Priced Out of Marriage

Has marriage become too expensive an institution for the working class?

In a piece for Slate, The Washington Post’s Amanda Hess takes a look at a research paper “Intimate Inequalities: Love and Work in a Post-Industrial Landscape” by University of Virginia sociologist Sarah Corse and Harvard sociologist Jennifer Silva, who interviewed 300 working- and middle-class Americans.

“They found that as the American workforce and the American marriage have destabilized over the past half-century, marriage has become an increasingly inaccessible option for working-class Americans,” Hess writes.

The researchers concluded that middle-income families can afford to spend the money to maintain the intimacy of their marriage or deal with troubled children while working-class people are priced out of the institution because they don’t have the money to pay for “therapy, horses, college, and gyms to stay happy together.”

“Many of the working-class Americans interviewed by Silva and Corse are now too concerned with maintaining their ‘own survival’ to ‘imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others.’”

It’s an interesting theory.

I often have people tell me they can’t afford to get married. When they say that, they are referring to not having the money for a wedding and reception. You can get married for so much less than what many folks spend. And, sure, it’s nice if you can afford to go out to dinner with your spouse or take nice vacations. But happiness comes from within. You can’t buy it.

What do you think?

Color of Money Questions of the Week

Is marriage a middle-income luxury? Send your responses to Put “Priced Out of Marriage” in the subject field, and include your full name, city and state. Or tweet your response to @SingletaryM #moneyquest.

A Boss Gone Wild

Regardless of his reasoning, AOL chairman and chief executive Tim Armstrong was wrong to fire one of his employees in public. This ranks right up with breaking up via a text message or voice mail. Actually it’s worse -- because so many people became witness to or heard the firing.

“It’s not every day someone allegedly gets fired by phone while hundreds of that person’s colleagues listen,” wrote On Leadership columnist Jena McGregor.

Armstrong was on a conference call with employees when Abel Lenz, creative director of, pulled out his camera to record the meeting, according to news reports. Armstrong asked Lenz to stop. Guess Lenz didn’t move fast enough because Armstrong then said: “Abel, you’re fired. Out!” Classic Donald Trump move.

Listen to the audio of the firing here.

On Tuesday, Armstrong issued an apology, reports Jim Romenesko. “It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion,” Armstrong wrote.

Marilyn Puder-York wrote in an opinion piece for that Armstrong should have handled the situation -- and his emotions -- better.

“One of the top capabilities for adults in leadership roles is the ability to manage emotions even under the most trying circumstances.” Puder-York wrote. “As humans, we all get stressed, have rough days and get triggered emotionally by the behavior of others. In fact, those of us with the highest standards of performance tend to have the strongest reactions. But that doesn’t give license for us to react impulsively.”

Certainly not when you get paid big bucks.

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The Money Talk

Parents have gotten fairly good at having the necessary talks with their children.

The sex talk.


School bullying.


Say no to drugs.


But the money talk?

Many can’t do it, even rich parents.

“Rich people probably spend more time thinking about their money than the rest of us. But even they struggle to discuss financial issues with their kids,” writes Dan Kadlec for Time.

Kadlec found a paper by Glenn Kurlander, managing director for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, that addressed the apprehension that affluent parents have in talking about money with their children.

“Just as with young kids and sex, when it comes to money, kids (of whatever age) know more than we think they know,” Kurlander writes. “But they’re confused about what they think they know.”

If you aren’t sure how to start the conversation or about what to say, Kurlander offers 10 rules for talking to kids about money.

Here are a few:

-- Think before you talk. Kids follow the example of their parents. If parents spend and don’t save, kids are likely to develop the same behavior.

-- A question is worth a thousand words. When talking about money, ask your kid questions and allow him or her to find the answer.

-- Talk and then talk some more. “When we let money become taboo, we’re not living up to our responsibilities to prepare and educate,” he says.

So, get to talking.

Travel Light or Pay

A Delta airline passenger decided he didn’t want to pay $1,400 in baggage fees, so he ditched some of his luggage at the check-in counter.

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “What fees bug you the most when traveling?”

Michael Seidel of Ashland, Ore., ranks baggage fees high on his nuisance list.

“Everything about our travel has been monetized, but the need to have luggage is different from paying extra for a larger seat or a different location or changing flights,” Seidel wrote. “It seems like the luggage fee is the ultimate squeeze to make profits. Sooner or later, though, they’ll start charging us for a using the toilets. The question is, when and which airline will be first? Let the betting begin.”

Bob Hooper of Vermont vented about the various fees and taxes added on when you rent a car. “Rental car franchise fee, rental tax, airport fee, state and local tax, yada yada,” he wrote.

Twitter follower @SjawnH wrote: “Hotel internet fees. $9.95 a DAY?! Seriously?”

“Baggage and 911 calls,” wrote Anita Jackson on Facebook.

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to