Gray Divorce: Trends To Know; Tips If You’re In The Process
Once upon a time, it was ” ’til death do us part.” Now it’s “there’s no time like the present” when it comes to divorce, especially for those over 50:
- While divorce rates have decreased in most age groups, the rate for those over 50 has doubled since 1990.
- There are many reasons for gray divorce, among them: facing an unfulfilling relationship over a longer life expectancy, the stress of second marriages and blended families that do not work out and women working longer with independent and higher incomes than in the past.
- The social and religious stigma attached to older people divorcing no longer seen as an issue.
Here are seven things to know if you’re involved in a gray divorce (or thinking about it):
Gray divorce is typically very expensive, because couples together for 20 to 30 years amass greater wealth and property that must be equitably divided, and because they have no minor children home needing financial support. The greater the wealth, the more complicated and costly the court proceedings and attorneys. Both parties in a gray divorce facing living on less income, since retirement savings may be reduced by legal fees and payments to their ex-partner.
Funds in a 401(K), 457, 403(b), IRA or pension accounts must be divided correctly, or both parties face fines and penalties. An attorney who specializes in the documentation needed for this, called a QDRO, can help you avoid expensive legal issues later.
The kids are all right…maybe: Your grown children and their kids may be fine with the divorce, or they may experience their own collective meltdown, with the younger generations taking sides and worrying about what’s now left of “their” inheritance. And less money for the divorcing parties means less money to help them with any plans or expenses they incur.
And if you’re a member of the “sandwich generation,” will you have the means to help your parents post-divorce? Or will they need to assist you? Will all of you have enough money to last the rest of your lives?
Your health and health insurance both become major financial factors later in life. While you cannot prepare for every eventuality, you need to budget for as many “what ifs” as possible as you age, including home health care, long-term insurance and nursing home care.
Doing what you love, not just what you need matters to your quality of life at every stage. Will you have the means to travel, visit family, socialize with friends and pursue your hobbies after the divorce?
Even in the midst of divorce chaos, it’s possible to have calm and rational discussions with both your attorneys and a financial planner. Before you go your separate ways in anger, try divorce mediation first, to work out the dollars and sense details. While both parties will give up and compromise during the process, neither will walk away feeling like the biggest loser.
Combining Finances as a Couple
When couples decide to combine finances, whether through marriage or a living arrangement, the last thing on their minds is money. Many believe that the money issue will be an easy transition. For couples with great communication, this is most likely true. However, that communication must include talking about finances. There are specific topics that need to be discussed. Below are some tips for new couples when merging finances.
Discuss spending and saving habits
Some people tend to be more natural at saving, and others think with their hearts first and wallets second. There is room for all types of personalities in a loving relationship. The key, however, is being honest with your loved one about your spending and saving habits. Each person can learn from the other. By identifying each other’s strengths and weaknesses, both parties can learn to bring out the best in the other, and gently encourage their partner into developing better financial habits.
Talk about any outstanding debt
Joining assets legally through marriage, and not talking about how much you owe on credit card debt or student loans can start your joint life off on the wrong foot. Many surveys have concluded that the number one thing that most couples argue about is about money. By not disclosing your debt, this could make future money issues even worse. This is not about playing the blame game, however. It’s about knowing in advance the financial situation each person is bringing to the table in order to tackle future financial goals and obstacles together.
Talk about how you will join assets
Some couples merge all of their assets into one bank account. Couples that do this oftentimes can save money more quickly and achieve financial goals easier. However, it does not come easily. If a couple decides to go this route, they must put some rules into place. For example, bills must be paid first and anything purchased by either partner individually over X amount of dollars must be discussed with the other partner first. This can prevent impulse shopping and spending money on things that aren’t a priority. This amount can be determined in advance and can change later on, depending on the couple’s financial situation. A couple must also decide the amount they want to dedicate to savings, investing, or paying off loans more quickly.
Other couples may decide that having separate bank accounts is the best decision for them, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you decide to have separate accounts, then a discussion about who is going to pay what is necessary. Having a third account, set aside for saving that both couples contribute to, is another topic couples need to consider in order to achieve their financial goals together.
Even if people don’t want to admit it, money is a very emotional topic. When we bring in another person into our lives and include them in our finances, it gets a little more complicated. Open communication, in addition to discussing specific topics and goals, is important in order to make this transition go more smoothly. You must also recognize the need to consult outside sources when necessary, so that both your relationship and pocketbook can live in perfect harmony.
Core Values and the Key to Communication in Relationships
So much has been said about the importance of communication in relationships. Whole books have been written about it, including the well-known Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. And still, the distance between Mars and Venus continues. No one knows how to heal the rift.
And the worst thing is that once there is a miscommunication, it quickly snowballs into more and more miscommunication until you’re having a full-blown fight. If this describes you and your partner, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:
Do You Have the Same Core Values?
Sometimes, the problem is not really a lack of communication but certain essential differences between people. One person might believe in the joys of having children while the other might think of children as unnecessary baggage. One person might not think too much about sex before marriage while the other person might believe in celibacy.
These are core beliefs which are very hard to alter and you need to think about whether you can live with them. In the case of celibacy, the problem is solved after getting married. But in the case of children, it’s something you might have to live with for the rest of your life. So think about whether it’s a problem of miscommunication or whether it’s really a difference in core beliefs.
Have You Done Everything You Can?
The truth is that everyone knows the secret of good communication. If you look back at all your good relationships, what do they have in common? A willingness to listen? Respecting the other person’s boundaries? General kindness? Praise and encouragement? No matter how you put it, the end result is the same—getting along, having a good time, having fun etc.
You need to seriously ask yourself whether you’re doing these things in your relationship now. Most people find that the key to good communication is in their hands; they just have to use it.