Gray Divorce refers to an increasing divorce group that involves older couples who have been married 20-30+ years. This is becoming a common occurrence as boomers age and their offspring settle out on their own. Because the stigma of divorce has greatly diminished and older couples no longer have an obligation to young children, many couples are choosing to separate. Since 1990, the rate of divorce after age 50 has doubled. This causes some often-tricky circumstances especially when it concerns finances and assets.
As couples flesh out and divide the assets, items such as debt, pensions, retirement accounts and homes must be carefully divided in an equitable fashion. Most divorces are not as simple as a 50/50 split of assets. After years of being married, there is certainly going to be a lot to divide. Even when the split is amicable it is recommended that professionals be involved in the analysis and discussions.
Many marriages/divorces of these couples include a spouse who for most of the marriage did not work. This introduces issues such as spousal support and possible re-entry into the workforce. These types of issues can put financial matters in dire straits. A study, by Brown and colleagues, in 2017 showed that 27% of women age 63 and older who went through a grey divorce were at poverty level.
Additionally, Social Security benefits have their own set of rules. It is not automatic that a person will receive benefits based on the ex-spouse’s earning record. Subject to age limitations and filing statuses apply and it would be prudent to meet with a social security administrator to explore your options.
Lastly, do not forget to address your beneficiary designations and insurance policies. While often times these can be used to provide benefit or support within the larger context of splitting the assets they can sometimes be ignored or forgotten and if you neglect to update the information an ex- spouse could benefit unintentionally.
While this can be an extremely emotional time, it is prudent that the division of assets be approached as a business deal to ensure that fairness is applied. Reach out to professionals who can assist you through this difficult time.
Marc has 36 years in financial services and 6 years in teaching.
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