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When people used to talk about marriage and the “golden years,” the image was traditional. Get married, work hard, buy a house, have kids, and retire with your family and a few grandchildren.
Divorce was a secret topic and a rare event. However, as the world has changed, the definitions of marriage, family and divorce have also changed.
Millennials and Generation X view the experience differently than previous generations, and divorce is no longer taboo.
While every divorcing couple must weigh legal and logistical issues, for those who face a divorce later in life, commonly referred to as a “gray” divorce, there are even more issues, such as: B. Supporting older children, coping with retirement, and reestablishing a plan for the future.
With divorce rates among people aged 65 and over Record highs reachedhere are some questions to ask yourself if you find yourself among their ranks.
Gray divorces are often associated with retirees or empty nesters, but as the definition of family shifts and couples increasingly marry later in life, many people are starting families well into their 40s and 50s.
As a result, older couples who are divorcing today may have more complex family and financial responsibilities and therefore have different concerns than their counterparts who married earlier in life.
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University education poses different challenges for those starting a family later in life. Unlike gray divorces in years past, education costs may become a more important factor in your divorce settlement. To negotiate these terms, make sure you are clear about what advanced training may entail, how much time it will take, and what costs will be involved.
While many parents consider the distance from home, the academic program, and how the school will support their child's development, divorcing parents need to delve deeper. Is the course limited to four years? Can they study abroad?
For parents who thought they would retire in their late 50s or early 60s, thoughts about financing education—particularly if there are multiple children in the household at the time of divorce—turn to the cost, which means the target retirement age is always lower will be later.
A subsequent divorce can cause financial aftershocks for couples. Unless there are clear prenuptial agreements in place to document the distribution of assets, you may be wondering how to divide the marital assets that have accumulated over the years and create a new financial foundation.
You may have to deal with the complexities of dividing retirement accounts, pension plans, and other benefits. Combine that with postponing potential retirement age as you fund college education, and you may find yourself rolling your eyes at everything you process.
Will I have enough to retire if I stay at home or work part time? If you were a stay-at-home parent (or had unconventional jobs like freelancing, consulting, or multiple part-time jobs), your nest egg could be a problem.
While you will likely receive a portion of your spouse's retirement account, your own retirement account may be less robust than planned. Even if you plan to go back to work, if you haven't been in full-time work for a while, your starting salary may be lower than desired. Combined with higher budget costs, this could limit your ability to build a retirement account.
No matter your marital status, economic conditions can impact your retirement—but it's especially important for couples going through a divorce. Inflation or other economic factors can affect your retirement account, the value of your savings, and the cost of living.
This can be particularly concerning with gray divorces. Many divorces involve the division of assets, and retirement accounts and homes are often a couple's largest expenses. In booming economies this could lead to surplus funds; However, in unstable economies this can lead to difficult negotiations. With rising inflation, skyrocketing mortgage rates, and fluctuating retirement accounts, those going through a divorce later in life can leave them concerned about how they will afford retirement.
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While the state requirement for retirement is age 67, you can start claiming early retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, the court does not necessarily assume that you are retired at 62. For the industries where early retirement is common – police officers, firefighters, construction workers, etc. – you have an even larger gap to overcome.
If you or your spouse are enrolled in a pension plan, this can have significant implications in the event of a divorce.
Some plans are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA, and may be protected, but others may not. Depending on the type of pension, if the pension is in wage status, it may be considered income to you rather than assets to be divided, which may affect alimony or child support claims.
However, receiving government benefits can be helpful. Most spouses do not realize that they are eligible for Social Security benefits based on their spouse's work history, not just their own.
Is there a significant age difference between you and your future ex-spouse? Do you have a blended family? Do you still have children at home who are very different in age? Gray divorcees of the past may not have had to face these questions, but they are not uncommon for today's divorcing couples. If this applies to you, you are probably not thinking about funding your college or retirement, but rather about immediate needs and rebuilding a safety net for your family.
If you're the non-earning spouse, access to immediate cash flow is probably a priority. If you're the wealthy spouse, you're probably wondering how much of your monthly income you'll share and how quickly you'll need to recoup the sum to pay for everything.
When thinking about next steps, don't get lost in the “now.” Staying focused on your goals for the future will help you make informed decisions now. How close are you to retirement? Are you expecting an inheritance from a family member? What assets can you obtain now to improve security in the future? What does the divorce process look like for me?
A common issue with any divorce is the time and expense involved in resolving your divorce in court. If you and your soon-to-be ex have a friendly relationship, mediation may be a good option.
Mediation allows the parties to discuss issues and reach an agreement that meets everyone's needs. It also gives you greater control over the costs and timelines associated with the divorce.
If you disagree, you can reduce costs by engaging professionals such as divorce attorneys, trust and estate experts, and financial experts. They can help you understand the details of your concern, conduct long-term planning and protect you from hidden costs.
– By Jamie Berger and Sarah Jacobs, founders of the New Jersey-based matrimonial and family law firm Jacobs Berger