Over the past few decades, the percentage of unmarried senior couples who are cohabitating has risen significantly. In fact, between 2000 and 2006 there was a 50 percent increase in the number of Americans aged 50 and older living in such arrangements, with the figure skyrocketing to about 1.8 million, according to recent census data. Why are seniors opting to forgo marriage? Even thoughlove may be strong, there's a variety of reasons, from personal to financial, why many seniors are taking a pass on marriage. Here are some of the most common.
THE FAIRYTALE IS OVER
By the time many people reach their senior years, they've already been married and either believe the fairytale is a myth or feel as though they've had their one true love. "At this point in their life they have no desire to be legally attached to anyone nor feel the need to be married in order to feel secure in the relationship," says Kevin Darne, author of "My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany)," a book about how to approach relationships with complete awareness. "Sharing a life with someone does not require a legal document. Companionship is enough for many seniors."
PENSION OR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
In some cases, a person may have a deceased spouse who left them with pension or Social Security benefits, Darne explains. "Getting married again might affect the amount of money the survivor receives," said Darne, adding that cohabitating rather than marrying may make more financial sense in such cases. According to the Social Security Administration, in general, you cannot receive survivor's benefits if you remarry before age 60 unless the latter marriage ends, whether by death, divorce, or annulment. But if you remarry after age 60 (50 if disabled), it is still possible to get the benefits from your former spouse.
CHILDREN'S AND GRANDCHILDREN'S INHERITANCE
Many seniors also hold off on remarrying to protect their assets, which they intend to pass on to children or grandchildren after death. "Although there are legal protections that a remarried senior could take, such as creating trusts, it is easier not to get married," Darne says, adding that it's not unusual for seniors to be frugal and seek to avoid the cost of an attorney to change wills, revise trusts, or create a prenuptial agreement.
OBJECTIONS OF LOVED ONES
It's not uncommon for some seniors to forgo remarrying based on the wishes of their adult children, Darne says. "There are times when adult children dislike who their elderly parent is dating so much that marriage is taken off the table," he explains. "In order to keep peace in the family and alleviate fears of them being taken advantage of, many seniors chose not to remarry."
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS IS NOT A NEW IDEA
The idea of having "friends with benefits" has existed for long before the term was formally coined to describe sex between friends, Darne says. "Many of us grew up with a single granny, grandfather, auntie, or uncle who had someone that was introduced to us as their friend," he points out. "Some seniors prefer to keep their love life on the down-low with respect to their family, friends, acquaintances, and those in their church or community."
THE HIGH COST OF DIVORCE
A divorce can be extremely costly in many states, particularly once lawyers get involved. Some attorneys charge between $7,500 to $12,500 for a full divorce proceeding that involves significant asset disputes between the spouse, explained David Reischer, an attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com. "The financial costs of a failed marriage are enormous," said Reischer, who has many clients that have opted to skip marriage based on these concerns.
After someone has had a bad experience with marriage, they may be hesitant to do it again, says dating and relationship coach Amy Schoen, creator of the site MotivatedtoMarry.com. "Perhaps they have been married once or even twice with only divorce as the end result. So, there are trust factors," explained Schoen, who has many baby boomer clients.
THE CONFINES OF MARRIAGE
It's not only young people who are scared by commitment. Even some seniors don't want to have to deal with the confines of marriage, says Schoen of MotivatedtoMarry.com. "I have a female client in her mid-60s who has been in an exclusive relationship with a man for a year and sees that he enjoys his freedom and does not want to be hemmed in by a relationship," Schoen said. "It's a matter of feeling like he is in control of his life."
HEALTH CARE CONCERNS
If one of the individuals is on a program such as Medicaid, the likelihood of being kicked off the program is very high if they decide to get married, said Marie McKinney of The Hive Law, Atlanta Divorce Attorneys. "The assets of the non-applying spouse are considered because it's assumed that they will be helping in the care of the other," McKinney explained. "However, that isn't always the case. And even worse, sometimes the extra income is just enough to disqualify you."
PERCEPTION OF MARRIAGE PENALTY TAX
In the past, a married couple received less of a standard tax deduction than two single people cohabitating, explained Darne, author of "My Cat Won't Bark." "Recently this has been changed and now married and single people cohabitating have fairly equal deductions," Darne said. "However being married makes both people legally responsible for jointly filed income taxes owed."
CREDIT RATING PROTECTION
Commingling finances can have a variety of consequences, including impacting a good credit score if one partner has less than stellar credit. "It can be messy commingling finances," said Schoen of MotivatedtoMarry.com.
FEAR OF BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR PARTNER'S MEDICAL EXPENSES
It's no secret that as we age, our medical expenses almost always increase, and quite significantly at that, particularly when a catastrophic or long-term illness occurs. Seniors often decide not to remarry in order to avoid being responsible for the burden of their significant other's healthcare expenses.
REMARRIAGE MAY END ALIMONY PAYMENTS
In some cases, getting remarried can spell the end of any alimony payments one may be receiving from a previous relationship. Some divorce decrees may state otherwise, but often, remarrying can put such income at risk.
IMPACT ON CHILDREN'S FINANCIAL AID
For those seniors who are still supporting a child, remarrying could substantially increase household income and thus impact any college financial aid a child may be eligible to receive. Federal financial aid applications take the incomes of both spouses into consideration, even if one is not the child's biological parent.
LOSS OF MILITARY BENEFITS
The widows or widowers of military members often receive benefits such as health care, pensions, and the ability to shop on military bases for food and consumer goods at a significant discount, all of which can be lost when remarrying.
THEY CAN CREATE THEIR OWN RELATIONSHIP SCRIPT
Cohabitation lacks many of the expectations and norms that would come with traditional marriage and allows older couples to actively construct their own relationship dynamics, according to research published in Innovation in Aging, which describes such an arrangement as "an opportunity for couples to carve out alternative relationship scripts that do not hew to traditional marital expectations."
GETTING MARRIED IS SIMPLY TOO MUCH TROUBLE
Sometimes getting remarried at an older age is just too much hassle, says McKinney of The Hive Law, Atlanta Divorce Attorneys. "Simplicity is usually key in your older years and getting married doesn't necessarily have that same sparkle as it once had," McKinney said.