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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Do People Save More in Their 401(k)s After They Marry?

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Does getting married later have any effect on retirement saving?

New research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College analyzes individuals’ contributions to a 401(k) plan before and after marriage to find out.

“Millennials marry later than previous generations. Since marriage is a major life milestone that often marks a line between youth and adulthood, a logical question is how this delay affects retirement saving,” the report states.

At age 30, just 41% of the millennials were married compared with 59% for the late baby boomers.

The report uses data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation linked to W-2 records on defined contribution plan deferrals to determine the extent to which marriage affects retirement saving.

The results of the analysis does find that people increase both their participation in and their contributions to 401(k) plans after marriage.

In terms of participation, men respond slightly more after marriage than women. The research finds that men have lower participation rates than women before marriage, but they end up at the same level once married.

After marriage, women increase their contribution rate by an average of 0.8 percentage point compared to only 0.3 for men, according to the research.

Following these results, the research then looks at what this means should the trend toward later marriage continue.

To do this, the research looks at how much retirement wealth accrued in 401(k) plans by age 65 would have been affected if men and women married later than they do today.

The analysis assumes a five-year delay in marriage, which is based on the approximate increase that occurred between baby boomers and millennials.

For example, the median age at first marriage for men in the late 1970s was about 24. By 2017, it had jumped to over age 29.

The analysis finds that the effect of delay, while statistically significant in the regression, is small — a 3.1% decline in accumulated assets for men and a 3.4% decline for women.

“So while the delay in marriage may be problematic for some forms of savings — delaying homeownership for example — it seems unlikely to make a large dent in retirement savings,” the report states.

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