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Marrying later in life should change your prenuptial plans

It is a fact. Women are choosing to get married later in life. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau survey, the average woman is getting married approximately 4.3 years later than they would have in 1970.

This statistic may not surprise you. You may be one of those women who waited - and the reasons why may seem familiar. So, why are women waiting? Should this affect how they plan for marriage - or the possibility of divorce?

Waiting: Reasons why and the pro's and con's of the decision

There are many reasons why women delay marriage such as:

  • College: Over the past three decades, twice as many women have enrolled in college.
  • Career: Many more women are delving into their careers and concentrating on establishing their place in the workforce before settling down.
  • Financial security: Whether career driven, independent-minded or fearful that they will have to rely on someone else, more women are focused on building net worth before marrying.
  • Their own parents' divorce:┬áDivorce rates spiked while many of today's single women were children, and it had an effect on the way they approach intimate relationships.

Studies show that their choice has some upsides. From a relationship perspective, the longer you wait, the more life experience you have. You are more mature and have a better understanding of not only who you are, but also what you want from life.

From a financial perspective, women who married in their 30's earn more on average than those who married before they turned 20. For college-educated women, this means a salary almost $20k more (56 percent greater). For those without a college education, they earn nearly 22 percent more.

Yes, there are also some downsides to waiting. Women who wait have to deal with a smaller pool of available partners. They have to make tough decisions about whether or not waiting for marriage should coincide with waiting to have children.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

The longer you wait, the more likely you are to own more property and have more money in the bank. It is no longer surprising to find that the primary-incomer or "breadwinner" in many households is a woman.

While we can assume with near certainty that you are not planning to get divorced, you know that it happens. It is only reasonable to take steps to protect your nest-egg should "I do" become "I don't" for either of you.

A prenuptial agreement is the best way to put a protective barrier around your past and future financial success. You can define separate assets, set rules for spousal support and draft terms for the disposition of assets should something unexpected happen. The hidden benefit is that it forces you to have a conversation about your expectations for the marriage, giving clarity to both you and your future spouse.

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