This forum just wouldn’t be complete without a marriage thread.
Personally, I am not married nor do I ever plan on marrying. I have been with my gf for a little over 6 years. In the beginning of our relationship, I wasn’t necessarily anti-marriage, but my views evolved fairly early on, within the first year of the relationship. At the time, there was definitely some friction around this topic, but now, this is not an issue anymore.
Main reasons for not being married:
Taxes - although to be honest, I have never completed our tax returns as married, filing jointly just for comparison purposes, I do believe that at our income level (~$200k gross combined), taxes would be higher if we were married. This penalty would only grow larger as our incomes increase and we have children
Wedding costs - A diamond ring + even a modest wedding costs a significant amount of money. Sure, there are many ways to save money on costs, or even get married without having an actual wedding. Hey, let’s start our lives together! Ok, but let’s spend all of our money on the first day
Retirement savings - This isn’t really an issue at the present time due to our current situation, but this is something that will be an issue in a few years. The phase-out limits for IRAs are different if you are single vs. if you are married. The married rate is not 2x the single rate! Same is true for a lot of tax credits.
In case of separation - Obviously nobody goes into a relationship expecting to break up, but something shit happens. You don’t buy car insurance because you expect to have a car accident, but you have it just in case one does happen. Not being married helps avoid nasty divorces, alimony, etc.
Maybe later on in life, once we are past our prime earning years, we would consider marriage if it was clearly beneficial for us. I am sure there are many other reasons besides the ones I listed for not being married. There are many reasons to get married as well.
There are a decent number of financial considerations that one can point to to make marriage seem like a bad deal, but statistically speaking, married men make more than single men and married couples make more than single couples. But kids are a huge factor as well. Do you have kids? Are you planning to have kids? If so, would you consider getting married for their benefit?
Personally, I think the first 3 reasons you list are quite minuscule in the grand scheme of things. If you’re the type of person that isn’t interested in being married anyway, I think that should probably be the biggest reason not to do it. Who wants to marry someone that doesn’t want to be married? If my significant other said they didn’t want to get married and gave me those 3 reasons why, I would laugh at them. Then, I would break up with them because of the 4th reason. Uh, so you don’t plan on leaving, but, you know, “shit happens.” Yeah, and the whole idea of commitment is that you promise to stick around through that shit! If getting married is the only way to guarantee you won’t leave me when “shit happens” then it’s marriage or GTFO!
Correlation does not equal causation. It’s unlikely that a man is going to get a promotion at work or pay increase solely because of his marital status. “Well, Jim, your sales numbers are through the roof, and heck of a lot better than Tommy’s but Tommy is married and you’re single so we’re giving him the promotion.”
If the statistics you mention are true, then it’s more likely that the kind of man who is dedicated and hardworking enough to pursue high paying careers is also the same kind of man who seeks similar dedication in his family.
Another factor might be that a man in a high paying career is dating women in high paying careers and those women are more interested in marriage and this type of man is more pressured into it.
Or possibly the man who gets married is more likely to have children (perhaps got married after the pregnancy) and that man is more motivated to work harder to pay for his family, so he earns more money.
Although I would like it if the statistic were true so we could start a movement. SINGLE MEN MAKE 70 CENTS ON THE DOLLAR FOR EVERY MARRIED MAN DOING THE SAME JOB! #PayGap
Oh, obviously it’s not anywhere near as simple as get married -> make more money. There are all kinds of reasons that married men/couples make more. Nasheed’s household already makes $200k. He doesn’t need to get married.
Unfortunately, our society has gotten away from stressing all the positive outcomes there are from marriage. You pretty much see smarter people gravitating toward marriage and dumber people gravitating away from it these days. Would anyone ever recommend to the average Joe or Sally on the street that they are better off NOT getting married before having a kid? I would hope not.
Society awards a lot of financial and legal advantages to married couples that can negate any marriage penalty in income taxes:
Healthcare benefits - when married one can be on the spouse’s health insurance. If your employer offers a similar benefit to domestic partners you still have to pay taxes on the portion the employer is paying for your partner.
Inheritance - there is an exemption for married partners not to pay any taxes
Legal - though it is possible to recreate with health care and legal proxies the automatic convenience being married, such as hospital visitations, it is expensive and complex to do so.
Expanding on the legal side a bit - I think there are two issues with this:
Cost: it’s probably mostly possible to replicate “marriage” with enough paperwork, but that’s not going to be cheap. And this isn’t going to be something you can do on your own if you want it done right. An imperfect will might work if you’re married, but not if you’re not married.
Access: imagine your gf is in the hospital and only family is being allowed in. If you say “she’s my wife”, they’re going to let you in to see her. If you say “we’re not related, but here’s 100 pages of legal documents showing I have permission to visit her as if I was family”, they’ll probably tell you to wait until their lawyers review it next week. Obviously you can lie, but that could have repercussions.
IANAL. In the event that someone doesn’t make out a will before they die, a surviving spouse would be first in line to inherit any assets that would have to go through probate. A surviving SO would have no legal standing to anything in the estate.
There are many pros and cons IMO, many of them you won’t know of until they affect you.
When you have kids, not being married is a pain in the rear. More forms to file with schools, hospitals, etc.
Unmarried couples will pay more for auto and home insurance due to statistics on claims from married vs. single.
You can get fast-tracked for citizenship (not only US but other countries too if you marry someone with dual citizenship).
State estate tax exemptions for unmarried couples is not the $5M it is for federal estates so tax may be owed that married couple would never pay.
IIRC you cannot rollover the IRA of a deceased person other than your spouse forcing you to take distributions immediately.
pension plans (especially old ones like ours) may not accept domestic partners for survivor benefits
social security spouse benefit (where you get your spouse SS benefits instead of yours) could matter for couples with very different incomes/SS benefits. No such option for domestic partners.
many health insurance plans do not work with domestic partners for employee + 1 coverage (which is cheaper than two separate policies usually)
unmarried couples are subject to gift tax limit ($14k/yr) unlike married couple who can give any amount to each other. So buy your SO a new car or pay their return to college tutition, and you may owe gift tax on it.
Now the list of marriage penalty probably has a ton of counter arguments but I guess it depends on your personal situation more than most realize.
Full disclosure: married 19 yrs ago, now with 3 kids.
Before kids it’s a lot less clear. If both of you work, there’s usually a marriage penalty in terms of total income tax, and it’s bigger the more equal and larger your incomes are. Once you plan to have kids, it’s a lot easier Shandril says, plus it’s often the case that one of you will work less or not at all while the kids are little, and then the economics shift too as well as the logistics side.
Maybe I’m just not thinking cheap enough - divorce your wife so she can qualify for section 8 and food stamps and free healthcare as a single mom with kids.
One way where being married has been helpful is in Obamacare subsidy calculations. Your entitlement to subsidies, cost-sharing provisions, and medicaid are based on family size. Married with kids, our family size is 5. In Ohio, that means an income of 57k qualifies the kids for medicaid. In a state with less aggressive Medicaid expansion, it qualifies for Silver 83 plans, which are part of the cost-sharing subsidies (and can save serious dough).
@Shandril You are absolutely correct that kids and health insurance could be potential drawbacks. We are not there yet, although we will have kids at some point in the next few years.
The other points you list, such as the IRA rollover, pension plans, social security, etc. are all items that can be easily addressed after the peak earning years are over and you are retiring. At least under the current system, that seems to be the most advantageous option.
Before the 1997 tax bill, there was a generally unambiguous “marriage penalty” across most income levels. After 1997, the situation grow more complex. Many married taxpayers–especially those with different incomes levels–enjoy a “marriage bonus”.
If one spouse gets an international assignment (nice expat deal), the other spouse can get a spousal visa and travel with the one that gets the work visa. In many countries (not all) the accompanying spouse even gets the right to work in the foreign country on the spousal visa. If not married, you are SOL. Significant others aren’t entitled to a visa and the likely result is one person stays behind and the relationship ends (or both stay behind and you give up a great opportunity).
On a related note, one benefit of a “marriage” is the ability to register at lots of stores and get a kickback on gifts people buy for you. When we moved once and needed to furnish our new house, we registered for all of the items we needed to furnish the house and then went and bought them all for ourselves from our registry. Saved a bit of money that way as part of the FWF way. Of course you don’t actually have to be married or could have been married for years to take advantage of this.
I’ve been married for 10 years and honestly not sure we would have stuck it out together if we didn’t have that marriage tie. For better or worse, and we have become much happier together over the last few years. I’d say that’s a benefit to marriage.
I can think of tons of small reasons for being married. Many mentioned here already. Here’s a small one you wouldn’t think of. When I do my credit card rewards for the wife’s accounts, the rep always has to get her permission for me to speak on her behalf. Recently while booking our 10 year anniversary to Hyatt Cancun with our free rewards nights, we booked for 4 nights on two of our cards. I explained my wife and I were booking with our 2 awards nights for each of our cards Hyatt cards and they didn’t even ask to talk to her so it made the process that much simpler. Society makes things so much easier for married couples than SO’s and this is only one small example. The ease of life’s little processes start to add up and many have financial benefits tied into them. The example of hospital visitation is a big one though. It would suck to have to argue with the hospital in a critical emergency to see my SO of 20 years just because we weren’t technically married.
At the time. I pulled her into a higher bracket, and then at the end of the year, we got an unexpected bonus, which pushed us into the next bracket. If we weren’t married, she would have remained in the lower bracket, and I would have remained in my bracket. I guess it’s a good problem to have, and not much you can do with unexpected bonuses, but still–hardly a marriage bonus.
While a spouse with lower income may not be able to qualify for certain government assistance programs that they might otherwise be able to if they are single, you can always prepare a tax return MFS (married filing separately) to see if you come out ahead that way. I heard only may be 10-15% of married filers would benefit from this. If you don’t come out ahead, consider that MFJ provides you with a financial benefit for tax filing.
Also, a working spouse can contribute and max out a non working spouse’s ROTH/IRA where if they were single they could only contribute up to their earned income. This is a benefit for SAH parents, for example.