Friday, December 07, 2007

S is for "Should Men Get Married?"

Dr Helen opined some time ago on 'should men get married?', and the outlook isn't cheerful, as I have noted in this blog before (see here and here.

I think some of the commenters on Dr Helen's blog have it right. On the odds, marriage in general is not a winning proposition.

But looking at this again, I wanted to review it in terms of real money, and see how it stacked up.

In general people get married for the following real benefits;

Cheaper to live together

I think that covers it. So let's put a value on these things. Yeah, I know, you can't. But we are talking about stuff that is getting settled in a court of law, so let's think of it like a lawyer would:

Love: hardest to quantify, but let's value it like having a personal executive assistant who is paid enough to actually care about your stuff. Say $80,000/year.

Sex: note we aren't talking porn-star stuff here, we're talking real world, in a busy life. A decent prostitute would cost you $200/night, but I'll knock that to $100/night because you have her on retainer, and it happens to be the same person as your executive assistant.
So that's maybe $10,000 per year, if you are lucky.

Children: they say you can't put a value on a human life, but the courts do it all the time. They seem to think that a life is worth something like $100,000 per year. Sometimes they treat kids like more, sometimes much less. Let's go with $100,000 per year, for however many you have.

Cheaper to live together; well, this just isn't true. You might get a cheaper year at first, but year 2 you'll find yourself redecorating so that everything matches, and once you have kids you need a new house, clothes for kids, your wife not respecting budgets, finance charges... Come to think of it, it has to cost you at least $50,000/ year.

Ok, so if your average marriage lasts 7 years, let's assume that the first 4 are pretty good, and the last 3 living hell. So we'll go with 4 years of the personal assistant and sex for $90,000/year.
Total value for the average marriage: $370,000

But the kids and living expenses are yours until the marriage ends, and so we can net the two ($50,000) and multiply by seven: $350,000.

So the total value received from the average marriage is about $720,000.

Not so bad, right?

But the problem is that the average marriage DOES end in divorce. And men lose their kids, and pay alimony and support.

So if having your kids is worth $100,000/year, having that kid stolen away and kept from you with only brief weekly or monthly furloughs is losing that benefit. Think of it as them being unjustly imprisoned, which they will be until they are 18. So assume 10 years of unjust imprisonment fot your kids: $1,000,000.

Next let's look at support/alimony.
Your average wage-earner makes somewhere in the $40-50,000 range,
But I suspect this is NOT what your 7-year marriage, 2.5 kids father makes. I think this father earns more likle $80,000, on average.
And, alimony and child support are going to, on average, eat around 2/3 of that - costing you a real $53,000 per year, for the next 10 years or so: $530,000

Now let's talk about what you lose in the divorce. Most people have net debt, which is divided, but your average 2.5-kids-7-year-marriage-father doesn't. You can't live in debt with kids and a family to worry about. You have to make things work every day, and have a plan for when it doesn't. You have to have half a year in assets to float you when your company goes under, or you get fired. So you have 50,000 in liquid assets plus retirement, and a house that is probably worth, on average, $175,000. Half of these go to your wife in divorce. This is a real expense to you, because, on average, the man earned the money that paid for them. I am sure people will argue about this, but we are in the small numbers here compared to the above: of $225,000 you lose $112,000 to your ex.

Now let's talk legal expenses. Let's just say that you aren't very acrimonious, and you only have a few legal problems after the divorce and put your total legal costs at $60,000 including what you have to file to really end support at the end of the whole period. I think that the average is higher, but let's use this.

Now let's talk about your personal situation. You may think that the above covers everything, but you have lost one other thing that is not accounted for in the above, which is your freedom. You are REQUIRED by law to not only keep earning what you were earning at the time of the marriage, but to get reasonable raises. You are an indentured servant for ten years. What is reasonable compensation for being required to consistently earn a particular number for the next ten years without fail? Nowadays people change jobs every 2-3 years, and are often out of work for months (see the half a year in assets above). So a very real cost of having to be a wage slave for ten years is the coverage of the job transitions. Let's say there are three job transitions during the 10 years, and they last 4 months. four twelfths of $80,000 , multiplied by three job losses is $80,0000 you will need just to cover the financial implications of the job transitions.

But again, what about what the real value of you committing to being a wage slave for 10 years, minus the financial implications, just the 'I have to slog off to work for people who I don't see and who mostly hate me' factor. How much would you demand in additional compensation for working for a firm that hates you, while withholding 2/3rds of your income, and committing to this situationfor 10 years? Well, it would have to pay me back the 2/3rds, or I wouldn't do it, but I am already counting that as a negative above, so I won't double count it, so it becomes how much to work for people who hate me for 10 years, plus the stress of jumping through hoops to get the next job and the next job where they also hate me. I think, that I would need to see double my salary before I committed to this kind of situation. So for your average working divorced father, we are talking about a real value of $80,000 per year (he already earns the 80k, this is the doubling part). Over 10 years that is $800,000

So total cost of the divorce, including your suffering: $2,694,500
Compared to your anticipated benefits (including your joys in children, sex, help) of: $720,000.

The net benefit (cost) of the average marriage is way negative: ($1,974,500).

If someone proposed to you a venture that would on average eat up the next twenty years of your life, which represents a total cost of about two million dollars including pain and suffering, and which leaves the average person very unhappy, would you do it?

Or more simply: On Average, Should Men Marry?

The simple answer, based on the numbers, is:

No Way,
Not in Twenty Years,
Not in Two Million Dollars,
Not on Your Life.

But I want to end on a positive note, and that is the following, which many of you may not find positive:

The analysis above is correct for the average person,

- but the average person should not marry,

- and the person that they should marry should not be average.

For marriage to work, it must be entered into by loving, giving, dedicated people who will both try hard to put their partner's interests first, day in and day out, on the easy days and the hard days, in the good years and in the bad years, and enter into this venture knowing that many of the years may be very tough years.

For marriage to work well, it must contain two souls who are ethical, moral, upstanding, honest, and brave.

If you can be the kind of person described above -if you can always put your lover first -even when you are fighting, and if you can find someone who is always putting you first, and loves doing that, and whom you can trust with your life and the things you care most about, even when you are fighting...

- then marry that person. It will be the best thing that you ever did.

My best to you in your struggles!



Anonymous said...

This is a good blog. I'm surprised there aren't more comments on it.

jon said...

I am both stunned and awed by this article. I've never seen any attempt to put hard numbers on the various benefits marriage brings and how much gets taken away in a divorce. And for having such slippery things to nail down, you do a remarkable job of putting fair dollar amounts on each.

Oh yes - and my views on never marrying have been confirmed again; it may once have been a great deal for all, but in modern times marriage is a gamble with long odds I'd rather not run and dire consequences I'd rather not face.

Perhaps a miracle will happen. Perhaps our society will reverse the anti-male laws. But barring either one of those I'm staying single.