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Gray Divorce: Calling It Quits After 50

America’s 50-plus gray-haired adults are separating or divorcing. According to Kathy McCoy, Ph.D., unemployment, rather than retirement, was present in many older divorcing couples suggesting possible financial stresses of job insecurity and unemployment could be “tearing midlife marriages apart.”

If at some point you are unable to work out your marital problems and feel you must take the next step, consult with a Hefren-Tillotson Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to help you establish your financial plans before going forward.

Experts weigh in on men

Listen to a bunch of older guys standing at the bar together on a Friday night and you’ll hear all kinds of reasons why they are no longer married. Their reasons might not always be on the up and up, but psychologists say divorce is harder on men. They make bad decisions. They never really recover. They just move on.

In Dad’s Divorce, Shawn Garrison writes: “Some men try to cope with alcohol or by immediately jumping into new relationships. These tendencies often prolong the healing process and can put men at risk for serious health problems.”

In A 2009 Study: Marital Dissolution and Blood Pressure Activity: “Recently separated or divorced men have higher resting blood pressure.”

In Life After Divorce, Dr. Karen Finn says for most men, they miss their kids terribly. “It isn’t easy to live without your children or to be the only parent when they’re with you.”

Sadly, gray-divorced men are nine times more likely than divorced women to take their own lives. Separation and divorce seems to raise the risk because they experience higher levels of depression than those whose spouses have died.

Experts weigh in on women

As both sides approach the end of their marriages, the major concern is how much wealth has been diminished. Women are acutely aware that there is considerably less time to make up what’s she’s lost. With spousal retirement money, for example, ex-husbands usually get the lion’s share. She gets the house. And that’s not always a blessing; she might be forced to sell because she can’t handle the upkeep, or she needs the proceeds for her own financial survival.

In The National Center for Family & Marriage Research, Susan Brown said gray- divorced and never-married women face considerable economic insecurity. “Their Social Security benefits are relatively low, and their poverty rates are 27 percent – more than any other group that age, including widows – and nine times the rate of couples who stay married.”

In Think Divorce Is Miserable? Helaine Owen explains women are often the target of age discrimination and are either “unemployed longer, or faced with jobs that do not pay well, thus unable to keep up with inflation or medical costs.” Many women have underfunded their workplace retirement plans along the way.

In Divorce Is Destroying the Finances of Americans Over 50, Ben Steverman says older women late in their careers simply won’t have time to undo the financial destruction that a divorce causes. “When women divorce after age 50, their standard of living plunges 45 percent, that’s about double the decline found in previous research on younger divorced women.”

Cracks in the marriage, not in the divorce

Divorce is common and painful at any age. If you have been through it, you know that if children are involved, they’re getting divorced too. The level of conflict between parents is not only confusing to them, it can be a source of emotional and psychological damage.

Compared with other major life events, divorce is about the same as going through a major illness and just below losing a spouse. The hardest part is going through with it. It is heartbreaking for those graying adults who thought their lives were complete with the spouse they had and now they must go it alone.

Fundamentally, divorce should be viewed as a business transaction. Preparedness and rational analysis is key to its success. Financial advisors suggest having an attorney, a CPA, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and a tax attorney on hand.

But also know that just because you want a divorce, your husband may not. He may offer resistance, even anger, at first. He needs time to process it. You might consider divorce mediation. It is an ideal solution toward an uncontested divorce, which is what you want, without an attorney or fees to resolve divorce out of court.

If you and your spouse share the same advisor, know that it is a conflict of interest for him or her to offer divorce planning to one and not the other while you are still clients. Your advisor can talk about the tax ramifications of divorce, and can reference IRS Publication 504 for Divorcing and Separating Individuals regarding your filing status, dependents, exemptions and alimony requirements. But that’s it.

It might be difficult, but don’t allow your emotions to cloud your ability to think rationally of what’s really important to you financially. Hefren-Tillotson’s CDFA or financial advisors can guide you through it.

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