Gray divorce is not a new phenomenon, but its drastically increased prevalence is certainly a sign of changing cultural standards. Gray divorce involves those close to or past retirement age ending a marriage that lasted for decades.
People have become more comfortable walking away from relationships that they find unsatisfying or unhealthy, even if they grew up at a time when divorce was much less common. However, divorcing later in life does come with certain consequences for the people involved. What might a gray divorce mean for you and your retirement? And can you find true happiness and place your needs first?
You may have to delay when you retire
Unless you have an ironclad prenuptial agreement, the chances are good that you and your spouse will split your retirement savings or pensions. Unfortunately, the assets you had hoped would provide for two people living in one household will now instead have to stretch to cover two separate households.
Many older adults find that choosing to work for longer than they initially planned can be the easiest way to rebuild their retirement savings after a gray divorce.
You may need to scale back your retirement plans
Did you expect to take an international trip every year or live on the road in an RV for the first decade of your retirement? Especially when your retirement plans involve extensive traveling, you may have to adjust your expectations after a divorce.
Even your living plans, which may have originally been to stay in your marital home with your spouse, may need to shift. Those who divorce later in life may find that living with roommates or with family members can make an on-time retirement financially feasible.
You can pursue your own passions and find your own adventure
For many married couples, retirement involves a lot of compromises. Needing to be home together all the time instead of having separate careers will mean that spouses have to constantly compromise about what they do, what they eat or even what movie they watch. Your travel destinations and social plans depend not only on your own preferences but on those of your spouse.
When you finally end a relationship that has left you feeling unhappy for years, you will then have the space to explore what makes you excited. You won’t have to spend your golden years compromising to make your spouse happy. You can just pursue what makes you happiest.
You can get maintenance and support for a period
When you divorce, the Courts will consider dividing property and any income from that property. You may have an income bear asset that provides you financial freedom such as a Pension, Defined Benefit Plan, or Annuity. After dividing property, the Court will also consider spousal support that you may receive for a period from your ex-spouse.
When it comes time to file for Social Security, you are likely entitled to part of your ex-spouse contributions to Social Security as well.
Recognizing the benefits and complications of a gray divorce can help you pursue a happy future after a long and unhappy marriage.