Over the past 25 years, the divorce rate has dropped among every demographic except one – married couples over 50. Since 1990, divorce has not only become more common among this group, but the divorce rate for people approaching or in their retirement years has roughly doubled.
The media call this phenomenon “gray divorce,” a title that dramatically underemphasizes what people actually feel when facing the prospect of suddenly being divorced after decades of marriage.
The Impact of ‘Gray Divorce’ on Women
So-called gray divorce leaves people who have become accustomed to a pattern and way of life for 20 or 30 years scrambling to figure out how to restart and rebuild.
Women who find themselves in this situation often never expected to end up there. They were married for decades. They raised their children and watched them leave home and become adults. They’ve had good times and bad times in their marriage, but they always had it in their mind that they’d reach middle age and beyond and finally be able to take a breath.
Instead … they’re getting divorced.
The reality is that divorcing later in life often has the most serious impact on women. Women over 50 often face a unique set of challenges, particularly if they made the important decision years before to prioritize their children and family over a more aggressive career development plan. This can mean:
- Serious discrepancy in earning potential for women compared with their husbands
- Fewer opportunities to contribute to retirement accounts
- The possibility of a delayed retirement
- The need for additional education or training
- Assets purchased or debts assumed by their husbands without their knowledge
It shouldn’t be that way. The reality is that as you go through your divorce, it will be critical to stand up for your right to a fair division not only of your existing property, but also your retirement and long-term savings accounts.
It’s About More Than Money
While the financial aspect of a divorce is often the main thing people think about, those divorcing late in life also need to consider things such as:
- Will I need to update my will or trust?
- Do I need to change the beneficiaries on my life insurance policy (and other insurance policies)?
- Who will be my new emergency contact?
- Will I have a vehicle to drive/what names are on the car title?
Whether you had time to plan for your divorce, initiated proceedings yourself or were blindsided by your spouse asking for a divorce, it’s important to know that more than money is at stake.
As you move forward through the process, it’s important to build a picture of what your life will be like after the legal proceedings are over (both financially and otherwise), and know what you need to be able to achieve those goals.