When young people, flush in the fire of first love, talk about getting married, there is often a point at which the power of emotion is tempered by the sheer weight of practicality and bureaucracy. This might come when they get their marriage license, or the first time they file taxes together, or when they buy a house.
But it happens. That’s because, living in a system in which finances are regulated and layers of protection for the individual and the state exist, even the most poetic love runs into a long line at the DMV.
That’s no different for people who choose to marry after the age of 60. In fact, those considerations are often a huge obstacle for older adults considering getting married after 60. Adults who have more life experience with these decidedly unromantic issues might decide that discretion is the better part of love and may choose to stick to cohabitation.
That doesn’t have to be the case though. Falling in love after 60 is no different than falling in love at 25. You have to make decisions about what will be the best for both parties and how you can enter a new chapter with as much love—and as few headaches—as possible.
The only differences are the natures of the questions. Late-in-life marriages (especially if they are not the first marriages) have their own considerations. Asking these questions can help you decide if marriage or another arrangement allows you to have the best life.
Because, at the end of the day, that’s what it is really all about: continuing your journey, hand-in-hand, with another person, gliding on that giddy thrill of love that age can never temper.
Questions to Ask When Considering Getting Married After 60
When you get older, you have more than your lifetime of memories and romantic experience in your pocket. You also have the various financial benefits (and potential penalties) accrued over the years. These all need to be accounted for when talking about getting married (or remarried).
Here are some of the most common questions:
Do you lose your Social Security if you get remarried?
This is a very common worry for people who have started to collect Social Security benefits. The short answer is “No.” The longer answer is “No, but …”
Your Social Security is yours, as you have paid into the system and are eligible for benefits once you reach a certain age, but if you are a widow or widower, there are stipulations about collection.
Widows or widowers are not eligible to claim survivor’s benefits if you remarry before the age of 60. After 60, you are eligible for Social Security payouts based on your deceased spouse’s income (which you may choose to take in place of yours if her or his income was greater).
Additionally, if your benefits are less than half of your new partner’s, you are eligible to receive additional benefits that make up the difference (up to 50%).
It goes without saying, of course, that you should report any name changes to Social Security Administration right away.
Will I lose my former spouse’s pension if I remarry?
This isn’t as much a concern as it may once have been, as most organizations have done away with pensions, but it still matters for government employees or those who worked for legacy companies.
According to Kiplinger, “(R)emarriage could also mean losing a deceased spouse’s pension benefits or other types of survivor benefits, such as annuities paid to spouses of police officers and firefighters.” For this reason, there are many couples who find that the benefits of not getting married outweigh the benefits of doing so.
Will getting married affect my Medicaid eligibility?
One of the dark secrets of California, land of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, is its vast senior citizen poverty rate. While the national average is an already-alarming 15%, in California, the older adult poverty rate skyrockets to 20%.
Part of this is that California is home to more members of the LGBTQ community, who, due to years of neglect, opportunities lost due to bigotry, and economic punishment, have higher rates of poverty than other communities. Because of this, many older Californians are dependent on Medicaid for basic healthcare.
This becomes an issue when marrying and pooling income. A spouse’s income is a factor when determining Medicaid eligibility, and people can suddenly find themselves ineligible. Of course, many older adults are eligible for Medicare, but family benefits may be cut off when marrying.
Another health concern is that marriage makes one liable for their spouse’s medical debts, which will continue after death.
Should You Get Married After 60?
We hear all the time that marriage is in decline and more and more young people are choosing to cohabitate rather than walk down the aisle. Many do this for the perceived benefits: less paperwork, easier exit plans, and fewer headaches.
That’s a little shortsighted, of course. There are issues that arise when choosing to cohabitate rather than get married. Decisions like buying a car or a house, for example, become incredibly complex.
Still, over the last decade, the number of cohabitating people has risen by 29%, to 18 million. More than half of them are under 35 years old and nearly a quarter of them are older than 50.
What we are seeing is that older adults have the rights and the freedom to make the same choices as younger people. You can fall in love with the same giddy passion of younger people. You can date and have sex, move in, and make decisions about the rest of your lives.
As with any age of people choosing to tie their hearts to another human in the dangerous thrill of love, there must be continuous conversations about what is the best plan, both emotionally and financially.
If you are older than 60, there are different considerations to make, such as the ones discussed above. If you have questions, it can help to consult with organizations dedicated to assisting older adults deal with the paperwork and red tape of modern life. At Institute on Aging, our mission is to help older adults live and thrive independently. We offer a variety of resources, including financial services, and our experts and volunteers are here to help you navigate questions about aging.
The truth is, if you’re considering getting married after 60, there is no one right answer. Every couple will have a different situation. Asking the right questions can help you and your partner make that decision and ensure you’re ready for that hand-in-hand walk well past the end of the aisle.
At Institute on Aging, our mission is to help older adults thrive while aging at home. We offer services, including home care and financial services, as well as social programs, to help aging adults do just that. Contact us today to learn more.