Life, delayed: Couples putting off marriage due to economy, changing views

Published: Saturday, Nov. 24 2012 1:00 p.m. MST

Conway, former chief of staff for the U.S. Labor Department, said an astonishing 89 percent of young respondents said the economy has hurt them. The survey showed a third of those with full-time jobs needed part-time jobs to supplement income. They are underemployed. Other studies agree. Rutgers recently found 56 percent of newly minted high school graduates expect to be worse off financially than their parents and 58 percent doubt they will do as well as previous generations. It said half of new college grads are under- or unemployed.

Meanwhile, unemployment for 18-29 year olds in October was 12 percent and another 1.7 million young adults had stopped looking. If they were still searching, young adult unemployment would be 16.5 percent, according to Labor stats.

Different experts offer their own answers, typically in line with their areas of expertise, much like a surgeon suggesting an operation while a family doctor prescribes medication for the same symptoms.

Conway believes changing labor-market forces will make a difference. Noted matchmaker and author Hellen Chen, whose recent "Matchmaker of the Century" topped six lists at Barnes and Noble, has a different view. She believes finding the right match and marrying despite the economy is the right course.

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People think money problems mean they shouldn't marry or raise a baby, she said. But family math is different. "One plus one is more than two. When you marry and work together and produce together, you make more money." She points, as proof, to past generations.

Couples are more likely to stay together in marriage than any other relationship permutation. So she tells people to date someone with whom they might be serious to see if marriage is in the offing. Then marry, without waiting years, which weakens bonds. After that, together, "date for the rest of your life," she said.

People who are serious about being together and who commit to it will find that their economics fall in line, she predicted, citing Census Bureau stats showing the median income of married men is higher than that of single men, $55,958 to $34,634.

"There is this misconception that one needs to have money before getting married. But the truth is, getting married will help a couple be more focused in their goals and careers and thus it will increase their ability to earn better wages," she said.

Elizabeth and Nick Dall of Salt Lake City waited two years to marry while she finished school and they looked for jobs that would support a household. The economy was so sour she couldn't find work so she went to graduate school. When she was nearly finished, they took the plunge into wedlock.

Now he's in school and works part time, while she works full-time as a health coach. Money's still tight and they have put plans to start a family on the back burner for a while. But they are working together toward those shared goals.

It helps a lot to have strong family support, said Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist Dr. Judy Rosenberg, creator of the Be the Cause Map System for overcoming habits and working through problems.

Her son and his wife, Michael and Kineret Perlmutter, live with her and are expecting a baby. They got married 18 months ago and the decision was easier, she said, because they knew they had her support in a very tough economy. That also enabled them to take a chance on starting an online business.

"The economy certainly factors in. When you are speaking of marriage, you are speaking of a partnership. Living together is a loose bond, marriage is a tight bond, with legal ramifications. If your spouse is having credit card difficulties, you inherit it. You merge your enterprises, big or small, and that's going to impact you on a larger scale," Rosenberg said.

Having support from extended family can overcome concerns about "what if," she said. "When you're speaking of getting married or not getting married, finances are a factor, but you have to take the big picture into account.... And marriage can inspire you to higher heights, to find your higher self. That's where so many people kick in that extra mile. I have been watching my son, who is about to be a father; he is shaking and moving, full of spirit and creativity. Some is economics, but love makes you healthier, support makes you happier. And people who are loved and supported are in a better position to function and be happier."

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