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Archive for Monday, May 6, 2002

Marital success can benefit financial status

May 6, 2002

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Thomas and Anita Fulford's marriage got off to a rough start. At one time they both were drug addicts. Thomas Fulford robbed banks to support his habit and as a result was sent to prison for three and a half years.

But recently the couple went to Capitol Hill to declare that the institution of marriage had saved their lives emotionally and financially.

They are, according to the couple, a testimony that building a faith-based, strong, caring marriage can be a way out of drug addiction, deprivation and self-destruction.

"My success is in my marriage," Thomas Fulford said during a press conference held by several community groups that support President Bush's plan to give $300 million to state and nonprofit organizations to develop programs that teach marriage skills to welfare recipients.

"I won't be successful if I don't have a successful marriage," Fulford said.

The president's plan focuses on the poor, but truth be told, many marriages could benefit from the type of marital counseling being proposed.

Many married couples need help to control their fighting over finances, which is often a key component in marriage training programs.

Some couples keep their finances so separate and secret that they might as well be roommates rather than soul mates.

The research is clear. Getting married and maintaining a healthy union in which both partners communicate well about their finances can be financially beneficial.

According to the Alliance for Marriage, children whose parents are not married are five times more likely to be poor, four times more likely to engage in criminal behavior and three times more likely to become a welfare recipient when they reach adulthood.

That's not to say that if you don't get married you will be poor. "It would be absurd to make that leap," said Matt Daniels, executive director of the alliance. "All we are saying is it is statistically verifiable that marriage has a powerful wealth accumulation effect."

Other research has shown that married older couples have higher median incomes and net worth than older adults who are widowed, divorced or never married, according to a study published this year in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The authors, Purdue University researchers Janet Wilmoth and Gregor Koso, concluded that the potential financial benefits of marriage include increased homeownership, insurance coverage for spouses, larger savings and survivor pension benefits.

But the message isn't that that there is less financial security if you are single, a single parent, divorced or widowed, Wilmoth said. But "given the findings of my research, I would say that a good financial plan is especially important for those who have never been married or are separated, divorced or widowed."

Already the president's plan has caused controversy. Those who support the initiative say that by helping poor couples get married and stay married, the government will not only pare down the welfare roles but also improve the lives of children and the communities where they live.

"It makes economic sense to invest in the community by investing in healthy marriages," said Charles A. Ballard, chief executive officer of the Institute for Responsible Fatherhood and Family Revitalization.

The institute helps couples such as the Fulfords turn their lives around and often hires them to help other families in their communities to overcome high-risk behaviors, get married and become self-sufficient.

The opponents of the Bush plan argue that pushing marriage on the poor is an intrusion on their privacy and could force women into bad or abusive marriages.

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