Marital Patterns Portend Shifts for Financial Planning      

New research finds a shift in demographic trends that could have significant implications for financial planning.

The report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College finds that once the whole lifespan of “Mid Boomers” has elapsed, women in that cohort will be found to have spent less than half their adult years married – and that has significant financial implications.

The reasons for this shift are threefold. The researchers found that:

  • the average age of first marriage has risen by about 3 years;
  • more women never marry; and
  • more women get divorced.

The substantial increase in years spent either divorced or “not married” (i.e., prior to a first marriage or because the individual never got married) has reduced the percentage of years married, according to the report. This pattern shows up across vectors of race and educational attainment.

This change has significant implications for financial planning, according to the authors – who conclude that if women as a group now spend about half of their adult years unmarried, it probably makes sense to explore their savings and investment behavior separately from those of men.

The bottom line is that women as a group are going to spend less than half of their adult years as part of a married couple. This pattern reflects an increase in age at first marriage, a decline in marriage rates, and an increase in divorce.

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