What a Second Marriage Does to Your Money

If love is blind, then remarried Americans ought to take a second look at their finances.

Though most of us would like to believe that we’ll only walk down the aisle once, nearly half of the 2 million or so couples who wed each year will ultimately file for divorce, and according to census researcher Rose M. Kreider, they’ll be tying the knot again within three to three and a half years.

In her white paper published last April titled “Embracing the Institution of Marriage: The Characteristics of Remarried Americans,” census researcher Diana B. Elliott cited data from the 2008 American Community Survey to take a snapshot of remarried Americans. In this report, Elliott found that in the South there seems to be “a marriage movement” that has recently developed at the state level. The movement has led to pro-marriage policies like having couples undergo marital counseling before getting a divorce and making divorce itself much more difficult to obtain.

The average remarried American is a female (women comprised 53.3% of all people surveyed for the ACS who were married twice), and a baby boomer. The data show that 24.4% of adults ages 55-64 have been remarried, while only 18.7% of those in the 35-44 age group have married twice. Only 6.1% of Gen Y-ers – ages 25-34 – had taken two trips down the aisle.

Age plays a significant role in remarriage statistics, wrote Elliott, “because younger individuals now spend more time in early adulthood pursuing education and careers,” while older generations, particularly pre-boomers aged 65 and up, are rooted in traditional “norms and expectations” that frown upon cohabitation or single-parent households.  
So why are so many people taking two (or more) trips down the aisle?

Dr. Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University whose provocative book, The Marriage Go-Round, explores the “de-institutionalization of marriage,” attributes this gradual rise of remarriage during the past century to our country’s evolving social norms.

“Fifty years ago, people didn’t think of marriages the same way,” he tells MainStreet. “Happiness was more likely to mean being a good father or a good brother or a good spouse. Today, happiness is more bound up with your own personal sense of meaning. All that has meant we have more breakups than we had 50 years ago, but a majority of all people will start a new relationship because they value being in a long-term partnership.”