Although many think that after 20, 25 or even 35 years of marriage it will surely last “til death do us part,” more and more baby boomers are divorcing late in life. Divorcing after age 50, which is being called “gray divorce” is the fast growing segment of divorcing couples and these divorces are usually initiated by the wife.
My marriage ended when I was 50, after 26 years of marriage. Most of my practice is helping couples who have been in very long-term marriages divide their marital estate and determine spousal support. Most of my clients have grown kids, so there is no child support or custody involved. It’s becoming more common for my clients to be in their 70s.
Longer life spans and the ability to be financially independent after divorce play a big part, particularly with affluent women. At 50+, many women see themselves living 25 or 30 more years, and they don’t want to spend their retirement years unhappy. They may feel they no longer have much in common with their husbands, or they have grown apart after many years.
Sometimes after the children have graduated from college and no longer live at home, one or both spouses find that that was the only thing that kept them together. Women who have been controlled or married to narcissists decide they have had enough and now that their kids are grown, they decide it’s time to get out.
Drug and alcohol addiction often play a part. Women see the possibility of having a second life that fits with how they see themselves today, and decide they no longer want to stay in their unhappy marriage.
Although female baby boomers were part of the women’s liberation movement and often worked away from the home, statistically, they worked fewer years and earned less than their husbands did. For this generation, employment opportunities were more limited and women were often pigeonholed in lower paying professions.
For “gray divorce” couples, often a “traditional” marriage took place where the husband worked and the wife raised the kids. The wife did not work for a portion of the marriage, often a good portion, and the husband took care of long-term finances. Sound like you?
The effect is that generally women fare worse in a gray divorce. Even if assets are divided 50/50, divorcing women may have a spotty work history or may have lost job skills and yet find themselves having to re-enter the work force to support themselves. Net worth declines as resources are drained to pay the bills.
Women experiencing a gray divorce, more than any other divorcing individuals, need to include a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to help them sort out their marital estate, which often includes a home, a pension or 401(k), brokerage accounts and IRAs, rental properties, vehicles and possibly a business.
Lifestyles have been maintained much longer and much more is at stake in terms of spousal support. Spousal support is a big worry for many. In North Carolina as well as other states, there is no formula for determining spousal support; it’s based on need vs. ability to pay. That’s where good, thorough budgets are extremely important, not just looking at the present, but also how things will change.
For instance, will you go back to work? When will social security start and how much will it be? Is there a pension or 401(k) and how will that affect your retirement? Should you keep the marital home? If not, do you want to buy a house or condo and how much will the mortgage be? What will it take to qualify for a mortgage? What will all your related living expenses be? These questions take time to research, but having that information during negotiations pays off in the long run.
My clients can see how settlement proposals affect their cash flow not just in the short term, but what it will look like 10, 20, even 30 years into their future. Seeing the long-term effect that a proposed settlement has on cash flow and net worth becomes imperative.
Financial pitfalls are awaiting those who do not closely examine the financial effects of taxes, social security, inflation and appreciation or depreciation of assets. Gray divorces are a financial settlement, and most attorneys don’t have the necessary financial knowledge, training or specialized family law software necessary to properly guide gray divorcing couples.
CDFAs can work with both spouses as a neutral divorce financial planner or with just one spouse as their financial advocate. For instance, my knowledge as a divorce financial planner helps BOTH parties in a divorce, even if I’m hired as an advocate by only one spouse.
During gray divorce, often the wife is at a loss as to how much she can expect in the divorce settlement and whether she can afford to live. She doesn’t know a lot about finance, and she is scared. Does this sound like you?
Did you divorce after a long term marriage? What were your biggest challenges? What do you wish you had known then?
Tags Divorce After 60