Are Engagement Rings Becoming Less Popular?

by TTMK on March 26, 2014 · 18 comments

are engagement rings losing popularityIt’s a custom in this part of the world that when a couple gets engaged, there is a ring involved.  And that ring usually includes something sparkly.

And yes, it’s usually expensive.

However, it seems like this is just the way it is.  Or is it?  An interesting write up on Yahoo that I recently read suggests that an engagement ring isn’t necessarily something that’s the top priority to women in their 20s.  Apparently, per a study reference in the article, 50% of those surveyed indicated that they would prefer a down payment on a home to a ring.

That’s not something I would have expected to read, but on the surface it would appear to be a vote for practicality over the emotional desire for a decorative yet symbolic item.   Females in their 20’s are looking at things with an eye on something different than what traditional expectations might be.  I say that reinforced by this follow-up bit of information from the article indicating that respondents in their 50s and 60s saw things differently.  It seems that only 8% and 2%, respectively, shared the same view that a home down payment would be preferred.

That’s quite a generational difference!

What is this telling us?

I wonder if it’s simply a function of the economy being different today than it was in a prior generation, so people are forced to think a little bit more practically.  Or, it simply a sign of changing tastes and a lower level of interest in symbolic jewelry?

It seems to me like the answer is more likely to be the former.  My feeling is that it’s a matter of economics and that the desire for a nice ring hasn’t disappeared, but lower prices for one might change the equation a bit.

Maybe there are other reasons behind this.  In any event, the idea that so many people would prefer a down payment on a house over a ring is interesting.

Though on the other hand, while a down payment on a house might seem practical, it might not be the best use of the money.  I say that because putting money down on a house generally means that a home will be purchased and for a newly married couple this usually entails a mortgage.  Thus, instead of buying a ring, money is allocated toward a purchase that will generate a ton of debt.

Now this is a debatable perspective, and I’m of course not saying that buying a home is a bad thing.  It’s just a different choice than a ring, and it most assuredly involves quite a bit of money.  Maybe a home would be purchased anyway if a ring was bought, but can we say that the loan would be more in that case?  There’s no guarantee of that.

Anyway, I found it to be an interesting statistic and one that brings about those aforementioned questions on why this might be happening and whether it’s just a matter of being a different expense instead of sign of practicality.

As an aside, when I was position to make that decision, I chose to purchase a ring – and the home down payment part never crossed my mind.  A ring purchase still seems like the preferred route for me, but maybe I’m not as practical as I like to believe I am 🙂

My Questions for You

What are your thoughts on these survey results?

Do you think this reflects changing values, economic realities, or something else?

What would your preference be, if you were in that situation?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Kasia March 26, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Looking at the ring fingers of most of my friends, I would have to say that engagement rings are definitely not going out of fashion, and no expense is being spared either. At the same time mortgages are still being taken out, some before marriage and some after. Priorities may be shifting but with two income households it’s possible to have both the engagement ring and the house down payment.
I think further studies are required to gauge the reliability of these statistics. Practicality is great but many women still like to have a bit of bling on their finger from their man.

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TTMK March 29, 2014 at 11:50 am

I suppose that in many circles, things haven’t changed at all. Where both people work, there is more money to afford needs which leaves money available for other luxuries too. Seems logical.

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DEBt DEBs March 26, 2014 at 9:19 pm

In the age of push presents that seems really surprising. Unless they are having the kid first and the push present / engagement ring is combined.

I think most woman want the ring. It’s says “He thinks I’m worth it”

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TTMK March 29, 2014 at 11:48 am

The “I’m worth it” part is interesting. My perspective is probably just naturally different because I’m a guy and of course view the situation from a different vantage point. But I guess that makes sense!

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Peter H. March 26, 2014 at 9:24 pm

I think this is 100% reflection of our changing values. Family and sanctity of marriage has been under attack as long as I can remember and people are generally getting married late then ever. Having children is frowned upon and marriage itself is seem more as invasion into personal life and personal fulfillment.

Japan is always ahead of what’s going to happen in our culture and most men is Japan don’t seek relationship but they have relationship with a character on their phone. I heard that marriage and new born decline has hit historical record.

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TTMK March 29, 2014 at 11:47 am

I suppose with economic conditions being different today than in prior generations, as well as educational requirements, maybe there is a practical reason marriage is being delayed. With kids, I think it’s to each their own in terms of whether or not to have them. For me, my kids are more important than anything and I can’t imagine not having them or anyone frowning upon my having them. But everyone is different, right?

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Peter H. March 29, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Yes, everyone is different, but I’ll say this. If you don’t experience marriage and have kids, you’re missing out big time in life. People’s mindset nowadays are exactly the opposite, that you’ll miss out on time if you get married and have kids. It’s really ironic.

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TTMK March 31, 2014 at 1:42 am

I agree that it’s missing out, based on my own experiences as well. I love my kids more than anything. But, not everyone is cut out to do that like I am and you are. Maybe it’s best for all that those who don’t want kids simply shouldn’t have them then? As a parent, I am immensely thankful I chose to have them but can see how others might have different values. It is what is I suppose.

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The Thrifty Issue March 27, 2014 at 8:23 am

I think values are changing and many don’t even get married anymore. I regretted my ring and I know quite a few who wished they didn’t get such a big diamond. I have friends who got tattoos on their ring finger instead. I wouldn’t do that, but each to their own.

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TTMK March 29, 2014 at 11:44 am

It seems like societal pressures to conform and be married are not quite what they were a generation ago….and likely much less than two generations ago. The ring tattoo thing I’m not a fan of based on first reaction, perhaps because I simply haven’t heard of it before. Maybe I’m too old-fashioned.

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Kathy March 27, 2014 at 11:54 am

Next week my husband and I celebrate our 37th anniversary. Yay! When we got married, I opted for a gold band and he chose not to wear a ring. We put that money toward the down payment for the house we bought two weeks later. No regrets at all. However, fast forward 30=some years. I now wear a 3.25 carat ring that he gave me after receiving an inheritance. A carat for each decade we were married. So patience does pay off for now I have the ring AND a house with no mortgage.

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TTMK March 29, 2014 at 11:42 am

Kathy – congrats on 37 years, that’s fantastic! Also, your example of patience is a great one. The practical approach turned into a win-win it seems!

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Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia March 28, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Alright, women are finally becoming more practical! 😉

Kidding aside, I’ll bet it is a “sign of the times” considering the economic turmoil of the last 6 years or so. If/when the economy picks up, I’ll bet the survey results swing back down a bit. But, cultural symbols like that do evolve over time, so maybe it’s on the way out. I, of course, got my wife an engagement ring, but I purchased one that was within reason $ wise. Honestly, I don’t think she’d have been any more happy or satisfied if I’d spend way more…so I’m glad I didn’t!

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TTMK March 29, 2014 at 11:41 am

Cultural symbols do evolve, that’s true. Who knows, maybe 30 years from now they guy will have to provide a home down payment instead of a ring. Or, maybe the general idea that they guy needs to provide in that way will vanish. Who knows?

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Kay March 29, 2014 at 9:09 am

I agree with you that this is probably a reflection of recent economic conditions. Millenials have been scarred by the Great Recession and are much more cautious with money as a result. I have to say that I am more traditional, so I like the idea of an engagement ring. But it doesn’t have to be a large diamond and platinum ring. It doesn’t have to be a diamond at all. I think couples can be reasonable and still save for the down payment.

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TTMK March 29, 2014 at 11:39 am

That makes sense, people have been influenced by what they have seen and directly experienced. Maybe the new normal is now a more reasonable ring and a balanced perspective.

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Poor Student March 30, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I think people who are 50s and 60s now experienced a quite different financial era. Back then it was easier so I think it’s more a change in economic realities. Nevertheless if it were me, I’d still prefer to have engagement ring, albeit a more inexpensive one.

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TTMK March 31, 2014 at 1:43 am

I suspect that you’re probably right about people in a different (more prosperous) era having less to deal with financially. Back in the day, people could thrive without a college degree while today having a degree or graduate degree doesn’t guarantee anything.

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