Spouses who divorce after age 50, the so-called “gray divorce,” have different considerations than spouses who divorce when much younger. For spouses over 50, the amount of time left to work before retirement dwindles, and the risk of having a serious health problem that could have lasting financial implications rises exponentially.
But, according to a new survey by UBS Global Wealth Management and reported in Bloomberg, the majority of married women over 50 still leave financial control over investing and planning to the other spouse. This level of trust or shift in responsibility can have dire consequences if these women divorce.
The less attention a spouse pays to the financial management of marital assets, the more tempting it becomes for the other spouse to separate funds and hide assets in the event of a divorce or some other event. This alone warrants more attention to one’s finances.
More broadly, all spouses should consider the long term aspect of financial planning – an area that encompasses everything from retirement funds to health care directives to long term care insurance to wills. Every spouse should want to maximize retirement assets and income; have some assurance of a safety net in the event of a catastrophic illness; and know that one’s wishes for end-of-life decisions and heirs are clearly known.
Gray divorce can expose certain spouses to financial insecurity because the former spouse will not have much time left in the workforce, the share of retirement funds may be insufficient for both spouses to live independently, and both may lack the ability to handle financially a long term illness. These financial issues truly distinguish gray divorce from divorce at an earlier age.
So what should spouses do?
Take an accounting immediately of all assets. Quickly get up to speed on what you as a couple have in these important categories of concern. Assert an equal level of decision making to protect your interests. Consult a financial planner or wealth advisor if you feel unsure about the choices your spouse has made to date.
The best action a concerned spouse could take next would be a postnuptial agreement that would put in writing the assurances the spouse would like in the event of divorce – everything from the share of retirement funds to having long term health insurance.
As you can see, gray divorce highlights a level of financial uncertainty a spouse should want to avoid.
If you have questions about financial issues and gray divorce, contact us – we can help.