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How to Live With Your Partner in Unmarried BlissSubmitted by Flourish Wealth Management on October 26th, 2018
By: Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA
People are getting married less and living together more. This is true for all demographics, including retirement-age couples.
The choice to remarry among those over 50 has been replaced by the choice to instead, live together unmarried has increased by 75% between 2007 and 2016.[i] Baby Boomers continue to divorce at double the rate they did in 1990 (what’s called Gray Divorce for couples over 50).[ii] There is an increased social acceptance regarding living together without marrying for older couples. But the other reason is women not wanting to marry later in life.
Financial and Emotional Reasons
The majority of mature couples who live together have been divorced or widowed. Those past relationships come with a lifetime of financial, familial and medical history. They often have children from previous marriages. Individuals moving in together later in life may not have planned to remarry and have arranged their finances and estate with the expectation of being alone. The result is that they may be disinclined to rejoin financially with someone else and complicate things.
Women who married young, stayed home and took care of the home and children, as well as the brunt of overall caretaking younger in life, are showing less interest in marrying again. The reasons for that become more complicated over time, and for some it is financial. A divorced or widowed woman may be entitled to her former spouse’s Social Security, pensions, or possibly alimony.[iii] A new marriage may impact that as well as her Medicaid eligibility. A new spouse would have to take on the caretaking responsibility and possible financial burdens of their partner. If one or both partners need to go into long-term care, for example, the expense could be devastating for the other spouse. Depending on the state, a new spouse may have to take on debt as ‘community property’ regardless if it was incurred before the marriage. The other reasons may be more emotional, a formerly married woman may show a reluctance to remarry because of caregiving strains and the perceived loss of freedom.[iv] Especially if one cared for an ailing spouse in their previous relationship.
Benefits of Cohabitation
Regardless of marital status, there are health and financial benefits to cohabitation. Loneliness and a lack of social contact later in life can have real damaging health effects overall. In one study, those over the age of 60 who reported being lonely were at a 59% greater risk of mental and physical decline than their more social peers.[v] Finding someone you can connect with, at any age, can improve your life. The improvement may in part alleviate some financial stress, as the costs of living alone on a fixed income can also be challenging for a single person. Combining finances and having companionship can have great overall health benefits to a later in life couple. As women are 80 times more likely to be in poverty over the age of 65, living with a partner can have real financial benefit.
Good Communication is Key
Living together, unmarried, may for some, be the best way to reap the financial and health benefits without the more complex legal challenges that a late in life marriage can bring. Regardless of status, it is recommended for any couple to discuss eventualities, the ultimate estate plan, a designated power of attorney, health care directive and a current will. A house that is shared also needs to be factored in the estate plan. Conversations about long-term health complications and caretaker roles for adult children should also be happening. Like any successful relationship, good communication is key, but maybe all the more so for a late in life couple. Both partners are bringing a lifetime’s worth of variables without the legal coverage of marriage. For that reason, it is recommended that older cohabiting couples discuss their situations with a financial advisor or attorney and make arrangements that work best for them.