Late-In-Life Divorces Can Wreak Havoc On Retirement Plans

On behalf of Joel Anders at Joel W. Anders, P.C.

The Washington Post reports that the divorce rate is climbing in America due in large part to baby boomers who are increasingly unwilling to be locked into a till-death-do-us-part marriage. According to a study on divorce undertaken by Bowling Green State University sociologists, the divorce rate among people age 50 and older has doubled in the past 20 years. One of the sociologists who led the study told National Public Radio that older adults are now less "willing to remain in what we term empty-shell marriages" that are not particularly satisfying for the married couple. Unfortunately, a late in life divorce can wreak havoc on one's retirement plans.

The focus of a recent article published in the New York Times is on how retirement plans can be thrown into total disarray by a divorce occurring after the age of 50. One person interviewed for the article shared how he had been married for over 30 years when he suddenly found his dream of a shared retirement shattered. After the divorce, he quickly learned that he would have to tighten his budget significantly. He downsized to a smaller home and now takes far fewer vacations. An expert on family and marriage was quoted as saying that you need to get the best divorce settlement you can possibly obtain since many people end up having great difficulty in recovering from the adverse financial impact of a divorce.

USA Today reports that baby-boomer divorces may end up causing the postponement of retirement for many boomers. A financial expert interviewed for the story observed that, if a person is 60 and was planning on retiring at age 65, they may have to wait until age 68 following a divorce in order to put in some additional work time building up their retirement savings. Baby boomers divorcing without significant assets may have to put off retirement until their 70s. It was also observed that boomer divorces can be devastating for women who were out of the labor market for a significant amount of time due to their desire to be a homemaker and stay-at-home mom.

Being prepared

Wells Fargo Bank advises that, while there are many things on one's mind during a divorce, it pays to give some thought to what lies ahead financially since the "outcome of your divorce is likely to affect your budget and retirement savings." Wells Fargo offers the following tips for those facing a divorce:

  • Do not single-mindedly focus on trying to obtain the family home. It may make more sense that the house be sold and the proceeds divided in order to allow you to live comfortably in a downsized residence.
  • Be cautious about your post-divorce budget since your lifestyle may have to be significantly different after the marital breakup.
  • In consultation with your attorney, safeguard your credit by closing joint accounts, credit cards and equity lines of credit to prevent your spouse from withdrawing assets without your knowledge.
  • Talk with your attorney about removing your spouse as a beneficiary from life insurance policies, retirement plans and IRAs.

Seeking legal advice

If you are over the age of 50 and are faced with a divorce, you should contact an attorney who specializes in handling Maryland and District of Columbia divorces. An attorney will help you navigate the complexities that sometime arise in dividing up marital property upon a divorce and in determining if any property is separate property and therefore not subject to division upon a divorce.