Still flying solo without a spouse and kids dragging you down? So are a lot of people your age who are waiting to start a family.
The Pew Internet Research Center has found that millennials are more likely than earlier generations to:
- Delay getting married
- Have children out of wedlock
Some experts believe money woes are behind this trend. After all, compared to older folks, people in their 20s and 30s:
- Carry high levels of student loan debt (an average of $27,000 compared to $15,000 20 years ago)
- Are better educated, but still earn less money than earlier generations
Dr. Jean Twenge, author of “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – And More Miserable Than Ever Before,” doesn’t think money is the only reason people are delaying marriage and parenting, or skipping it all together. “The average age for first marriages has been going up for a long time and hasn’t followed economic patterns,” says Jean. “It’s likely rooted in changing roles for women and individualism. Social rules like being married before you have kids just aren’t as important as they used to be.”
Whatever your reasons are for eschewing traditional family life (and by no means are we saying everyone should get married and have kids), we want you to understand the advantages and disadvantages for delaying or avoiding that walk down the aisle and those late night diaper runs.
Advantage: People who get married when they’re older tend to have happier, more successful marriages.
Everyone I know who got married in their early 20s ended up divorcing that person by the age of 30.
According to Jean, a large number of couples who marry in their early 20s – when they’re still figuring out their goals and values – don’t last long.
“When you get married later in life, it’s more likely to work out,” Jean says. “People who get married when they’re too young get divorced more often.”
The New York Times calls brief unions in your 20s “starter marriages.”
According to the US Census Bureau, there were 1.3 million divorces among people aged 25 to 29, compared to 253,000 divorces in the same age group in 1962.
Disadvantage: There are economic benefits to marriage that co-habitating couples and dating couples miss.
But there’s a downside to waiting to get married, or never getting hitched at all.
Staying single, or just living with your boyfriend or girlfriend (as 32 percent of Americans do), is more expensive.
“There are economic benefits to being married, such as taxes and social security,” says Jean.
For example, The Wall Street Journal found that if a single woman made $84,500 per year, and took the standard deduction, she’d pay $14,444 in federal taxes.
If she married someone who made the same amount of money, they’re combined income wouldn’t be taxed any more.
When it comes to social security, the spouse who has lower, lifelong earnings can make a claim for up to 50 percent of the higher-earning spouse’s benefit.
And while most companies provide healthcare coverage to spouses, many won’t extend coverage to a person you’re not legally married to.
That means you each have to pay for your own healthcare. The policy you can afford may not be as good as the one a spouse’s company offers.
Advantage: The deadline for having a baby isn’t the age of 35 anymore.
My baby was born on my 39th birthday.
Until I was 38, I thought I didn’t want kids. And then one morning, I woke up obsessed with the idea of having a child.
I was worried though. The media has bombarded us with the message that once you hit the age of 35, it’s hard to get pregnant, and have a healthy baby.
Then I came across Jean’s other book, “The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant.”
In it, she analyzes all of those studies about fertility and pregnancy that freak women out.
It turns out that the popular notions of fertility after the age of 35 are based on historical birth records from the 1700s, when times were tougher and people didn’t live as long.
Recent studies have actually found that 90 percent of women over 35 are pregnant within two years. The data shows that if anything, it just takes women over the age of 35 a little longer to get pregnant.
“There’s nothing magical about the age of 35,” she says. “After 41 or 42, it might get a little harder.”
Disadvantage: Most people who don’t have children regret it when they’re older.
Most of my friends are childless by choice, and happily so.
There is some evidence, however, that those who don’t have children regret it later in life.
A 2013 Gallup poll found that, “Of the 14 percent of Americans aged 45 and older who do not have children, 50 percent say that if they had to do it over again, they would have at least one child.”
Maybe you’ll be in the other 50 percent and never regret it. But think about it carefully while you still have time.
While women don’t have to be pregnant by the age of 35, remember Jean’s last thought: “There is a deadline.”
Tell us how you feel about waiting to start a family. Doing the whole white picket fence, 2.5 kids thing? Not doing it and regretful? Not doing it and happy about it? Tell us your story below.