NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Some 34% of Millennials aged 25 to 34 who have never been married are more likely than those 35 and up (20%) to cite lack of financial security as the main reason they've never tied the knot, according to a Pew study. But that absence of stable financial footing may not be their own fault; a lot of it, experts say, has to do with their parents' hardships.
“Watching their parents work through challenging financial times and worsening situations has left a permanent mark on this generation and can be seen in their cautious approach to marriage and finances,” said Jeff Cruttenden, co-founder and chief operating officer with Acorns, a personal finance app that automatically saves loose change.
Although a UBS report found that 48% of Millennials cite financial freedom as the single most important factor of success and say that a household income of $220,000 defines success, 21% are pre-occupied with their parent’s financial situation.
“In the aftermath of the recession, many Millennials watched as their parents’ life savings were wiped out,” Cruttenden told MainStreet. “In addition to carrying their own financial burden, many have had to take on financial responsibility for their parents as well.”
Not only are Millennials delaying marriage for various economic reasons, they’re also the most likely generation not to get married at all. When reaching their mid-40s to mid-50s, some 25% are likely to have never been married.
“The declining marriage rate doesn’t mean they aren’t acting married,” Cruttenden said. “Many Millennial couples are opting to live with each other and have children but do so without the legal ties. To us, this indicates that Millennials place more importance on health and happiness premiums than adhering to societal expectations.”
The study further found that traditional gender roles are becoming obsolete. Some 25% of men with a high school education or less are much more likely than men with advanced degrees (14%) to have never married. Indeed, an educational base has an exponential effect on marriage prospects and ultimate wealth accumulation.
“The marriage prospects of highly educated, high-earning women have improved since the 1980s and the divorce rates have fallen, but what makes marriage more rewarding and wealth-producing for the educated now make it less attainable and risky for uneducated workers,” said Stephanie Coontz, professor with Evergreen State College and author of Marriage: A History (Penguin Books, 2005).
A significant income gap between two people, however, can lead to power struggles within romantic relationships. Some 44% of couples said they felt their marriage was unequal and eventually that inequality led to divorce, according to a National Fatherhood Initiative survey.
“By delaying marriage until they find a suitable and compatible partner, Millennials are able to avoid a lot of the common financial obstacles married couples face,” said Cruttenden.
Those obstacles include finding someone who’s financially compatible, a lack of steady employment, age and wealth generation.
“Millennial unemployment rates have been higher and they have more debt in the form of student loans,” Cruttenden said. “Before focusing on building a life with their significant other, they prefer addressing debt and building a solid financial foundation.“
—Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley