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.

marry or live together

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 issues to consider:

Legal Protections

In many jurisdictions, unmarried couples may not have the same legal protections and rights as married couples, particularly in terms of inheritance, healthcare decision-making, and property ownership.

Shared 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.

It’s crucial for non-married partners to be proactive in planning for these situations by creating legally binding documents such as healthcare proxies or advance directives. Without such documents, they may encounter challenges in asserting their right to make medical decisions for each other, especially if family members or legal authorities contest their authority. Consulting with legal professionals familiar with the laws in their jurisdiction can help non-married partners understand their rights and options regarding end-of-life decision-making.

Rights to Stay in the Home

If you don’t own your home together and are not married, then it can be tricky after the death of a partner to ensure that the survivor can continue to live in the residence. These issues can be worked out with legal documentation.

It’s important for non-married partners to be aware of their legal rights and protections regarding shared property and housing arrangements. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in estate planning, property law, or family law can provide guidance on how best to protect these rights and navigate any legal complexities that may arise.

How to Figure Out of Cohabitation is Better than Marriage?

Deciding whether to marry or simply live together as an older couple involves careful consideration of various factors, including financial issues. Here are some steps and considerations for making this decision:

Open communication

Start by having open and honest discussions with your partner about your feelings, values, and concerns regarding marriage versus cohabitation. Understand each other’s perspectives and priorities, including financial considerations.

Financial assessment

Conduct a thorough assessment of your financial situation together. Consider factors such as income, assets, debts, retirement savings, pensions, and healthcare needs. Evaluate how marriage or cohabitation might impact your financial stability and future planning.

Legal protections

Understand the legal implications of marriage versus cohabitation, especially concerning property rights, inheritance, taxes, and healthcare decision-making. Consult with legal professionals to understand the legal protections and obligations that come with each option, particularly in your jurisdiction.

Social Security and pension benefits

Evaluate how marriage or cohabitation might affect your eligibility for Social Security benefits, pensions, survivor benefits, and other retirement benefits. Determine whether there are any advantages or disadvantages to each option in terms of maximizing your benefits.

Estate planning

Consider your estate planning needs and objectives. Determine whether you need to create or update wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other estate planning documents to protect your assets and ensure your wishes are carried out, regardless of whether you choose marriage or cohabitation.

Healthcare planning

Consider how marriage or cohabitation might impact your access to healthcare benefits, insurance coverage, and long-term care options. Evaluate whether there are any advantages or disadvantages to each option in terms of managing healthcare costs and accessing quality care.

Family dynamics

Consider how your decision might affect your relationships with family members, especially if there are concerns about inheritance, blended families, or conflicts with adult children. Communicate openly with family members about your intentions and involve them in the decision-making process if appropriate.

Personal preferences and values

Ultimately, consider your personal preferences, values, and goals as a couple. Determine what type of commitment and relationship structure aligns best with your individual and shared values, lifestyle preferences, and long-term plans for the future.

By carefully considering these factors and discussing them openly with your partner, you can make an informed decision about whether to marry or live together based on your unique circumstances and priorities, including financial considerations. Consulting with financial advisors, legal professionals, and other trusted advisors can also provide valuable guidance and support in making this important decision.

NewRetirement Planner

Do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable

NewRetirement Planner

Take financial wellness into your own hands and do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable.

Share this post:

Keep Reading

All Posts
spousal benefits Social Security

Spousal Benefits: Learn How to Make the Most of Social Security if You Are Married

As you approach retirement, understanding spousal benefits can empower both you and your partner to make well-informed decisions.

December 6, 2023
divorce after 50 Retirement Planning

Divorce After 50: Don’t Let “Gray Divorce” Ruin Your Retirement

Here are 16 tips to help you stay financially stable following a divorce after 50. Get the information you need.

June 6, 2023

The Retirement Calculator for Married Couples (or Any Couple)

Retirement calculators designed for couples have special features to make results reliable and useful. Find out what you need.

April 7, 2023