Personal Finance

How millennials are getting smarter about marriage

Key Points
  • The number of millennials requesting prenuptial agreements has jumped, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
  • Because they are getting married later, they have more assets to protect. They are also saddled with record-high student loan debt, which also plays a role. 
Here’s why millennial prenups are on the rise
Here’s why millennial prenups are on the rise

They're not as popular as avocado toast, yet prenups are trending among the millennial generation.

Just more than half of the attorneys in a recent survey cited a boost in the number of millennials requesting prenuptial agreements, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Only 2 percent saw a decrease among 18-to-34-year-olds.

Across the board, 62 percent of the lawyers polled have seen an increase in the total number of clients who are seeking prenups during the past three years, the AAML said. That follows a fivefold increase in prenuptial agreements over the past 20 years, according to Arlene Dubin, chair of the matrimonial and family law practice of Moses & Singer in New York.

Millennials, in particular, are entering into marriages later, which may mean they have more to protect in the event of a divorce.

In part because of their financial obligations, nearly one-third of millennials said they were putting off getting married and 38 percent said they postponed having children, according to a TD Ameritrade survey of 1,000 adults age 18 and older.

Millennials are predisposed to protect their interests.
John Slowiaczek
president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

Millennials are also proactively choosing to make such significant sacrifices for career advancement, according to a separate survey by Wakefield Research for Graebel, a corporate relocation service. About 71 percent would be willing to postpone marriage and 72 percent would be willing to delay having children to relocate for a job in a desired location, Wakefield Research said.

"They've been on their own, accumulated some wealth, either from a 401(k) or a stock program provided by their employer or some real estate, and they want to make sure that's theirs if there are problems down the road," according to John Slowiaczek, president of the AAML.

In fact, the top three areas most commonly covered by the marriage contracts were "protection of the increase of value in separate property" followed by "inheritance rights" and "community property division," the AAML said.

Couples aren't just bringing assets to a marriage these days. They are also saddled with outstanding student loan debt, which now stands at a record $1.5 trillion.

Prenups, which safeguard individual assets such as retirement accounts, real estate and investments, can also cover one partner's student loan or credit card debt.

Aside from the bottom line, their own experience may also play a role, Slowiaczek said. "Many millennials are children of divorce," he said. "They are predisposed to protect their interests."

In that case, a prenup also offers the chance to hash out how a divorce handles issues, such as how a partner might be compensated for leaving the workforce to care for their children.

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And then there's Tinder. "The social dynamic has changed," Slowiaczek said. A large number of millennials have group dated, or relied on dating apps like Tinder, "rather than having a single date where they could establish a relationship," he said. "I wonder whether they have the romantic commitment to marriage that older generations have had."

Only 42 percent of millennials believe marriage is a life goal, according to a separate study by Avvo, an online legal marketplace.