Contrary to the notion that most Chinese people are unwilling to sign prenuptial agreements, more overseas Chinese are showing a positive attitude toward the pacts, a recent survey found.
Nearly 70 percent of overseas Chinese, mainly living in the US, said it is necessary to sign prenuptial agreements, commonly known as prenups, before entering a marriage, according to a survey conducted by 2RedBeans, a Bay Area-based dating company.
The survey of 1,084 users was conducted from July 28 to Aug 7, through the company's mobile app. The company said it has more than 1 million registered users, half based in the US, and the rest in Canada, Australia and elsewhere.
The survey also found that 82 percent of baby boomers (above 57 years old), 69 percent of Generation X (between 41 and 56 years old), 63 percent of Generation Y (between 25 and 40 years old) and 76.5 percent of Generation Z (under 25 years old) all agreed to declare their individual finances upon getting married and believed that a prenup can protect their assets.
"It shows that overseas Chinese's attitude toward marriage has been apparently influenced by the Western values of marriage in the past decade," said Q Zhao, co-founder of 2RedBeans.
"The traditional Chinese concept of establishing a family means the couple shares the family's properties. In Chinese culture, talking about money hurts feelings," said Zhao.
A prenuptial agreement is relatively common in the West, where it is used to determine how a couple will divide their assets in the case of divorce, instead of having a court make the decision.
In China, a prenup is considered taboo because it indicates distrust between a couple. But its reputation has been slowly changing with economic development and rising divorce rates.
According to a 2011 survey by Beijing-based Horizon Research Consultancy Group, less than 5 percent of the couples in China's first-tier cities entered into prenuptial agreements, and nearly 90 percent of unmarried people disliked the idea. In 2017, the China Youth Daily conducted a survey of 1,999 respondents and found 57.9 percent said a prenup was acceptable.
The high rate of overseas Chinese embracing prenups is partly influenced by the recent high-profile splits of celebrities, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, said Zhao. Bezos' divorce ended up with a settlement of at least $35 billion, which would be the world's most expensive divorce.
Both Gates and Bezos didn't have prenuptial agreements, and they paid an "astronomical breakup fee" for divorcing their wives after 25 years of marriage, which prompted people to rethink the importance of prenups, said Zhao.
"On the other hand, the overseas Chinese living in North America are generally high-income earners and come from middle-class families, so they tend to accept prenups, and it's particularly reflected in the Baby Boomers and Gen Z," said Zhao.
Among the Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, many have experienced or heard from their newly single friends about divorce disputes, so they tend to be more cautious about protecting their finances upon getting married, she said.
For millennials, a factor behind the increase in prenups is that this group is getting married later in life and may have more assets than members of past generations, she added.
A 2018 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers echoed Zhao's opinion. The survey found a 62 percent spike in people getting prenups, and that it was driven by millennials.
Besides the notable trend among millennials, Zhao also noted a rise in the number of women who are increasingly becoming interested in prenups.
"Our survey shows 71.3 percent of female respondents believe it's necessary to sign the legal agreement, higher than their male counterparts at 64 percent," said Zhao.
"As to the motivations for signing prenups, we found the older respondents tend to start the marriage by being transparent to avoid disputes in the future, while the younger people prefer not to share their individual assets attained before marriage," she said.