Gray divorces – those among couples 50 and older – are on the rise. Statistics show them skyrocketing 109% over the past 25 years. By comparison, the divorce rates for people 40 to 49 were up 14% and the rate for couples 25 to 39 was down 21%.
Gray divorces happen for many reasons that do not apply to younger generations. They also raise their own set of challenges for people as they near retirement.
The money issues
Someone who divorces at age 30 has decades of working and earning ahead. If you divorce at age 50, you have to think about the financial impact on your retirement.
On the bright side, older couples often have more assets from their decades together. This also presents a problem – how to untangle your complex financial connections. They range from property and stocks to bank accounts and personal valuables. Pensions, Social Security benefits and retirement savings also come into play.
One of the key steps is setting up a budget. You cannot plan for life after separation until you know your expenses. The result may force you to delay your retirement date or to reenter the workforce.
Child and other issues
One advantage of a gray divorce is that you likely have adult children and do not have to worry about custody. In some cases, though, custody is an issue. You may be caring for an adult child with special needs. Or you may have an adult child who still lives in your home.
Just as you would with younger children, discuss the divorce with adult offspring. This will be an emotional time for them, too, as they watch the people who raised them break up. In practical terms, remember to update beneficiaries for your accounts. You may want to cut out your spouse in favor of your children.
Divorce is never as simple as filling out a few forms. It involves negotiation, compromise and, yes, disagreements. Navigating the legal complexities is a challenge, too.
The upward trend in gray divorces is due to several issues. Some cite empty-nest syndrome and couples growing apart over the years. Others see the financial independence of modern women as a factor.
Regardless, your divorce is unlike any other. You have to prepare yourself for the unique challenges of divorce as you near retirement.