The Great Remarriage Disincentive

path to marriageRemarriage. There’s a word loaded with implications. You’re all no doubt wondering now if the fireman and I have been cooking up plans. Haha. Maybe I’ll keep you wondering.

I won’t deny that I haven’t ever thought about getting married again. I loved being married. I hope to be married again someday. But here’s the rub. As a young(ish) widow, the financial repercussions of remarriage make it a complicated notion for me and my kids.

If we widows and widowers marry before the age of 60, those social security benefits that our deceased spouses worked so hard for disappear the moment we say “I do.” Same with Workman’s Compensation if we receive those. And yes, many pensions and 401(K)s dry up as well. If you have children of college age, then a new husband’s assets are counted into the family contribution and that may change a child’s financial eligibility for financial aid. If one of you ends up in long-term hospital care, you will have to spend down both spouse’s assets before qualifying for Medicaid.

And it’s not just widows. Disability benefits disappear with marriage as well. How does that affect, say, a young person in a wheelchair who wants to get married? And divorcées lose their alimony when they remarry. How sad that with so many couples of all flavours wanting to get married, our society makes it difficult. Isn’t marriage supposed to equate to a more stable society? I wonder why then there are so many disincentives? It seems that in most other societies, there’s an economic advantage to marriage.

The survivor benefits are only the beginning. There is also the question of the deceased spouse’s estate. Seems we require a pre-nup agreement in order to ensure that that estate gets inherited by our kids. Careful arrangements have to be made for a new spouse and any children they bring to the equation.

A mathematic translation is needed. Does gaining the benefits from re-marriage such as lower Health Insurance costs, a divided mortgage payment, dual incomes, and tax incentives for married couples equal the lost revenue from Social Security, Pensions, Workman’s Comp and all the other disincentives?

I found many articles showing that many couples are choosing cohabitation over remarriage, a number that in fact, doubled between 2000 and 2009. Sure, cohabitation is all well and good, until something happens and you’re denied visiting your partner in the hospital because you’re not “next of kin.” Only a few states recognize co-habitation as a “common-law” situation.

I guess this raises a whole 47% question as well. There are many in this USA who don’t believe anyone should be getting benefits of any kind. Of course I am very Canadian in my ideas, so the fact that many of us receive these benefits, benefits that we or our deceased spouses have worked our lives paying into, doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

Gee. Not very romantic, all this money talk. Marriage should be about love, right? When I’m asked the question, “Do you want to get married again?” the answer is “yes, very much, but it’s complicated.”

I’m curious to hear how some of you remarried’s have handled this.

3 Comments

  1. annie October 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    I’ve heard all these arguments before and honestly, don’t put much stock in them. I was a zillion years away from Social Security and didn’t qualify for anything other than the pitiful death benefit anyway. And I was the bread winner, so that was easy to dismiss in any case. I fully expected my new husband to be a dad to my child in every way and that means financially too. Check that off.And I don’t believe that children are automatically entitled to inherit anything. Anything my LH left, he left to me and I had a long life left. Rob (my second husband) and I talked about finances, as all couples marrying should, but we were share and share alike the first time and saw no reason not to the second time. Prenups – imo – just speak of a lack of trust and we viewed it as planning your exit strategy before you’ve even begun, which isn’t the best foundation for a new life though I know the prevailing wisdom is that “it’s just smart”. But I always cringed to hear widowed rail about “no one is going to steal my kids inheritance” – which I thought was probably better ground for some to avoid dating at all if they saw every potential suitor as a thief. We did however get our wills in order shortly after we married to make sure that all the kids were taken care of just in case and that we were taken care of too. Wills and POA’s and directives are a good idea. Bottom line for me though is that money should never be a deciding factor in whether to marry or not. So many other things are so much very more important and I don’t begrudge my husband anything that’s technically “mine” in the event of illness or catastrophe – that’s part of what being married is about.

    1. Abigail - Site Author October 10, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Annie,
      You make some excellent points. I agree that Wills, POA and Directives are a good idea. I heard by email from another widow who is engaged, but holding off on marriage for just this reason, but getting the directives sorted out in the meantime. She is worried that in the case of catastrophe she will be cut out of the decision making process. But I agree, money should never dictate a marriage decision. As you say, merging assets is part of what marriage is about. As for kid’s inheritance, I have found trusts for the kids a good way to go. It was something I had to set up for them by law, but I am glad for them since it takes the “theirs vs mine” out of the equation. This financial equation is something that I know widows grapple with, so I thought it was a worthy subject to discuss. I’m glad for your post showing “the other side” so to speak.

  2. Cathy October 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

    great on so many levels – I didn’t just want a “boyfriend” – but the financial aspect has been challenging. SS benefits are distributed to each kid that were yours previously. So if a family got $1000 split between say, 4 people then the $1000 still goes to the family but the widow doesn’t get it in her name. This was a surprising and happy realization to me. Still the same money just distributed differently. Tax time was awful – with out going too much into it, a december wedding was really dumb… should have waited until January of the next year. It messed everything up. all my benefits were stopped and the bursary one son was on at private school was being challenged. Because his magical new step dad was in the picture and had to pay for EVERYTHING?? we are now 3 years into marriage and all the financial stuff has calmed down and I’m glad we did it, it is glue where there sometimes would have been no glue.

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