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The financial reality of divorce after 50

These days, unhappily married people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are no longer expected to stay with their spouse the rest of their lives. With Americans living longer than ever, older people are taking control of their futures and getting divorced. This trend is known as “gray divorce.”

Getting divorced after 50 usually means that child custody and child support are not going to be an issue, or at least not for more than a few years. But it also means that you will probably have to reset your expectations about retirement. Instead of having decades to begin saving for retirement again, you might only have 15 years — or less. Thus, you might need to change your expectations for retirement post-divorce. This can mean working for a few years longer than you planned when you were married, or maybe changing your goals to something more modest.

Adjusting your pre-retirement plans

Even if your retirement goals must change, you can still enjoy a long and comfortable retirement after a later-in-life divorce. Here are a few tips for helping that happen, even after losing around half your marital property.

  • Set a new budget based on your new household income and needs. While your expenses may be less with a smaller home and only yourself to care for, you may find you need to hold off another year on buying a new car, for example.
  • Create a financial plan to pay your basic necessities, plus have enough to save for a potential emergency expense. Be disciplined and stick to the plan, then review it every six months to see if adjustments are possible or necessary.
  • Re-imagine your vacations. Everybody is excited to travel again, but long international vacations might bust your budget in the first couple of years after divorce. Don’t try to compete with your ex if they are taking exotic trips. Focus on your long-term financial goals.

A reasonable property division settlement is another key part of a successful gray divorce, especially if it includes a fair portion of you and your ex’s retirement savings.