I’m a baby boomer. I’m fifty-six years old and I didn’t get married until I was forty-two. I defy the statistics. Mr. Groovy and I should have grandchildren by now, or at least be preparing for an empty nest. We have no children and this is a first marriage for us both. We got a late start.
When I was single I was super independent. In my 20s and early 30s I was one of those chicks who said, “I don’t need a man to be happy.” I liked dating, but I thought I was way too cool and too liberated for marriage. I enjoyed going out at all hours and answering to no one.
I wanted travel and adventure, but I had absolutely no interest in seeking it out by myself. I didn’t have the urge to backpack through Europe alone or go on hiking trips by myself. And none of my friends had similar vacation ideas. When I looked at hotel prices, single rooms were way too expensive for someone like me, who was always under-employed.
I also wasn’t motivated to improve my surroundings. I had a small apartment, entertained very little and never took an interest in decorating. I enjoyed cooking and wanted to learn how to do it better, but I couldn’t get excited about cooking only for myself. I occasionally made dinner for a boyfriend on the weekends. But the rest of the time I just threw together meals for myself.
As years went by, my life began to feel very transitional. It was as if I was always waiting for something to happen. Finally, when I reached my late 30s, I admitted to myself that I needed a partner in crime. I wanted a husband. Drumroll, please….in walked Mr. Groovy.
Not so fast. No it didn’t happen that quickly. It took another four years of dating before landing on the Planet of the Happily Married.
So why am I talking about marriage?
Because there’s a lot of discussion in the news about boomers vs. millennials. Recently I found results of a survey done by the Pew Research Center with several interesting takeaways. It found that while only 26% of millennials are married, 69% of them would like to be married. It also found that millennials are burdened more by financial hardship than any previous generation. Other studies imply that economics is a major concern for millennials. They want financial security before marriage.
I find this fascinating. Because I’m convinced, had Mr. Groovy and I not gotten married, I’d still be living paycheck to paycheck, without clear direction for my future. I would have muddled along OK, but I would not have created the life I now have. I was nowhere financially before I got married.
I didn’t marry Mr. Groovy for money. Neither one of us had any. But we made a good team. We were on the same page. We both appreciated “ordinary” and it felt good to find someone to be ordinary with.
After we married, the road to financial freedom took about 12 years. The first few years of our marriage were difficult. It wasn’t until we decided to get out of New York that our lives took a different path.
The match that set us on fire was our “Three-Year Plan” to relocate. Working towards a very specific goal early in our marriage helped us forge a cement-like bond. The plan also made everything else bearable: the crummy jobs, the long commutes, the high price of everything, the small apartment—none of it bothered us anymore. It was all OK, because it was temporary.
So let me tell you the financial benefits of marriage that make me extremely happy:
Everything’s easier when you have two paychecks. Even though our combined salaries are not extremely high, our income goes far. Fixed costs such as housing, utilities, insurance, etc. don’t eat up all the money we have coming in.
We each have employer-matched retirement plans and max out our Roth IRAs. Our portfolio is very diversified and spread out broadly over different asset classes. Because our expenses are low, we have much more money remaining at the end of the month for saving.
We save a bundle on taxes. For 2016, married individuals filing jointly can take the standard deduction of $12,600. Each of us can also claim a personal exemption of $4,050. Using these deductions and exemptions, Mr. Groovy and I will reduce our earnings by $20,700 this year. We further reduce our income by maxing out our employer retirement accounts. Lower income means lower taxes.
For a married couple selling a primary home, up to $500,000 in profit is excluded from capital gains taxes, providing both have lived in the home for at least two years. Theoretically, a couple can buy and sell a home every two years and keep the profit tax free, if it is under $500K.
We’ve devised a cleaning schedule that spans Monday through Friday and gets the whole house cleaned in bite-sized chunks of time. Our weekends are now free for fun, and our house hasn’t been this spotless in years!
Without a partner, I lacked motivation. My finances were sorry. Retiring with dignity was not just out of the question, it wasn’t even on my radar. My surroundings were a mess. And forget about planning for the future. I certainly couldn’t see myself visiting all 50 states, spending a month in Ecuador, or buying land and building a home. But now I look forward to these things and more with Mr. Groovy. Having a companion who is up for adventure makes all the difference in the world.
Having a co-pilot
Having a co-pilot helps my sanity. I can bounce ideas off of Mr. Groovy and he’ll warn me when I’m about to do something stupid. A dependable co-pilot is the equivalent of having an additional insurance policy.
Final Words of Wisdom on Marriage
When I even contemplated the “M” word in my 20s, I thought I’d need to find the perfect clone of myself. He’d have to be passionate about the same things I was. We’d need to think alike, have the same communication style and finish each other’s sentences. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
If you’re an intense person, like I am, you’ll recognize the truth in this statement:
I find it exhausting to live with MYSELF! I can’t imagine living with SOMEONE ELSE who is exactly like me!
That’s right, I admit it. I’m not easy. Mr. Groovy, on the other hand, is mellow and laid back. After all, he IS Mr. Groovy. He’s cool and even tempered. I’m hot and excitable. We’re a perfect pair. We complement one another. If I had married someone like myself, I would have killed him by now.
And that’s another thing. Divorce is not an option. Early on we agreed we’re stuck with one another. Death is the only way out. To prove it, I challenged Mr. Groovy one day while we were hiking on the side of a cliff in Bryce Canyon, Utah. There was no guardrail and it was an extremely windy day. I was having trouble staying upright. I told him, here was his chance to push me off the cliff and collect the insurance. He’d be the subject of a “Forensic Files” episode, but he’d get away with it.
“Nothing doing,” he said. “What would I do with the money if I didn’t have you to spend it with?”