6 Tips for Thriving in Post-Divorce Retirement
Divorce has been declining in America – except for older Americans where it has been increasing. The number of people over the age of 50 who divorce nearly doubled between 1990 and 2010, according to a recent study. Researchers have dubbed divorce for those over the age of 55 as the “gray divorce,” and have started to note its many financial consequences.
Gray divorce can have an outsized effect on women since in many cases women have longer life expectancies, their husbands may have been managing the family finances and they often took significant time out to raise children, which impacts their retirement benefits and savings and their career prospects. As a child of divorce I’ve seen first-hand the impact it can have on the finances of women.
Divorce in retirement age can be daunting for many reasons. A huge personal and household change at a time of life transition from working to retirement is a lot for the strongest among us to handle, but if you plan well and prepare your financial life, you will survive a gray divorce. The best thing you can do is plan in advance and take control of your independence confidently.
If you are worried about a divorce in your future, here are some things to consider.
Know the Law
You need to be aware of the divorce laws in your state, especially if you did not come into marriage with a prenuptial agreement outlining your division of assets. In several U.S. states, there is a community property law that divides all property accumulated during the marriage equitably.
Seek legal advice and be certain that you are getting from the marriage what the law recommends you deserve. You can read more about community property here.
Save, Save, Save More
Only 24% of Baby Boomers, “the gray generation,” feel that they have saved enough money to hold them through retirement. That is down 12% from just five years ago! Divorce is an expensive life change, and if you are already feeling apprehensive about your financial outlook at retirement age, you need to take this into consideration when getting a divorce.
Start saving as much as you can, and if you feel you didn’t start saving early enough, really start saving now. Make multiple contributions to your savings, such as downsizing to a smaller home, cutting back on extraneous daily expenses or deciding to work a few more years before drawing Social Security benefits. These small concessions will add up and get you back on your feet after a divorce.
Take Control of Your Own Future
No one plans for a divorce (for the most part) but even if you aren’t planning to get divorced, you should be planning to take care of yourself should something happen to your partner. It is also uniquely empowering to have an independent retirement plan to keep track of how much you have saved and a clear projection of how much you could potentially need. The notion that you are prepared to take care of yourself should be enough of a motivation to take control of your financial future.
Work with a Financial Planner
Working with a financial planner is an excellent way to prepare for unforeseen financial calamities and shortcomings that come with divorce. It is also a way to have an objective set of eyes on your finances, and sometimes an objective voice of reason is the only way to take hold of your financial future realistically. Financial planners have seen it all, and are paid to be the voice of reason, so don’t hold back and take advantage of any suggestions or advice they have to offer.
Plan for Healthcare
Have you been under your partner’s health care plan for decades and are now back at square one? Will you be able to keep your partner’s healthcare after the divorce? Depending on your health insurance policy and specific regulations, these are questions you need to ask in order to be secure in the future of your health care. You can find some resources on ways to save on health care.
Don’t Be Too Proud to Downsize
Up to this point, you have had the security of a combined life, shared expenses and a joint income. After divorce, especially around retirement age, where your work income may be lower, don’t decide against downsizing your lifestyle; it may be the only way to have a comfortable and secure future.
Consider small ways in which to downsize, such as a more efficient vehicle or smaller home and weigh what is most important to you. If you plan to travel often, perhaps investing in a small apartment is the best permanent living option for your home base, which leaves you more money for travel.
Divorce is no fun, but can be less stressful if you plan correctly. Baby Boomers are breaking the mould across the board and now one in three baby boomers is single during retirement age. You’re not alone and there are resources to guide you on your path to independent, financial freedom.
What advice would you give to a woman who is looking at a divorce right before retirement? Are you familiar with the divorce laws in your state or country? Do you have a plan for healthcare in retirement? Please join the conversation.
Stephen Chen is the founder and CEO of NewRetirement, a DIY retirement planning service focused on helping people create a financially secure retirement. NewRetirement was started based on his experience helping his mom prepare for her own retirement and seeing how complex and challenging it can be.