Millennials are getting married later, so what does that mean for our financial planning?
You may think you know everything there is to know about millennials (avocados, renting, Instagram – you know the drill). But did you know we’re also suffering from an extreme bout of commitment phobia?
According to 2017 figures from the ONS (the latest data available), the average age at marriage for opposite-sex couples is 38 for men and 35.7 for women.
Same-sex couples, on average, tend to marry slightly later, with men typically marrying at 40.1 and women at 36.6.
That means that since 1970, the average age at which men and women marry has increased by 11 years, boosting the average marital age up from somewhere around the mid-twenties to the mid to late thirties.
While I imagine the endless choice of partner is partly to blame for Millennials and Gen Z being reluctant to walk down the aisle – alas, Tinder had not been invented in 1970 – in reality, couples marry later because of a host of socio-economic factors.
Factors leading to marriage delay include more women working, stagnant wages, leaving young people struggling to build up capital and, in turn, build a stable life.
There are also fewer societal expectations of exactly when marriage, children and cohabitation should happen.
Holding off on tying the knot is a situation that feels very ordinary among my peers and me.
‘Try before you buy’ seems like a sensible approach to finding a suitable partner. Many people my age have chosen to live with our long-term boyfriends and girlfriends out of wedlock – a step we perhaps wouldn’t have been able to take with such ease half a century ago.
But while screening partners for horrible home habits before making a huge commitment is a good idea, I imagine the real reason many young people live with their partners for years before they wed is that they can’t afford the alternative.
Renting a home for two, particularly in London and the South East, is no cheap feat.
Years spent shelling out on rent means homeownership gets pushed back. Anecdotally, homeownership seems to matter more to Millennials than marriage).
In turn, that can mean any other significant financial endeavours are delayed. After all, if we can’t get a deposit for a house together, we certainly can’t afford to spend thousands on even a ‘cheap’ wedding – and you can forget children; they cost a fortune.
Young people waiting to settle down will have a knock-on effect on their personal finances later down the line. Although I’d argue that Peter Pan-ism being lived by my peers and me will leave our lives enriched in terms of life experiences.
Realistically, there’s also a good chance we’ll be left financially more impoverished in the long run.
The inescapable problem with leaving the likes of marriage, or let’s say settling down ‘properly’, a decade or so later than we used to, is time.
A serious commitment like marriage often comes with buying property and having children. The later those steps are taken, the shorter the time on the other side to pay for them.
Housing is the obvious example – if a couple manages to get on the ladder by their mid-30s, they need to have paid off their mortgage in around 30 years to be able to retire without being saddled with extra debt. Retiring debt-free is becoming increasingly crucial as pensions become less generous and more onus is placed on the individual to put away the necessary savings for later life.
Then there’s the art of planning more generally.
A more extended financial plan is a better financial plan. While it’s possible to plan as an individual, that plan could quickly be up-ended to account for another person later down the line.
In addition, poor financial wellbeing is another phenomenon experienced by young people that is likely being exacerbated by not committing earlier.
Marriage, or even a long-term partnership, gives both parties a sense of financial stability that being single can’t for most people.
Unfortunately, the sheer expense of modern living and the necessity to save for retirement, invest money for the future, save for a deposit and earn enough money to persuade a bank to lend to you means feeling financially secure as a single person is a minefield.
While a partnership isn’t a magic bullet, planning with two salaries instead of one is a sure-fire way to feel more financially confident overnight.
Millennials and Gen Z at least have time on their hands; they’re living and working longer, which could help them overcome the extra time pressure they face by pushing back life’s big moments. And many of us will also be fortunate enough to inherit something from older generations that could give us a much-needed financial boost.
Fear of not having a proper financial plan shouldn’t be a reason to get married, and being single shouldn’t be seen as a financial death sentence.
My advice? Keep calm, start saving and start planning – that’s one ‘major life moment’. There’s no need to delay.