First, it was separate bedrooms. Then, it was the acceptance that your spouse had taken on a paramour. You had known for the past few years that your marriage no longer worked. Neither you nor your spouse attempted to make things work, but you had grown accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle after more than 30 years of marriage.
But this situation did not feel like a marriage anymore, rather more like strangers walking down the street and not making eye contact. You are heading toward a gray divorce, which involves an older couple with a long-lasting marriage that now has an expiration date. Retirement plans together? Not anymore. Traveling together to global destinations? Forget it. Seeing the grandchildren together? Sorry. But what about the finances you accumulated together? That represents a story about protecting yourself.
Finances, assets, retirement accounts
Throughout the U.S., divorce rates have declined among the majority of age demographics. However, this does not hold true for couples that are 50 and older. According to the Pew Research Center, this demographic’s divorce rate has doubled since the 1990s. In another related eye-opener, the divorce rates for people 65 and older has just about tripled since 1990.
In some of these situations, only one spouse was the breadwinner, while the other perhaps left a promising career to raise children and remain a homemaker. That latter spouse has much more at stake in a gray divorce, protecting yourself and your financial stability are critical. You must protect yourself and secure what is rightfully yours. Here are some matters to address in gray divorce:
- Your house: Selling your home is probably the most logical solution. If you consider purchasing your former spouse’s share and stay in the home, you must determine whether you can afford the taxes as well as long-term home-related costs.
- Pensions and retirement accounts: Devote a great amount of attention to these assets that include IRAs, 401(k)s and pensions. Assets accumulated during the marriage are marital property, but now that nest egg gets divided and shrinks.
- Alimony/spousal support: You gave up a career to stay at home, raise children and maintain a household for decades. You deserve alimony.
- Unearth hidden assets: In some marriages, one spouse may fail to disclose specific assets to the other, making for a secret stash. Review tax returns, bank loan statements and home safes. Sometimes, you may find cash hidden in a filing cabinet.
There are so many implications in a divorce, and there seem to be many more in gray divorce. You are likely on your own now, forced to be a quick study in financial matters for which you had little knowledge. The first thing you must understand is that protecting yourself is essential.