The Bottom Line on Marriage

by John R. Ingisano, CLU

“Married People Healthier than Singles,” proclaimed an Associated Press headline in December 2004.

All the tongue-in-cheek debates about Mars vs. Venus aside, most people enjoy traveling down the road of life as a couple. The stability and routine of married life generally lead to prosperity and longevity. They also bring financial responsibilities.

Wealth is one benefit of marriage. Married people, in general, are more prosperous. The U.S. Census Bureau reports median household income in the United States in 2006 was $43,318.

For single men, it was $40,668; for single women, $30,724.

Plus, the median net worth of married couples is reported to be $91,218.

For singles, it stands at less than a third of that: $24,659 for men and $23,028 for women. This is due in part to dual incomes, but also to the ability to engage in long-range planning.

Health is another benefit. The National Center for Health Statistics reveals that, in every age category, married men and women report fewer incidences of poor health.

Between ages 18 and 44, according to the study, only 4.5% of married people reported poor health. By contrast, 14.1% of widowed individuals and 10.6% of divorced or separated men and women rated their health as poor.

Men in general fare well when married — eating healthier and feeling better. Women are healthier in marriage, too, but it has much to do with the quality of their relationships.

The bottom line: Married people are generally healthier and wealthier.

Marriage, however, also carries with it a financial burden. If you are married and have a family, you need to provide for and protect your loved ones in case something happens to you. Plus, you need to provide for two people for what you hope will be a long and healthy retirement.
What to do? Here are three steps:

1. Plan for a long life together. That means saving for retirement. Make maximum contributions to IRAs and take advantage of 401(k) plans at work.

2. Plan for your spouse for after you are gone. If you die prematurely, the full financial burden of maintaining a household and perhaps raising children falls on your spouse. Make sure you have adequate life insurance to help your spouse meet his or her ongoing responsibilities. If you are a married man, your wife will likely outlive you. That significantly increases your need for life insurance.

 3. Plan for illness. There is no substitute for quality health and disability income coverage. This protects everything that you work for over the years. Plus, learn more about long-term care insurance, which can protect assets for your spouse and heirs if you have to move to a nursing facility or require extended home care. 
The bottom line: If you are married, enjoy the many personal benefits the wedded state brings, but be sure you take these basic steps to protect your financial security and that of your family.

(This article is reprinted with permission from Columbia magazine, the monthly magazine of the Knights of Columbia. For more information on financial issues, visit the Knights of Columbus insurance  website)

is a financial writer and business consultant specializing in money management, insurance and retirement planning. He can be contacted at

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