This mail bag question has to do with marriage and figuring out the answer to the oft-posed question, “When is the best age to get married?” …
Dear Mr. Kennon,
Your writing has helped me so much since I first found it. My question isn’t exactly related to money or investing but I want to hear your take. In your opinion, when is the best age to get married?
Not everyone wants to get married. That’s perfectly okay and fine. For those who do desire marriage, generally speaking, the best age to get married is when you’ve found someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, hand-in-hand, til-death-do-you-part, in triumph and tragedy. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 58.
There seems to be an interesting intellectual failure among a decent portion of the younger population who is worried about getting married too young. They think they will go off to college, maybe get a master’s degree or a doctorate, establish themselves in their career, and then, settle down when they are ready. The glaring assumption that they seem to ignore? It is presumed that when they are ready to get married, someone will magically materialized from the ether, waiting to walk down the aisle. That is foolish. Though there may be a few exceptions, life doesn’t work that way. When you find the person with whom you want to grow old, you marry them and adjust the rest of your life around it. Finding that person, and doing it at the “perfect” time, is a near statistical impossibility.
This delay-marriage-until-I-am-perfect approach also deprives a couple from going through the triumphs and struggles of early adulthood together, which can be the most rewarding and bonding experiences life has to offer. That isn’t to say you should jump into marriage young simply because you want to be married. Some people have no idea who they are until much later in life.
I was fortunate enough not to have to worry about that; I met my spouse at 15 years old, and we’ve been together since we were 18 years old. There is a lot to be said for it. There were no pre-nuptials or negotiations because we built everything together. There is a history, an appreciation, and a connection that happens because our story is impossible to tell without the other. It’s also much easier to have courage, to take a risk and go after your dreams, when you know in the deepest heart of your hearts that even if you fail miserably, as long as you can have them at your side, it is okay.
The Best Age to Get Married Might Be Different for Men Than It Is For Women
Beyond that, the answer differs for the two genders; due to biological limitations imposed by natural selection, the best age to get married for men is not the same as the best age to get married for women. Though it doesn’t seem fair, the challenges and pitfalls that come from delayed marriage are especially pronounced for women.
- The opportunity cost of marriage is different for men than it is for women because men can reproduce at any age, whereas a woman’s fertility to begins to decline at 30, high-risk pregnancy terrain begins at 35, and there comes a point where conception is no longer possible. We discussed this in our conversation about extended adolescence.
- Generally speaking, a 35 year old woman has far fewer options when it comes to love and marriage than an equal-in-all-other-respects 35 year old man. This is closely related to the first point, but also finds root in the biology studies that show men are driven toward younger, fertile women with specific characteristics on a primal, genetic level, and, on the flip side, younger, attractive women are drawn to richer, powerful, older men. This makes perfect sense when you realize those behaviors would have led to greater survival chances and future reproduction when our ancestors lived in tight-knit tribal communities where food and resources were scarce. Over thousands of years, it was bred into the human bloodlines because it was an advantageous adaptation.
If you are in the minority of people who doesn’t desire children, much of that opportunity cost disappears, reformulating the equation. In a sense, for you, there might not be a best age to get married. Your trade-off criteria is much different than the typical person because you have de facto nulled the danger of not settling down and reproducing by the time of fertility decline. In this case, we go back to my primary answer: Generally speaking, the best age to get married is when you’ve found someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, hand-in-hand, til-death-do-you-part, in triumph and tragedy.