sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Gray Divorce: Why You Need Financial Advice!

By Mary Salisbury July 09, 2023 Managing Money

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.

Women See an Opportunity for a Second, Better Phase in Their Life

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.

But They Can Find Themselves in an Underdog Position

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.

Information on What Your Financial Future Holds Is Imperative

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?

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Did you divorce after a long term marriage? What were your biggest challenges? What do you wish you had known then?

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’ve heard it takes at least a decade to recover financially from divorce. I had to work 12 years beyond my planned retirement date when my husband left 24 years in. I was so grateful I hadn’t retired “on schedule,” i would have been in very precarious waters. The financial challenges are real, but solo life is full of beauty years later..


Thank you for giving me hope that the next chapter of “solo life is full of beauty..”. I believe you are right as I am experiencing that daily that being on my own is full of freedom and opportunities!!!

Linda Sentivanac

My husband’s parents divorced after 60 years of marriage at the age of 80! His idea. A girlfriend! Was that ever stressful! The good news was that his mother got a good settlement, including continuing to live in their home – by arranging to hold it in trust with her ex-husband. Now she is doing well and I’m writing a novel inspired by the story.


Thank you Linda! Let me know when that book is published!!!


I divorced after 50. My husband of 26 years had not worked for 20 of them . I was the primary bread winner. He had only social security disability for a bad back – however he chose not to do any work. It’s been almost 20 years and I’m finally living my best life after raising 3 boys, going back to school to earn my associated, bachelors and master degrees!


Good on you Cher! What did the good witch in Wizard of Oz say to Dorothy who was wearing the red slippers? “You’ve always had the power…”


Presently, I am separated from my husband of 41 years and it’s not easy. I finally decided after raising four boys and managing the entire household, I put myself first. It’s hard because I am a “nurturer” and a fixer and a rescuer as well!!! Being selfish is the hardest thing to do but as my girlfriends and family tell me that I deserve to have happiness too! I am worried about my finances as he always looked after that part of our marriage and he provided me with a good life while I stayed home to look after the children. We sold our family home and now, I am living in a one bedroom apartment close to work and keeping an eye on my finances! I am learning about finances and have a financial adviser to help me. Talking about retirement with my husband was always difficult and he never give me much information about how it would look. Now, I am in control and although there is no settlement at hand, I have a better idea of what I have and the big positive of this is NO DEBT!! I always wanted to live a simpler life than the tremendous amount of stuff we accumulated and so when we sold the house, I had to get rid of a lot of memories and things!! It felt good. Sorry, I feel like I am rambling on now and I have to get to work which thankfully, is my “happy place”. Hope to hear more from you out there and get some inspiration too! Take care!

Janis Stewardson

Hi I fit the stereotype of the grey divorce. I left my husband at the age of fifty. My oldest just entered university and the other was fifteen.
Now I am close to sixty five. Just about to retire and financially very aware. I had to learn slot. One thing I learned was that my ex had had a gambling addiction and we had no savings. So I had to “start again”. It hasn’t always been emotionally easy. I have “grown up” and I know myself more. I am more at peace and financially have got myself into a good place. I let go of the “dream” that someone would come and look after me and learned that I can look after me. Cliche -but true.
I love this website where women can commune with each other. 😊


Thank you Janis for your email! I grew up living in a fairy tale thinking that my prince would rescue me and we would live happily ever after! “Happily ever after” can look differently for many women and I think I grieve that dream but my girlfriends tell me there is a better dream that I had not considered:). Take care and thanks for sharing your story with me. I think the other thing I learned is that I tend to look at the positives in people and I did that with my husband as well. I turned away and forgave him easily while he did not change. My husband accumulated a great deal of debt and I easily (once again) excused him for doing that because of the lifestyle he gave me while raising four boys in an affluent neighbourhood.


I am recently divorced (it took 3 1/2 years) after a 40 year marriage. I am now 68 and terrified! I was never a part of the financial area in our marriage. I trusted my husband with everything, including my inheritance. How embarrassing is that?!! Hopefully I will get my 50/50 share over the next three years but my now ex-husband is very difficult and it may take many trips to court to get what is rightfully mine. I am in need of a good financial advisor and talked with friends who have shared a bit of their experience but I am still so uneasy about it. I don’t know which is the best, to pay commission or a percentage of my total savings. Any suggestions would be so much appreciated! God bless all you courageous women!!

Mary Salisbury

Hello Bren,

Most financial advisors have changed from a commission model to a fiduciary model where they charges a set percentage of your account (usually 1%) as a yearly fee. The thought is that when your account does better, they earn more in fees. Ask friends and family who they use. Don’t trust a big wire house like Merrill Lynch or UBS unless you get a recommendation from someone you trust. Their fees can include a lot of hidden fees and can be very high. There is not need to hire a local firm as advice can be given virtually as well. It is important to ask about fees, including hidden fees if you are invested in mutual funds. Don’t get sold an annuity unless you expect to live a very long time. The commissions are high and selling them is very tempting for unethical advisors. You can also go to Fidelity which is a less expensive way to go but you do need to know something about investing. Good luck.

The Author

Mary Salisbury is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® and Divorce Mediator and the founder of The Right Divorce Solution, LLC. Mary helps clients understand the long-term financial implications of property division, child support and alimony. Mary’s passion is to help couples and individuals have a financially smart and emotionally kinder divorce.

You Might Also Like