Preparing for a Gray Divorce
As discussed in a previous blog, gray divorce is on the rise. Gray divorce refers to couples over the age of fifty seeking a divorce. In most cases, these couples are not paired from second or third marriages but surprisingly long-term first marriages. The kids are out of the house and the couple is ready to move on – just not together. More than half of all gray divorces are couples in first marriages and 55 percent of gray divorces are between couples who have been married for more than twenty years. Whatever the reason for this growing phenomenon, and there is a lot of speculation on the subject (couples simply growing apart, women having more financial independence, people living longer), you must be prepared if you are going to make the move to single-hood. If you are in good health both financially and physically, a gray divorce could be a great way to live your life with some newfound independence. On the flip side, if your finances and health are poor you might be at risk for falling into poverty. It is important to be aware and prepared for your future. Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, sociologists at Bowling Green State University, shared in their Gray Divorce Revolution paper that on average, older divorced Americans have only 20 percent as much wealth as older married couples. And the net wealth of those who’ve been widowed over age 50 is more than twice the wealth for what the researchers call the gray divorced. If you are thinking about a gray divorce it is more important than ever to take certain steps to make sure you are prepared for what is down the road.
Get your Finances in Order.
A financially secure couple can weather a divorce better than couples on shaky financial ground. Divorcees are much less financially secure than married couples. In Texas, gray divorce property and assets are most likely going to be split 50/50. That means you are going to have to make big decisions regarding keeping the marital home and how to split the retirement accounts. At this stage in life finances are usually deeply interwoven and earning capacity is usually on the decline for a couple. You need to take a thorough look at your finances and make sure you have enough financial resources to last the rest of your life. It is not uncommon at this stage in life a for a wife who spent much of her time at home taking care of the kids and house to go back to work to have enough money to support herself.
Think About Your Future and Care-taking.
Together until death do us part is not part of the equation for many. But how do you ensure that you are taken care of in the future? Most caretakers are women and they also tend to live longer. If you are going to be on your own, you should have a care plan in place. As we are living longer, people are becoming more susceptible to mental and physical frailty. You must evaluate your finances and create a realistic long-term care plan. This is something many of us find not a fun task to think about but it is an important part of life planning. Don’t forget to also work with a family lawyer to change your will, life insurance, and pension beneficiaries to reflect your new wishes.
How Will Your Health Insurance Measure Up?
A huge concern for many older couples getting a gray divorce is healthcare benefits. Many couples who have been together a long time have relied on one person’s insurance for years. This time of your life you may begin to need health insurance. Many couples choose to become legally separated and not yet divorced until their Medicare/Medicaid benefits are available, or social security benefits and pension benefits are distributed. With the ever-changing health benefits and health care system in America, it is important to learn about your insurance benefits and what will happen in the case of a gray divorce. You have the right to choose how you want to live your life. Maybe a gray divorce and a new start on your life is what you need. As an older individual, it is important to assess the challenges you will face. Growing old has special financial and health challenges that you must be prepared for if you go down that path alone.