Studies show that the overall rate of divorce has stayed somewhat constant for the last twenty years, however the rate of divorce among people over fifty years old has more than doubled in the same time period. These are often called “Gray Divorces”. Nearly 25% of all divorces measured recently occurred in this population. This represents a 250% increase from similar rates twenty years earlier. The simple fact is that you may be, in some way, involved in a gray divorce.
The simple fact is that in increasing numbers older couples are deciding that they do not want to spend their retirement years with their current spouse. A host of issues come up in divorce when it occurs at this stage of life:
- While a divorce can help a person’s emotional well-being, it can be very difficult financially and problematic unwinding a couple’s financial life.
- Many retirements decisions, such as when to retire, and levels of spending, were possibly made assuming an intact marriage. But following a divorce and liquidation of certain assets, individual may no longer have sufficient funds to retire. Divorced individuals may end up working many more years than expected as a result.
Gray divorce can be economically devastating, especially for women who have left the labor force for many years to rear children. The pool of money saved for retirement must now be split between two people whose lifestyle expectations and spending habits may need to dramatically change. Retirement planners state that is costs significantly more to retire as two single people than it does as a married couple. A few life changes may be required:
- Retirement may need to be delayed
- The individual may need to save significantly more money in the last years of employment
- Lifestyle and spending changes will be required
- Medical expenses may increase without a spouse to assist and take care of an individual
- There may not be sufficient time, because the couple is so close to retirement, to save enough money.
The financial concerns of grey divorce can become very complex. Retirement accounts such as pension plans and other tax shelters plans are considered marital assets and will need to be divided. The process of dividing these accounts can be difficult and complicated and the assistance of a qualified professional is recommended.
Here are some tips to deal with some of these problems:
- Hire a financial advisor when hiring a divorce lawyer. Let your professional team work together on a settlement that will address some of these concerns and allow both individual to enter retirement.
- Increase savings and go back to work
- Reduce spending and live in a smaller home, travel less, and reduce unnecessary expenditures.
- Consider leaving children less money
- Start using a budget now. A well-documented budget can provide evidence of standard of living and also serve as a realistic bench mark for what living solely may be like.
Grey divorce has unique challenges and can be particularly difficult because of the stage of life of the two individuals. However, with careful planning and advice from professionals a successful separation is possible with a solid economic future.