The $500K Question: Keep Your Maiden Name Or Change?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a decision every woman has to make before getting married: Whether to change her name.

In the 1990s, 23 percent of women decided to keep their maiden names. But that dropped in the last decade to 18 percent. That makes a new study even more interesting, because it states those maiden names could be worth as much as $500,000.

For brides and grooms, their wedding cake signifies a new beginning. A magical moment, filled with promise. And for many brides, a time of change.

“Never really looked at it as losing my identity or anything like that,” said Kristin Gast, “just more of becoming a new family.”

Gast will change her last name when she marries Andy Lenander on July 16.

“You build a brand name for yourself,” she said, “and that’s kind of all you have.”

She built that brand online, and in public relations, currently at the United Way. So, she realizes she’ll be trading in some of that investment when she changes identities.

“I have to be really thoughtful about how I transition and letting people know that I’m still the same person,” she said. “My email just has a slightly different ring to it.”

But a new Dutch study claims women who keep their maiden names will make a lot more money — $500,000 more over the course of their careers.

“It’s come in handy to have that name, obviously,” said Beth LaBreche, “because I built a brand around it, and I built a business that uses my last name.”

Beth knows a bit about the name game. Hers is all over the place at her Minneapolis PR firm.

“It’s an unusual last name,” she said, “so I think it’s more memorable than Johnson.”

Beth married Eric Johnson 21 years ago, and that worked out pretty well. With one exception.

“What he makes fun of,” she laughed, “is when he gets mail that says Eric LaBreche. And then he promptly throws that away.”

Still, gender issues in the workplace are no laughing matter.

“The women who got the higher salaries (in the study), got the promotions, and got the job were associated with more masculine traits,” said Debra Fitspatrick, who leads the Center for Women and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute.

She said this study mirrors others she’s seen, and the question shouldn’t be about women changing their names, but about bosses becoming more aware of their biases.

“There’s a lot of research,” she said, “that shows when you make people aware of these kinds of things ahead of time that it can have an impact and change the outcome.”

The Dutch study had college students act like bosses, asking them to hire and promote hypothetical women who either used their maiden or married names. So, it was really all about stereotypes and biases.

If you’re wondering about your own biases, you might want to take Harvard’s Implicit Bias test.  It takes about 10 minutes and the results help researchers study the unconscious brain.

More from Amelia Santaniello
Comments

One Comment

  1. James2 says:

    Geez it must be difficult to be a hetero. Decisions, such life impacting decisions. Maybe we ought to amend the constitution so the decision is the governments.

    1. Wow says:

      If you want to take your gay partners name go ahead. Nothing stopping you.

  2. JamieinMN says:

    That’s complete rubbish. Why must everything be about money?!?!?! I’m getting married next year and I’m not even going to hyphenate my name because I am taking his name as my own. That’s how I see marriage. @James, this has NOTHING to do with gay marriage, so save it for the next article.

  3. jlynn says:

    I look forward to a day when heterosexual men who are getting married take the last name of their wife.

    1. Rachel says:

      I do as well. I tried to convinve my husband that he should take my last name. It didn’t work out very well though, haha.

      1. mattjwolfe says:

        That day’s here – just not common at all. I agreed to take my wife’s name when we were married in 2004. Her dad had all daughters and she wanted his name to continue – plus my name was extremely common, and her’s a bit more unique. My family was obviously not thrilled when I informed them of the choice, but I wanted our kids to have the same name as their mom and their dad. We were younger (early 20′s) so we didnt have a whole lot of personal brand considerations at the time, but I’d say taking her name actually helped my career.

  4. JCT says:

    I actually decided on both. I dropped my middle name, took my mainen name as my new middle name and added husbands name to the end. No hyphen, no passing on more names than my kids need, AND I got to keep the “identity” of who I had been for my entire life. I may have joined a new family and taken that name but I am still a big part of my own family and didnt want to lose that.

    1. Wow says:

      It’s just a name…

  5. Matt says:

    Another worthless study and half a$$ journalism by CCO.

    I wonder if they even thought about the fact that those who likely didn’t change their name did so because they had an identity and a career which they didn’t want to interrupt not the other way around. It’s not like by keeping your name the same you get a check for $500K. Balance out the study with equal individuals and I seriously doubt there is any significant financial impact.

  6. Nancy Aleshire says:

    Along a different note–changing back to maiden name when you divorce. I decided to keep my married name when I got divorced. There were children involved and it would be less complicated if I had the same name as them. If I do remarry I’d just add my new husband’s name onto my current name.

  7. Wow says:

    If you are a higher profile person or someone who has a business names after you then you can still change your name and use the business name for anything business related. How many actors or actresses do you think use their real name?

  8. Jim says:

    When I got married 30 years ago and I decided to take my wifes last name as her father was one of only a few left with his last name. He had 4 daughters so his name would have ended. I have 2 boys now to carry on the name. I got divorced over 5 years ago and still have his last name.

  9. mattjwolfe says:

    It’s already here. I agreed to take my wife’s name when we were married in 2004. Her dad had all daughters and she wanted his name to continue – plus my name was extremely common, and her’s a bit more unique. My family was obviously not thrilled when I informed them of the choice, but I wanted our kids to have the same name as their mom and their dad. We were younger (early 20’s) so we didnt have a whole lot of personal brand considerations at the time, but I’d say taking her name actually helped my career.

  10. Gawrence says:

    To the jamieinMn who seems to never have anything better to do than rip into other peoples entitled opinions, maybe its best to drop your name. There seems not to be much respect for another’s individuality.

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