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Everything's Personal, Nothing's Sacred

Are Your Financial Affairs Married?

Kristen Houghton

Monday, April 28, 2014 • 7:56pm

Angela and Kevin have been a couple for the past ten years and live together in the netherworld of the "not-quite-divorced." In fact they never got married at all. They are a growing population of young, successful people whom sociologists classify as 'financially-married' couples. These couples have joint accounts, relationships lasting more than five years, and share a house or own property together. They are certainly more than roommates because, unlike most roommates the property, joint assets, and possibly business bank accounts mean their money is married.

What happens if the couples decide their relationship is a no-go and want out? The answer is for purely practical reasons: Money and assets. Many have built mini-empires together. Besides their main residence they may also own a summer home and rental property. A legal divorce would severely cost them financially. Properties would have to be sold and assets divided. They see living as house mates a practical, savvy venture.

At one of my lifestyle seminars, a woman in her fifties said: "We were married thirty years before we decided to live separate lives. I was all for a divorce and so was he but our accountant gave us two financial scenarios. Divorced, we would lose money. By staying together, we got to keep more of our funds and our health insurance coverage as a married couple. Tax breaks for married people certainly beat those for singles. We're also looking at the long-term situation with pensions and retirement funds. Do we lead separate lives? We live in different sections of the house and have separate keys. I should think that says it all."

Another couple told me they stay together because they run a business and have extensive financial dealings that would suffer if they got a divorce. They live together and share everything but intimacy. "In a way we're a lot like college dorm mates with one major rule: Individual privacy is to be highly respected." "Separated/married" couples living together is a lot more common than anyone realizes but the situation in 2010 is certainly nothing like the arrangements of 50 years ago especially for women. In the past, a woman who no longer had anything left in her relationship, stayed with a husband for financial security. She usually had no job outside that of homemaker and no money of her own. These women were miserable but they literally had very little choice since their very existence depended upon their husbands.

By contrast, today's couples choose to live together because they are money-wise as well as practical. Each partner is certainly more than able to support themselves, but they want to preserve what they acquired together, and refuse to jeopardize extensive co-owned financial holdings. Another plus in today's arrangement is the fact that the option to leave the relationship is open. Neither person feels forced to stay because of dependency. This set-up works. It is certainly better, and emotionally healthier, than staying with someone simply because they hold the purse-strings! Interestingly enough, the twenty-first century may have spawned a new kind of relationship: practical and financially lucrative.

© 2014 copyright Kristen Houghton new by Kristen Houghton

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