2 Divorce Questions Every Older Adult Should Ask… But, Few Do
Unfortunately, men and women rarely ask themselves two essential divorce questions as they begin the process or while negotiating the final settlement:
Will the settlement allow me and my family to be financially secure now and in the future?
How much financial and emotional currency am I willing to spend?
Throughout the divorce process you will be presented with many paths down which you may go to find a solution and reach a settlement. However, what may make the most difference for your long term financial and personal wellness is not necessarily the final solution, but how you arrive at it.
Navigating Challenging Transitions
There are many reasons for a divorce, but in recent years the divorce rate among retiring couples has increased! The transition from working to retirement can be one of the most emotional events in our lives. For many, the loss of their identity as “who they were” and not having a clear understanding of how to manage assets in retirement – to actually begin withdrawing from accounts they have spent their whole life building – can be very daunting.
In addition, I have found that executives or others in management can have difficulty as they no longer have people to “boss around” and mistakenly try to boss their spouses! Or, the two people in the couple have both been working in careers and now are faced with being together 24/7. They realize that they had a good working relationship but they do not want to spend the rest of their lives with a person who no longer makes them happy.
Facing Tough Divorce Questions
How would you feel about hearing any of the following?
“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“We just want different things now that we are retired.”
“You keep your retirement plan and I will keep mine and we split everything else evenly.”
Will the Settlement Ensure Financial Security?
Once a couple has engaged lawyers to act on their behalf, they then begin the process of negotiating the division of the assets that have been accumulated over their lifetime and determining the amount of support, if any, one spouse pays to another. However, if the divorce is taking place at around the time of retirement, the division of marital assets, including retirement accounts and pensions, may result in no spousal support being paid.
What was to be a time to spend together in retirement, has become a matter of holding on to enough assets to provide financial security and be in a safe environment. Without answering these questions, many divorcing couples find out a few years later that what they had thought was a reasonable settlement has left them in financial trouble. The real problem is when they realize they cannot go back and make changes to the property settlement agreement!
How Much Emotional Currency am I Willing to Spend?
Beyond the financial issues are the emotional ones that can be even more problematic. The amount of emotional currency spent in a battle over “things” and having to spend a great deal of your savings doing so can result in the need for long term psychological counseling which also affects your general health.
Stress is a major cause of a person’s poor health and ability to recover from surgery or other illnesses. In addition, do you want to open up old wounds to pursue the other person for specific benefits in the agreement where they have not complied? You need to determine if the emotional cost is worth the financial gain that may be involved.
By answering the above two questions it can help you make better decisions, save money and emotional stress and understand what the longer term financial impact will be BEFORE you sign the agreement. If you do not understand the financial issues, get help! This is going to be one of the most critical events of your life in determining your long term financial wellness. Having professional help is a necessity, especially if you are the one who is less well informed about the family financial matters.
How much financial and emotional currency did you spend in your divorce? Do you understand now how to negotiate a settlement that will allow you and your family to be financially secure now and in the future? What steps did you take to respond to the two essential divorce questions? Please share your thoughts with the community.
Stan Corey is a CFP, ChFC and CPWA providing financial life management for more than 36 years. Stan has published a novel, The Divorce Dance, which is a story about a divorcing couple whereby the wife, Natalie, guides the reader though the divorce process and how to have a respectful divorce. Please visit his website.