New Study: Marriage Boosts Retirement Security

Do I have enough to retire? Countless New Yorkers ask their financial advisers, estate planning attorneys, and other professionals that very question each and every day. There is no one-size-fits-all response, as retirement is a personal matter based on individual expectations, goals, and perspective.

Mountains of pages have been written about how much money you should have before retiring and what you should do with it. Perspectives abound.

Interestingly, there is less disagreement about general characteristics that make one more or less likely to be financially secure enough to retire. For example, the Wall Street Journal pointed to a new study last week which found that married couples are far better positioned to make the leap and officially enter retirement.

Couples Save More
Fights about money are common. Many relationships are made of one partner who is more frugal than the other, and disagreements about what to buy and when to buy it are persistent. The frugal partner in the relationship might daydream about the amount of money that they could save if they were on their own, without the compromises necessary for any healthy relationship.

But according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), on a system-wide scale, married couples are significantly better prepared for retirement than single individuals.

According to the NBER study, married couples who may be considering retiring (between 65 and 69 years old) on average have a nine-times larger nest egg than their single counterparts. That “nest egg” includes IRAs, 401(k)s, savings, and investments for the purposes of the study. Excluded were housing wealth and available Social Security.

The disparity is even more stark in raw numbers. In 2008 (the year that the study data was culled) married couples had saved, on average, $111,600. That compared to only $12,500 in savings for singles.

The Causes
The NBER did not delve into actual causation. But many different ideas are speculated about regarding the root reason for this disparity. For example, single parties are unable to take advantage of the “economies of scale” that allow married couples to pool resources and split costs that each would otherwise have to pay wholly on their own.

Divorce is also a costly endeavor, and it often takes years before divorced partners have the same income level they did during the marriage. Similarly, single parties are usually hit harder by tough economic times or catastrophic events. Whereas a couple can rely on one another for aid during difficult times, a single party may be decimated, requiring years (or decades) to deal with all of the financial ramifications.

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