Data and Research

Women Spending Fewer Years Married, Shifting Retirement Outlook

This means their financial health should be studied separately from men.

By Lee Barney editors@strategic-i.com | August 21, 2017

Due to women getting married later, fewer women getting married and, among those who do marry, an increase in divorce, women are spending fewer years married overall, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. 

“If women as a group now spend about half of their adult years unmarried, it probably makes sense to explore their savings and investment behavior separately from men,” the center says. “This change has significant implications for financial planning.”

For the oldest cohort, those born between 1931 and 1941, 72% of women’s years between the ages of 20 and the last interview were spent married. Looking at mid-Boomers, i.e. those born between 1954 and 1959, the years spent married in that same timeframe had dropped to 54%. There is strong evidence to show that an individual's marital status—especially an unexpected change in marital status—has a big impact on financial security over time. 

The reason why the number of years women are married has declined is because, among the oldest cohort, the average age that women got married was 21.4. For mid-Boomers, this has crept up to 24.3. Among the oldest cohort, 3.9% never married, and for mid-Boomers, this has risen to 12.2%. Just over one-third, 33.9%, of the oldest cohort divorced, and today, 49.3% of mid-Boomer women are divorced.

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College’s report on this issue, “Do Women Still Spend Most of Their Lives Married?”, can be downloaded here.