Love and Money

Getting married can be a wealthy proposition

The data is in: Don't jilt your finances at the altar.

There's a growing link between marriage and wealth creation. The trend line also comes at a time when less Americans are marrying: A record low of less than half of adult Americans are getting married, according to an oft-quoted Pew Research Center 2011 survey.

So is marriage the best wealth creation tool of all?

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A 2014 T. Rowe Price study showed that married couples are more satisfied in retirement than their single counterparts.

That's no surprise: The median 65- to 69-year-old married household had almost 10 times as much in savings as the typical single-person household, according to a 2012 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

CNBC reached out to members of the CNBC Digital Financial Advisor Council for some concise advice on marriage as a moneymaker—based on real-life conversations and interactions with clients. Four top-notch financial advisors, four very important points.

1. Citing averages doesn't really help anyone.

Carolyn McClanahan
Founder and director of Life Planning Partners

"Nobody's average," McClanahan said. "A lot has to do with the amount of money you started off with."

That's one of the biggest findings in the marriage and wealth research: Those Americans getting married today are better educated and wealthier. It's not marriage itself that affords some financial advantage.

2. Ever heard of divorce?

Ric Edelman
Chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services

"If you're going to get married, never divorce," said Edelman. That might be easier said than done—but Edelman's point is that divorce can ultimately be a wealth accumulation killer, even worse than you might automatically anticipate.

Divorce doesn't just rack up financial losses in the form of legal fees. People who are married become accustomed to splitting the costs of living, and maintaining two households is always more costly than one. Married couples are also able to divide familial responsibilities and therefore capitalize on more professional opportunities that increase income. The actual time and energy-intensive process of divorce can make the professional toll worse, too.

3. It's not about how men, or women, invest.

Cathy Curtis
Founder of Curtis Financial Planning

Academic research suggests that women tend to be more conservative as investors, while men are more aggressive traders. But that doesn't mean men should do the investing.

"I had a client tell me her husband is on the computer all the time trading ETFs," said Curtis, CFP and founder of Curtis Financial Planning. "These kinds of clients are difficult to deal with, because they think that they can outgame the market on a regular basis. This is just not true."

That's the exact type of aggressive male-trading approach that leads women to have higher market returns than men, found one academic study. Curtis has also seen the other extreme with clients, including women who are too conservative and invest all of their money in assets like gold. "The key is to diversify," Curtis said.

Two heads really are better than one.

4. Can you talk?

Zaneilia Harris
President of Harris and Harris Wealth

No marriage will work as a moneymaker if the financial conversation is one-sided.

"It's a red flag when one person in a couple dictates the financial conversation or has a tendency to hide assets," Harris said. "Working together opens horizons and brings new perspectives. Together, you must review and update your financial goals on a regular basis."

The No. 1 source of stress in relationships is money, according to a recent survey from SunTrust Banks. So don't expect the conversation to be easy, but you and your finances will be better off if it happens.

The bottom line

Don't let the data on marriage breed a false sense of confidence:

  1. Pooling assets in a marriage is the best policy, but you better be sure—really sure.
  2. Review and update financial goals, together, on a regular basis.
  3. Conduct an audit, together, at least once a year.
  4. If you're having trouble talking through these issues, try this book: "Fierce Conversations" by Susan Scott. McClanahan gives it to all of her clients.

By Kimberley Bainbridge, special to