Let me tell you kids about being married. It is the ticket.
You get someone to cook you dinner each night and then clean up the dishes. And if dinner sucks, you get to hit her. It’s in the wedding vows. Look it up.
Okay, let’s start over. Probably a good idea, huh?
Being married is great. You have a cheerleader for your successes and a shoulder to cry on when life doesn’t go as well as you hoped. We have two incomes while really only using one income’s worth of resources. It only costs marginally more to have two people live in a house versus one. You’ve still got to heat the place and get internet.
And there are two people to do all the crap around the house. We can split the weekly chores and be done in no time. While I’m cutting the grass or shoveling the snow, she’s inside doing something. It leaves plenty of leisure time we usually end up squandering anyway. But still, it’s fun.
So yeah, being married is pretty much the ticket. I should have done it years ago.
But, alas, not all marriages work out, especially mine after Vanessa reads the first couple sentences of this claptrap. We all know what happens next.
I’m at the age where I’m seeing some of my friends get divorced, and I see a similar pattern emerging.
Divorce isn’t an amicable split between two people who have decided they’re not compatible for each other anymore. Sure, that might be what they tell their friends afterwards, but it’s not what really happens.
Here’s the reality. One member of the marriage decides things are different now. They want bigger things, dammit, and the other person is pretty okay with the status quo. So they fight and then slowly move apart and the next thing you know one is off being a WHOO girl and the other is left shaking his head wondering what the hell just happened.
Or, you know, something like that.
I understand people mature and grow up and start valuing different things. Hell, I look back at 18 year-old Nelson and want to knee him in the gonads. He was such a tool. Even Nelson from five years ago was a different person than I am today.
That’s fine. Growing up and valuing different things is a part of life. But too often people move on without realizing they’ve made a big commitment to another freakin person. It’s incredibly unfair to that person to just set them adrift out to sea, especially if that person has done nothing but maintained their own views. Why should they be punished?
Because let’s not kid ourselves. Divorce is a huge punishment. Even for the person initiating it, it’s a very big deal.
The financial implications
Even if you’re smart about getting divorced, the financial implications are huge.
Let’s talk a little about unfriendly divorces because people aren’t really known for taking it well. I was just talking to someone looking to consolidate some debt into a second mortgage and she told me that her husband just spent $7,000 to try and get greater visiting rights for his kids, trying to prove the mom was a crazy psycho beeyotch.
I never did ask whether he succeeded. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if he did or didn’t. He was stuck paying off seven g’s worth of interest at 2% a month. I recommended he keep paying because the last person you want to screw is a lawyer.
An uncontested divorce is much cheaper, with the cost only running $1,000 or $2,000, depending on the complexity of it.
Aside: before you think ‘oh, it’s okay, I have a prenup‘, remember this. Prenups are often contested and thrown out, usually when a spouse is entitled to more than the prenup states. In other words, the law rules, not the prenup.
There are other costs of getting divorced. If the couple owns a house together, one has to move out while the other buys out the departing spouse’s share of the equity. An example:
House value: $300,000
Amount owing: $200,000
Each spouse gets: $50,000
Okay, but what if one spouse can’t afford the house on their own? Or it’s too big? The place then gets sold and both have to pick up the pieces.
It’s even more complicated when there are kids involved. Both parents have to have space for the kids even though they’re only going to live there part-time. This costs between hundreds and thousands of dollars extra each month. It would be far cheaper if the kids just stayed in the same house and the other parent just visited, but we can’t have that can we? What if the new guy gets jealous?
And here’s the real kicker. Opportunity costs are huge for divorcees.
A simple example. A married couple each make $50,000 after tax. They spend $60,000 and they save $40,000. This is easily achievable in most cities if you don’t have any kids.
$40,000 each year invested over a few decades ends up becoming as assload of money. At 8% growth, here’s the result after 30 years:
It’s a lot harder for a single person to create that kind of savings rate. So the divorcee has a few choices. They can work harder, trying to make more money. They can cut expenses or do a combination of the two. Or they can just end up putting less aside. All of those situations are not ideal.
If you want to get stinking rich, there’s a simple way to do it. You put away as much money as you can in your 20s and 30s and let compound interest do its thing. There are other ways to accomplish this, but saving aggressively when you’re young is the easiest way.
It’s a hell of a lot easier to save when you’re with somebody who’s contributing. I’ve always been good at saving and I noticed a big difference once I got married. The money just pours in.
Let’s wrap it up
Look. Divorce sucks. There’s no getting around it. Even the people who initiate it know this.
It’s a lot easier to get rich if you’re married, especially if you don’t have kids. The other day a commenter said a chimp would be able to save in such a situation, and he’s right. Building wealth is far easier if you stay married.
You’re not happy? Fine. Divorce your poor spouse. See if I care. But realize that you’re making a decision that will likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars of money you probably can’t spare. Nobody talks about this when they get divorced. It’s time somebody points it out.