Breaking up is hard to do. Financially, it’s even harder in later life.
As we explored in our article, “Shades of gray: the later life divorce trend” divorce rates among over-50s are surging, with one in four divorces from this age group.1
There are a number of reasons for this. Being a “Silver Splitter” is much more socially acceptable than it once was. Many women are now also more financially independent of their spouses, so there’s less financial pressure to stay together.
However, ending a marriage in later life can cause great financial difficulty for divorcees. While we can’t provide all the answers, we can offer some tips to help reduce the fiscal heartache.
Splits happen. In 2019, there were roughly 2.2 million marriages in the U.S. and about one million divorces.2 But while we plan our finances to cater for big life events like growing our family, we rarely plan for divorce. However, protecting your financial future means being prepared.
That’s why it’s worth keeping a record of all your accounts, retirement plans, and life insurance policies so that in the event of the unexpected – even after decades of marriage – you’ll able to see clearly where you’re at and be able to move forward.
Sign on the line
You may think they’re just for celebrities, but why not consider a pre- or post-nuptial agreement? These set out how you will fairly divide your assets if your marriage ends. Signing a formal agreement may seem a little pessimistic – and not very romantic – but if you both have built up assets, such as stocks or real estate, it can minimize conflict and provide peace of mind and security.
Know your retirement rules
Divorce in later life can threaten your plans for a prosperous retirement because there’s less time to build your funds back up. Financing retirement is hard enough: 48 percent of households headed by someone aged 55 or older lack any kind of retirement savings.3
Gender also still makes a massive difference to your likely standard of living as a ‘Silver Splitter’. For a male divorcee over 50, this drops by 21 percent - but for women it plummets by 45 percent.4 The first step in protecting your retirement assets is knowing the rules that you must follow when it comes to dividing them up. Most plans have set procedures, which you must follow. Otherwise you risk forfeiting your assets.
Ask a professional
As a long-married couple, you will likely have multiple joint retirement assets which could be complicated to separate. Dividing individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and defined contribution plans, for example, is usually a straightforward process. But dividing a guaranteed pension payout is more complex. Despite the expense it incurs, it’s sensible to consult a professional pension lawyer.
Ensure your loved ones are insured
If your former partner stands to benefit from your life insurance policy, you should notify your insurance company if you want someone else to benefit instead. With a New York Life account, you can easily verify and update beneficiaries to ensure that, as your circumstances change, your loved ones are protected.
Phone a friend
If you don’t know where to turn for financial assistance, don’t forget those who’ve been through it before you. Reach out to a divorced friend or family member you can trust. Even though a financial and personal conversation may feel awkward, they could share invaluable tips – and reassure you that after so much pain, this is your chance to make a fresh start.
1 “Divorce: More than a century of change, 1900-2018.” Schweizer, Valerie. 2020. Accessed 08 June, 2021
2 “Divorces and Marriages Tumbled in U.S. During Covid, Study Shows.” Silverman, Ben. January 5, 2021. Accessed 08 June, 2021. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-05/divorces-and-marriages-tumbled-in-u-s-during-covid-study-shows
3 “Nearly Half of Americans 55+ Have No Retirement Savings.” Gibson, William, March 28, 2019. Accessed 08 June, 2021. https://www.aarp.org/retirement/retirement-savings/info-2019/no-retirement-money-saved.html
4 “Gender Differences in the Consequences of Divorce: A Study of Multiple Outcomes.” Leopold, Thomas. 13 April, 2018. Accessed 08 June, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5992251/
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