Most people who have never been married peg their relationship status to the fact they haven’t found the right person yet, but there’s more to that decision than feelings. Finances play a huge role in Americans’ decision to marry.
Actually, there are nearly as many unmarried Americans who say they’re still looking for their future partner as there are unmarried people who say they’re not financially prepared for the commitment, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center. The report focuses on Americans ages 25 and older who have never married, and the nationally representative survey results weighted to represent that population, about 30% said they haven’t found a person with the qualities they want in a spouse. Nearly the same share (27%) said they’re financially not ready for marriage (although the study notes that unmarried doesn’t necessarily mean without a life partner). The report contrasts survey results with U.S. Census figures from the 2012 American Community Survey, for comparison.
In 2012, about 20% of Americans 25 or older had never been married, way up from 9% in 1960, according to the census. A lot has changed in those 52 years, particularly the economic landscape. Unmarried women ages 25 to 34 place a high value in finding a spouse with a steady job (78% describe it as “very important”), but only 82% of men in that age group were in the workforce in 2012 (it was 93% in 1960).
Americans have become increasingly educated, but they aren’t necessarily earning more (the median hourly wage, adjusted for inflation, has declined 20% since 1980 for men ages 25 to 34, the report noted). At the same time, people are taking on more debt to get their degrees. Student loan debt is the second-largest type of consumer debt, surpassed only by mortgage debt, and the majority of college students these days graduate with some education debt. Student loans are among the first financial priorities young adults deal with, affecting how much they can save and spend upon earning their first paychecks.
The report didn’t directly tie student loan debt to marriage rates, but it’s a fair association. It’s easy to find consumers who are in committed relationships but are worried about taking on or bringing debt into a marriage — just browse the personal finance section of Reddit. This is one of many reasons some experts recommend getting rid of education debt as soon as possible, because those monthly payments can hold you back from moving forward financially. Debt costs a lot of money — you can figure out how much by using the lifetime cost of debt calculator — but each financial situation requires a plan tailored to a consumer’s needs. Debt can also have a major impact on your credit score if you miss payments or over-extend yourself. You can see how debt is affecting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
When you’re figuring out how to get out of debt, consider a few strategies so you can decide what works best for you, your family and your future.
More on Student Loans:
- How Student Loans Can Impact Your Credit
- A Credit Guide for College Graduates
- Strategies for Paying Off Student Loan Debt