Michelle Singletary
Michelle Singletary
Columnist

Marriage, students loans and more on teen pregnancy

Knot Yet

Delaying marriage can increase the economic fortunes of educated women, according to “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America.” The new report was sponsored by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and the Relate Institute.

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But there’s a consequence to waiting to get married.

“The biggest downside to delayed marriage in America is that many young adults are now putting the baby carriage before marriage,” said report co-author and National Marriage Project director Bradford Wilcox, a U.Va. sociology professor. “What they often don’t realize is that children born outside of marriage are significantly more likely to be exposed to a revolving cast of caretakers and the social, emotional and financial fallout associated with family instability and single parenthood.”

“The study is “a growing body of research into the impact of delayed marriage as the median age when people marry has risen to 27 for women and 29 for men,” reports The Washington Post’s Carol Morello.

The study found that women enjoy an annual income premium if they wait until age 30 or later to marry. According to the report: “Women with a college degree who wait to marry until at least thirty, and high-school-educated women without a degree who also wait until thirty, earn more than those who marry at younger ages. In fact, this report finds that they earn $18,152 and $4,052 more per year, compared to their sisters who marry before twenty.”

However “as marriage gets delayed to later ages, the odds of having a child outside of marriage increase. Indeed, in the United States, 48 percent of all first births are now to unmarried women,” the report found.

“This pattern of putting parenthood before marriage has long been observed in lower-income households, but ‘Knot Yet’ notes – with some alarm – that the trend is now spreading to middle-income households,” wrote Karen Kaplan for The Los Angeles Times. “Regardless of what you think about the morality of this, there are data that suggest children born to unmarried parents are at several disadvantages compared with their peers with married parents.

Kapan points out that the “Knot Yet” report cites other research in a journal produced by Princeton and the Brookings Institution called “The Future of Children,” which found that among other things “children suffer financial, academic and emotional consequences when their parents are not in stable relationships and romantic partners come and go.”

The Color of Money Question of the Week: What do you think of the findings in “Knot Yet” study? (Just a suggestion: Read the full report first.)

Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Knot Yet” in the subject line and include your full name, city and state.

Schools Suing Students

If you’ve got student loans and aren’t paying your bill your college might come after you.

This week the “Today Show” ran a segment about the growing rate at which students are defaulting on their loans and the measures schools are taking to collect the debt.

“The problem is that delinquent student loans are growing, passing late credit card payments for the first time, and federal law requires schools to collect and sometimes sue,” CNBC senior correspondent Scott Cohen pointed out. “Unlike most forms of debt, you can’t get out of a student loan, not even by declaring bankruptcy. But with delinquencies rising and budgets shrinking, lenders and colleges are getting more aggressive about collecting, including taking their alumni to court.”

The University of Pennsylvania and George Washington and Yale universities are some of the schools taking former students to court for defaulting on their need-based federal Perkins loans, according to various news reports.

But here’s a bit of good news for student loan borrowers.

“The Obama administration slashed the commissions paid to private collection companies that chase overdue student loans, reducing an incentive to squeeze borrowers,” reports Bloomberg News.

The Education Department had offered commissions as high as 16 percent of the entire loan amount if collectors persuaded defaulted borrowers to make stiff monthly payments, Bloomberg said. But now the fee will drop to 11 percent, no matter the payment.

So under the old commission system, a $20,000 loan would require payments of about $200 a month for the collection company to get its full commission, Bloomberg notes. The collector would collect $3,200. If the collector got that higher payment, the company got an administrative fee of $150.

“With $77.4 billion worth of student loans in default, the federal government turns to an army of private collectors to pursue borrowers,” Bloomberg says. “These companies, which receive about $1 billion annually in commissions, have faced growing complaints that they insist on high payments, even when borrowers qualify for leniency. Under the new schedule, collectors will no longer have an incentive to avoid offering affordable payments tied to borrowers’ incomes.”

2013 Tax Season

In case you hadn’t heard, Internal Revenue Service employees will not be furloughed until after the April 15 tax filing deadline, Jennifer Liberto of CNNMoney and others have reported.

In a memo to employees obtained by CNNMoney, IRS acting commissioner Steven Miller wrote, “We expect that every one of us would take no more than one furlough day per pay period, beginning sometime in the summer, after the filing season ends.”

This is good news to taxpayers who have already faced refund delays because of software glitches.

Family Financial Fights

Are money issues driving a wedge between you and a family member?

If so, I want to offer you some advice on how to resolve your financial disagreements.

Send your stories to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your full name, city and state. Be sure to put “Family Financial Fights” in the subject line. I only need your personal information if I have additional questions. Because of the sensitivity of the situation, your personal details won’t be disclosed.

Being a Teen Parent Will Cost You

New York City’s recent teen pregnancy prevention campaign caused quite a bit of controversy. In the ads, adorable babies are offering frank advice to teens about how much having a baby at that age will cost them.

Last week’s Color of Money Question: “What do you think of New York City’s teen pregnancy prevention campaign?”

“I wholeheartedly disagree with the campaign,” wrote Alli Kaplan of Austin, Tex. “Instilling even more fear into teenagers who get pregnant and then are terrified about what to do and ashamed of every option is not going to improve the situation at all. The social stigma will remain regardless of whether the City of New York makes ad campaigns. The ad campaign is a nice wake-up call to focus on the consequences of one’s actions; however, the brain of a person in high school is not developed enough to fully understand the consequences of their actions.”

Jackie Greene of Newark, N.J., wrote: “Growing up, my mother made sure I understood that if I had a child before I could provide for it, I was on my own. It was clear as I watched her struggle that it was hard to be a single parent. My mom was an adult when she had me. I’m only in my 40s but I remember when everyone didn’t rally around bad choices and shame was a big part of why you didn’t do something. I never considered being a teenage parent because I knew my grandparents and my entire family would have been disappointed and embarrassed.”

Lucille Short of Fairfax, Va., said that as a parent of a female teen, she thinks the campaign is very straightforward. “I have informed my child from elementary school what her path is,” she wrote. “If we set the bar high for our kids and give them the tools to get there, we increase their chances of success.”

Mary Zawoysky of Woods Hole, Mass., agreed. “I think the ads are useful as a reality check. Teens see so much in our culture in television shows, films and books that looks like they can have sex with no consequences. It irritates me every time I see a sitcom with this type of wanton behavior. As a culture I think we have been irresponsible in allowing the media to portray sex in this way.”

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Follow me on Twitter at @SingletaryM, or connect with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com.

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

 
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