriage Makes You Rich
Writing below, Renata Ellera Gomes has some unusually insightful observations. Her contempt for expensive weddings is a good example. I recently went to a wedding that must have cost in the many thousands. Yet the couple were economically fairly average.
I have never understood that sort of thing. My 4 weddings were all self-catered. The wedding breakfast for my most recent marriage was buckets of KFC -- eaten in my back yard. The kids present loved it! They understood KFC whereas French and Interntional cuisine would have baffled them.
I have been very successful economically so Renata has in me a perhaps extreme example of the sort of policy she favours
And my bride at the times saw things similarly. She also encouraged me to give her a cubic zirconia as an engagement ring. It looked like a large and expensive diamond but cost only $500. She felt that of you can't tell it from a diamond then it is as good as a diamond.
Another important point Renata makes below below is that an economically succesful father can give the son of a marriage good advice on how to get ahead. I remember taking half an hour once to tell my son how to invest successfully and safely in the stock market. I told him in half an hour what lots of people would give an arm to know. I simply told him what I did. He has not wholly followed that advice but he has done well economically anyhow. He already owned a large and beautiful house by the time he got married
Married people, especially men, are healthier and live longer than their single counterparts. A happy marriage can even increase your chances of surviving cancer.
Besides physical health, marriage seems to provide other layers of social protection, such as better economic prospects and a wider safety net.
Married individuals can acquire up to double the wealth of those who never marry. In the US, on average, young married men aged 28–30 make $15,900, and married men aged 44–46 make $18,800 more than their unmarried counterparts.
Married men also work more strategically towards higher salaries, are less likely to quit without having another job lined up, and enjoy either the advantages of a dual-income household or the benefits of having a stay-home wife.
In other words, marriage can make you richer than the average single person.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that marriage facilitates the acquiring of assets. As an institution, marriage was created primarily to solidify wealth and to guarantee its transfer to legitimate offspring, increasing a family’s prospects over time.
Marrying for love is a relatively recent idea. For most of human history, marriage was supposed to be a pragmatic decision. Companionship and respect between spouses were expected, but love was a bonus, a by-product of years of working together towards a common goal: survival and, if possible, the betterment of your family.
Now, for most people, the main point of marriage is not financial gain but happiness.
We expect marriage to provide us with a path to self-actualization. Marriage, as with all other aspects of our lives, it’s not about acquiring assets but about self-expression.
As we associate marriage with love and self-actualization and dissociate it with building and solidifying wealth, we make it easier for people to see getting married as optional. Finding a partner who can offer the kind of love we see in the movies and who can lead us toward self-actualization, after all, is incredibly hard. There are other ways to find happiness.
But there are not a lot of other ways to join forces with another adult in order to acquire assets and build wealth, and there’s a specific demographic that understands that too well: the rich.
Why the rich still get married
Marriage is another means through which the rich get richer and the poor, partially by not marrying, remain poor.
As overall marriage rates have declined in the US (as in other countries), from 72% of adults 18 or older in 1960 to 50% in 2016, we notice a different scenario when we sort the data by education.
In 1990, 60% of US adults with a high school diploma or less were married, in 2015 that number dropped to 50%. For college grads with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 69% were married in 1990, and 65% were married in 2015.
And higher education is positively correlated with higher earning potential.
When we take a look at class, more people in the top 10% are likely to be married than in any other economic tier. The explanation might be self-selection, meaning that individuals tend to marry inside the same economic and educational bracket. But what explains the fact that the wealthier and higher-educated continue to marry at the same rates as thirty years ago while marriage rates amongst the poor have dropped so dramatically?
Do married millionaires and doctors know something the rest of us don’t?
How the poor are discouraged from marrying
The poor are fooled into believing they have to be financially stable before getting married instead of using marriage as a tool to build wealth.
Financial illiteracy is partially to blame. Tax codes are extremely complex to navigate, and it often takes a small contingent of accountants and lawyers to take full advantage of the tax benefits offered to married couples (a resource the poor often can’t afford).
Our culture, however, is the biggest culprit. We have emphasized big expensive weddings over small celebrations, creating an illusion that getting married is expensive. We now believe a couple shouldn’t get married unless they can put a down payment on a house, a pre-requisite that’s not only unrealistic but sends millennials running for the hills (or to the nearest animal shelter to adopt yet another cat instead of looking for a mate).
Getting married used to be a mark of adulthood, now you have to be an adult to get married. And we have more prerequisites than ever before to “be an adult,” making that status harder and harder to obtain.
Stable two-parent households offer advantages to children, including higher grades and a higher chance of attending college in the future. College degrees are correlated with higher earning potential and a higher chance of getting married.
Throughout history, the rich have built and secured their wealth through advantageous marriages. Now, the primary motivation for marriage amongst the rich might not be existing family assets or political influence, but the rich still have the means and the inclination to teach their children (often by example) all about acquiring and expanding wealth as a couple.
In the long run, that knowledge can make all the difference, creating an even bigger class divide than what we have today.