Divorce Becoming A Gray Area

Why It Matters:

• The divorce rate among older Americans is rising.

• Any divorce, especially one so close to retirement, is emotionally and financially taxing.

• You can reduce divorce stress by being prepared.

Andy Bartosch tkc.profilePicture Written by: Andy Bartosch | Transamerica
05/25/2017

6 Min readClock Icon

At a time when divorce is becoming less common among younger adults, one generation has been untying the knot increasingly over the past 25 years, and the trend is being called “gray divorce” for obvious reasons.

The amount of divorces involving Americans ages 50 and older has roughly doubled since the 1990s, according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center. Rising from 5 to 10 divorced persons per 1,000 married persons. And among those ages 65 and older, the divorce rate has roughly tripled since 1990, reaching six people per 1,000 married persons in 2015.

And it seems more divorce, leads to more divorce. Since, as the study notes, remarriages tend to be less stable than first marriages. The divorce rate for adults ages 50 and older in remarriages is double the rate of those who have only been married once.

So what does this mean for people looking to protect their wealth on the path to retirement?

“Having a checklist of things to consider can help,” Koehler said. “It can be reassuring to know some things you need to prepare, address, and relieve some of the stress that you may have overlooked something.”

Divorce Stress

Unfortunately, increasing gray divorce rates mean increased stress for a generation that has already worked hard to put themselves into a comfortable position.

Retirement professionals agree. “When a person is contemplating or going through a divorce it can be overwhelming, both emotionally and financially, especially as many of these couples may be nearing retirement,” says John Koehler, former senior vice president of Transamerica’s Advanced Markets Group.

There are many factors to consider for older divorcing couples. They may have fixed incomes and larger medical expenses. Not to mention dealing with the possible emotional toll the divorce may take on their developed family.

So what can you do to reduce some of the stress surrounding this difficult reality? The answer is to be prepared.

Below, find some tips on getting yourself prepared. You can view the full checklist here.

7 Steps To Consider

If Divorce is Being Contemplated:

1) Gather tax and income information for you and your spouse. This can include W2’s, pay stubs (for the last 12 months), 1099s, K-1s, and tax info for the last two years.

2) Gather statements and inventory your assets and debts. Create a file for things like account statements, personal property, real estate, insurance policies, and retirement plans.

3) Gather legal documents. This includes pre or postnuptial agreements, employment contracts, and estate planning documents.

If Divorce is Imminent:

4) Consider tightening your personal security. Change passwords to social media accounts, close or freeze joint bank accounts, monitor your credit, open new accounts and credit cards in your own name that your spouse cannot access etc.

After the Divorce is Final:

5) Split accounts, update account titles, and change your name (where appropriate). You will also want to contact companies holding your retirement, bank, and brokerage accounts, in order to find out how you should be splitting your accounts. If applicable, change your name on legal documents including identification, bills, titles, and deeds.

6) Update beneficiary designations and estate plans. This includes living wills, last will and testament, medical directives, power of attorney and any other documents naming your spouse as a beneficiary or decision maker.

7) Meet with your financial advisor to update your financial plan.

Divorce and Your Health

The pure financial component of divorce isn’t the only worry-factor to consider when seeking to protect your retirement potential. The combination of financial and emotional stress can take a toll on your health as well.

According to an article on Prevention.com, divorce and, stress related to divorce, can cause anxiety and depression, unhealthy weight gain or loss, substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, and insomnia.

Things to Consider:

• If you believe divorce may be on the horizon, consider taking steps to prepare yourself.

• You may want to do your homework on the numerous financial steps it takes to protect your wealth.

• Don’t forget to look after your physical health as well.


Neither Transamerica nor its agents or representatives may provide tax, medical or legal advice. Anyone to whom this material is promoted, marketed, or recommended should consult with and rely on their own independent tax, medical and legal advisors regarding their particular situation and the concepts presented herein.

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