According to new research reported in USA Today, women start out as happy young adults but are much sadder than their male counterparts by middle age. Researchers at the University of Cambridge in England analyzed decades of national data on 47,000 men and women to create a statistical model that shows women's happiness decreases, while men's increases, exceeding women's by age 48. According to the lead author, Anke Plagnol, women are more likely than men to fulfill their aspirations for material goods and family life, but later, they may be divorced or separated and less financially secure. Meanwhile, men's finances and family life improve.

This study comes as no surprise to this blogger. For single women, who usually make less than their male counterparts, midlife review of finances can be very discouraging. They have been unable to take advantage of the economies of scale that marriage can provide. For single parents, the financial results are even more dramatic. Midlife is the timeframe where kids are going to college with costs that can drain anyone's bank account.

For women who are separated or divorced, the financial reality is even more dramatic. After divorce, wives' standards of living drop 27 percent, while men's standards of living increased by about 10 percent.

I frequently advise women to be cautious about bailing from a marriage at midlife. They may be better off financially by simply separating but staying married. After all, it is likely they will out live their husbands anyway.

Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. A relationship expert, she is the author of Why Did I Marry You Anyway? Overcoming the Myths That Hinder a Happy Marriage. For more tips and tools to build your relationships, please visit: Marriage Tips. For Barb's Free e-mail newsletter, log on to The People Pro


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