You’ve probably seen the statistics showing that divorce among Americans 50 and older has increased significantly over the past 30+ years. You’ve likely also heard (and maybe cringed at) the term “gray divorce.”
If you’re in that age group and you and/or your spouse are considering divorce, it’s important to be aware of the added challenges of divorcing later in life – particularly for women who have been married to their spouse for many years. Chances are that most of your finances are intertwined (“commingled”). That can make the property division lengthy and emotional.
Further, if you spent some time outside the full-time workforce raising children, your earning power may never have caught up to your spouse’s. That can leave you anxious about your post-divorce financial security. Getting a job when you’re over 40 (and in some industries even younger) often isn’t easy – despite age discrimination laws.
It’s crucial to understand your financial picture
If you’ve left most of the financial chores to your spouse, you can find yourself struggling to provide the financial information that’s required when couples divorce. Here in New York, each spouse must complete a lengthy document detailing their net worth, expenses and other financial information.
A big part of your combined savings is likely in retirement accounts of one type or another. Employer-sponsored plans like 401(k)s are divided using a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are divided along with other assets, depending on how much was contributed before and after a couple was married.
Early preparation is key
The statistics about the standard of living decline for divorcing women over 50 compared with men are depressing. What’s important to know is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The earlier you start preparing, the better off you’ll be.
That likely includes learning more about your joint and individual finances. It’s also important to determine what you want and need (spousal support, the family home and so forth) to leave the marriage with to live comfortably until and through your retirement years. Getting sound legal guidance is one of the best first steps you can take.