After the Dress and Cake: Hidden Expenses of Tying the Knot

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Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The marriage rate in the United States is decreasing — and based on the laundry list of financial downsides to tying the knot, it’s not hard to understand why. Part of the fiscal strain it produces is in the area of college and careers — and the main problem is that marriage results in costs to the couple and the family across the board, without regard for the details.

As in the example Economics 21 provides, after a mother of two marries, she faces considerably less financial aid for her daughter’s college education regardless of the fact that her husband has his own children to care for. A married couples also deals with changes to their taxes after nuptial bliss sets it. With statistics showing a significant wage gap for women, it’s notable that after some women marry higher earners, their own pay becomes taxed at the rate of their spouse, making their take-home that much worse, and reducing their work incentive considerably. In that way, marriage exacerbates the pay gap issue and represents a major disadvantage to dual career households considering marriage.

There are tax advantages to marriage as well, it’s important to note. Back in 1996, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office examined the marriage penalty, and found that 51 percent of those who married saw a bonus in their taxes, with 42 percent seeing penalties. Perhaps revealing to a degree where some problems lie, though, the report noted that, “Couples with incomes between $20,000 and $50,000 were somewhat more likely to receive bonuses than to incur penalties,” and visa versa. Unfortunately, it is the couples that slip through the “somewhat more likely” who see fiscal disadvantage from marriage.

Interestingly, MSN Money reports that these penalties are actually more common in couples with similar income levels, while those with uneven incomes find themselves with greater penalties, finding this to be true regardless of income level.

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