(Original Article) If you’re considering marriage and are a young degreed professional who has never been married, the best advice to give is to try to wait until you’re 30 years old if possible, assuming you’re not already engaged. A marriage is the most important and complex emotional, spiritual and financial decision you can ever make. In some ways, it is more complex than a sophisticated merger and acquisition process between two major corporations. Just look at the Sherri Shepherd divorce matter for an example of how quickly a marriage and divorce can become quite complex.
Because a marriage brings together two complex human beings to form a complex union, a single, common identity and a single financial entity. With a corporate takeover, if any financial analysis is performed improperly or some legality gets missed, it can bring the entire merger and acquisition process to a screeching halt. In order to protect themselves, both the company doing the acquisition and the company which is the target of that acquisition have clauses in their agreement to protect both parties if something goes wrong. That’s good business. No one wants an acquisition to go wrong, but imperfect human beings can make mistakes, and disagreements can arise that scuttle the agreement.
Marriages have far more at stake beyond just money. People going through divorce have sometimes gone as far as committing murder or suicide when marriages and divorces go bad. They steal from each other, kidnap children, sabotage and terrorize each other. Though marriages are meant to last a lifetime, imperfect human beings can often have a difficult time maintaining a perfect marriage, and when the minuses outweigh the plusses, a divorce becomes very likely. And the younger you are when you get married, the more likely you both are to grow apart, especially if both spouses are under 30 and even more so if under 25. Consider some scenarios that often lead to a growing distance in marriage:
- One spouse has a degree and a $100,000-a-year career, but the other does not
- One spouse enjoys sex twice a day, but the other prefers once a week
- One spouse wants children, the other does not, or one wants, say, 4 children, while the other only wants one.
- One spouse allows friends and family to come to the marital home at any time of day or night and stay for longer than one night; the other spouse strongly prefers that the number of guests be kept to a minimum and not stay longer than an hour or two unless it’s an emergency and advance notice is given
- One spouse has many friends of the opposite sex, but the other spouse only has same-sex friends and prefers the other spouse be the same way
- One spouse is seldom at home either due to business or hanging with friends for several days at a time; the other prefers to stay at home with the spouse
- One spouse likes to party a lot while the other does not
- One spouse is addicted to shopping, whether for clothes and jewelry, or electronic gadgets; the other is frugal, preferring to save and budgeting together to buy pricier items.
- One spouse is a Christian, but the other is of another faith
- One spouse prefers mom’s cooking and washing of clothes, but the other spouse wants to do those things instead
The list could probably go on and on, but the idea is that younger, inexperienced lovers seldom give thought to these scenarios. When any of these scenarios becomes toxic and leads towards divorce, those with college degrees and high paying jobs better watch out: divorce will not go well for you. The song “It’s cheaper to keep her” comes to mind (but this scenario applies to professional women who marry unemployed guys as well). Divorce courts are pretty socialistic when it comes to income redistribution. Regardless of the causes that lead to a divorce, if you earn substantially more than your spouse, you will likely lose the advantage of child support in favor of the poorer spouse. And before you insist your spouse would never take you for your papers, whenever money is involved, greed can trump love very easily. You will find out more things about your spouse during the divorce than you ever did before and during the marriage. Divorce courts penalize the wealthier spouse unless you are ballin’ enough to afford the kind of attorneys that Deion Sanders hired to overcome the “divorce socialism” of divorce court judges.
This is why it is better to have a prenup in case there is a huge disparity in income between you and your spouse. The prenup should be fair to both sides; you can’t just leave the poorer spouse empty handed. A clause should include some language about both sides being equally yoked financially throughout the marriage, and some consideration for situations where one spouse willingly or unwillingly stops working at some point during the marriage. Ideally, it is better to get married to someone with a similar stature: college degree, similar income, etc. This is important because spouses who are on par financially and academically are less likely to be focused on EACH OTHER’S money because they are focused on protecting THEIR money. A spouse that has nothing coming into the marriage and throughout the marriage has nothing to lose or focus on, so they are more likely to be focused on YOUR money, thus the conflict. On the other end of the spectrum, two spouses that have nothing will have nothing to focus on during a divorce, so their divorce will likely go quickly. But when you mix one spouse with a high income with another who has zero income, there is a high likelihood the divorce will be bitter and expensive. So get a prenup especially for situations where there is a disparity.