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The cost of giving up your place

If you bought your home more than 20 years ago, there’s a good chance you’ve paid off most, if not all, of the mortgage on it. However, if you decide to move in with a partner, you may need to start paying rent again — either as part of their mortgage or because they live in a rental unit.

If you move into a new apartment together, for example, the median national monthly rental rate is $1,987, according to Rent.com. Plus, the cost of moving can be exorbitant. One woman received a $10,000 quote from movers to transport her things from Denver to Kansas City.

These are just the initial costs. The longer-term costs can really kick in if you discover that things may not work out down the road and you need to part ways.

This has been happening to younger Americans who are moving in together to offset the rising cost of living. The problem is that 42% of them regret moving in with a partner, according to a 2023 survey from Realtor.com. But given their financial situations, it can be difficult to get out of the lease and the relationship.

If you’re contemplating moving in with your partner, make sure to have some back-up money in case you need to get out of there. An emergency fund can be your key to saving yourself some major costs, such as moving or breaking a lease.

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The cost of divorce

Meanwhile, older married couples toying with the idea of separation or divorce are opting to “live apart together” instead in order to save money.

Larson told the story of an older couple she’d interviewed who were going through marital problems. Instead of getting a divorce, however, the wife moved out of their shared home and into her own condo.

“She considers it an investment in their marriage because divorce is incredibly expensive,” Larson said. “If you want to save your relationship, what are you willing to pay? What are you willing to do to keep it?”

Forbes said that the average cost of a divorce in 2024 ranges between $15,000 and $20,000 — and that’s not including possible alimony.

The national median monthly rent is currently $1,987, or $23,844 per year. Although paying rent costs more than getting divorced, living apart together can save you thousands in alimony payments — not to mention the emotional toll this may take on you and your family.

The unpaid labor costs

Although living apart together may help you financially, it can also save you emotionally.

Larson cited a study from Cornell University that said widowed women over 65 are “hostile” toward the institution of marriage. Many of these women had been raised to care for the men and children in their lives.

“The women were unwilling to give up their freedom,” Larson said. “They’re trying to avoid some of that caregiving that is often expected of women of all ages.”

Larson added that unpaid labor, such as cooking and raising kids, costs women their emotional freedom. A 2020 study from the Pew Research Center discovered that only 38% of women were “very satisfied” with the division of labor in the home — but more than half of men (55%) felt the same way.

If American women earned minimum wage for their unpaid labor around the house (for roughly four hours of work a day), they would have made $1.5 trillion, according to a New York Times calculation.

“Men who are in ‘live apart together’ relationships tend to be a little bit less satisfied in them,” Larson said, citing the aforementioned Cornell University study. “[Likely] because they might be missing out on the women's unpaid labor and caregiving.”

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Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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