Shack Up and Save? What Are the Financial Advantages and Disadvantages to Marriage Later in Life

More and more couples over the ages of 60 are favoring cohabitation over marriage.  In fact, cohabitation among people over the age of 60 more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2020.

What is Driving the Trend Toward Cohabitation?

There are quite a few factors driving the trend toward cohabitation for people over 50 or 60.

1. Changes to Social Mores

Let’s face it, shacking up is far more socially acceptable now than it was 20,30, 40 and 50 years ago.

2. The Relationship is Unlikely to Result in Children

Furthermore, without the expectation of having children in the relationship, marriage is perhaps not the institution you seek.

That is not to say that marriage is not important. It is still a meaningful rite for many people.

3. There Are Lots of Older Singles

Between 1990 and 2010 divorce rates after age 50 doubled and remain at record levels, she says. The result? More older singles.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of 60 plus unmarried partner households grew 14 percent over the last three years.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Marriage for Older Adults?

No matter your attitude toward marriage and never mind the strength of your commitment to your partner, there are serious financial and other practical matters to consider when contemplating marriage after 50. You may want to merge your lives, but think carefully before merging your finances.

The pros and cons are serious, but not uniform to all situations. If the partners are on equal financial footing there is one set of financial considerations. If one of you is financially solvent and the other not, there is likely a whole other list of concerns.

Either way, here are a few of the many considerations:

Sharing living expenses

Whether married or living together, sharing living expenses usually cuts costs overall for couples.

Social Security

You need to have been married for at least 10 years to collect Social Security from an ex spouse. However, current partners can get benefits after just one year’s time.

Alimony, child support, and the legacy of divorce

When you marry later in life, it is likely that you are with someone who is divorced. Depending on their separation agreement, they may have financial baggage that you simply don’t want to lug around.

In fact, a study by Syracuse University’s Center for Policy Research has found that couples who marry later in life are more likely to experience financial disadvantages than those who marry earlier.


The Human Rights Campaign reports that marriage offers 1,138 tax breaks. However, taxes are complicated and there may be benefits to not marrying, especially if the union will put you in a higher tax bracket.

End of life issues

My father in law recently lost his companion of 20 years. The loss was heartbreaking. And, it was made more difficult by the fact that he did not have a say in her end of life care.

They weren’t married and her adult children took over the decision making. He was occasionally not allowed in his partner’s hospital room.

Rights to Stay in the Home

If you don’t own your home together, then it is important

How to Figure Out of Cohabitation is Better than Marriage?

Walk Through Every Detail of Your Finances

Make a Cohabitation Agreement

benefits and protections (such as guaranteed medical leave to care for a family member), according to the Human Rights Campaign.


Preexisting assets


Alimony and Child Support

What Are the Benefits of Marriage for Older Couples?

All may be rosy while the 2 of you are together whether you are cohabitating or are married.

However, if you are cohabitating, when one of you dies, the rights of the surviving partner are limited. Marriage conveys specific estate planning considerations that simply don’t exist with cohabitation.

Get Professional Advice on Cohabitation vs. Marriage

It may be useful for you to consult with a financial advisor or elderlaw attorney about the decision to marry or live together.

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