Financial concerns of
Run the numbers
protect what each
By Dianna Marder, Inquirer Staff Writer
As a pastor, the Rev. Donald Martin traveled the country with his wife, Esther,
leading workshops on the joys of marriage.
But Martin was concerned about more than compatibility and shared values when,
as a widower, he considered marrying again at 85.
He ran the numbers -- and signed a prenuptial agreement.
Such is love in the age of longevity. Perhaps even more than young or
middle-age couples, older couples contemplating marriage have financial
consequences to consider. A woman receiving Social Security benefits from
her late husband, for example, could lose that income if she remarries.
And what if a husband qualifies for Medicare years before his new wife?
Should they split the cost of her private health insurance, or should she
shoulder that burden alone? If his health deteriorates suddenly,
necessitating nursing-home care, will her assets be tapped to pay that bill?
And how will they protect the money they want to leave to their heirs?
For Martin, living together outside of marriage would not have been an option.
But he and Jeanette Hershey -- they met in Pleasant View Retirement Community in
Lancaster County and were married there in 2002 -- needed a way to protect what
they had, while providing for one another.
So they have kept separate bank accounts, but they file a joint income-tax
return. And they split the monthly expenses for rent, utilities and food.
On outings and vacations, they also split the tab -- unless it's a special
occasion like a birthday. Each pays for his or her own clothes, haircuts
and the like. And Jeanette Hershey Martin kept her first married name
Research into marriage among the aging is still in its infancy, said David
Popenoe, a sociologist with Rutgers University's National Marriage Project.
We know, from U.S. Census Bureau studies, that the number of men and women 65
and older who lived together without getting married nearly doubled in the
And Popenoe suspects that as the nation's 78 million baby boomers age (they are
turning 60 this year at the rate of 330 an hour), we are likely to see more
couples who are LAT: living apart, together.
Boomers are more likely than their parents' generation to enter old age as
divorcees who have become accustomed to living independently, Popenoe said.
And that makes them all the more likely to form committed romantic relationships
without marrying or sharing a residence.
Meanwhile, current 70-plus women are more practical than their mothers were,
said Janet Bouma, a Pittsburgh-area financial analyst.
"I see women being a lot less sappy about romance later in life," Bouma said.
These women know that financial disclosure is essential in a coupled
"If he's not willing" to be candid about his assets, Bouma said, "it's a big red
flag, and you should not get married.
"You may think you have nothing to lose, but you still have at least a credit
history," she said.
Some women may be afraid that asking about a man's finances too early in the
dating process will scare him away, said Eva Rosenberg, a Northridge, Calif.,
"If there's a problem bringing things up, you're better off finding out before
you get married," Rosenberg said. "If you can't talk to him now, what
makes you think it will be different afterward?"
When Carol Kohfeld and John Sprague of St. Louis became a couple in 1990, they
ran the numbers, too.
Both were university professors with pensions and Social Security benefits.
They wanted to hold some assets jointly, provide for each other, and leave
something for their children and grandchildren.
After consulting a lawyer, Kohfeld, now 66, and Sprague, 72, declared themselves
committed to one another privately -- without a ceremony -- and he gave her a
ring. But it was years before they moved in together, and they are still
discussing whether to get married.
"Financial considerations have been very important in our decision not to be
married at this time," Kohfeld said. As they age and qualify for
additional benefits, they have run the numbers again and again.
Initially, Kohfeld said, neither was interested in getting married, because each
of their first marriages had ended painfully.
"But now it's been 16 years, and we're pretty much in love," Kohfeld said.
"If we're still together when I'm 72, I think we'll get married."
Alan Gross, 60, and Skip Drumm, 67, of Somerset County, N.J., consider
themselves a nontraditional couple.
For 17 years, they had a committed relationship, but did not become husband and
wife and did not live together.
"We each need our space," Gross said.
But seven years ago, Drumm had to be hospitalized briefly. And Gross said
he realized then that the rest of the world considered their relationship
"We wanted the right to make legal decisions -- health decisions -- for each
other," he said.
So the couple sought information from the National Alternatives to Marriage
a national nonprofit group that seeks to end discrimination on the basis of
After much discussion, Drumm and Gross decided to marry -- surprising their
friends, their family and even themselves.
Gross, who happens to be a statistician, said numbers did not enter into the
"We realized getting married could benefit us," Gross said, "institutionally and
for the commitment to our relationship."
Contact staff writer Dianna Marder at 215-854-4211 or