Protecting your retirement plans in a gray divorce

According to Forbes, gray divorce is on the rise. In fact, over the past 25 years, it increased by 109%, compared to just 21% for people between the ages of 25 and 39. There are many potential reasons for gray divorces in Florida and the rest of the U.S., including greater financial independence for women and even the availability of healthcare without needing to rely on a partner’s plan.

Regardless of why people divorce at 50 years or older, they all face one big concern: retirement. When two people contribute or one spouse worked a high-paying job, retirement is relatively easier for couples. However, when couples separate, retirement plans for both parties take a beating.

Breadwinners may find themselves dipping into 401(k) plans to pay a settlement and homemakers may realize they have no work pension or access to their partner’s savings to retire. Even when both couples work, having access to even half of the previously combined income, while maintaining a home independently, is a financial curve ball.

According to personal finance magazine, Money, the first thing divorcees should do is sell the house, especially if the nest is empty but even when it is not. Men lose 23% of their household income after a divorce on average, while women double that. Moving to less costly housing protects not just the retirement plan, but the finances overall.

Divorcees should also watch out for taxes when dividing up assets. Often, the homemaker may believe half a million dollars in a 401(k) account is a good steal, but all withdrawals are taxable. Meanwhile, for a taxable investment account, people generally only owe taxes on the gains.

Finally, for divorcees over 62 who need a pension but have not worked enough to earn one, Social Security may be on their side. If the marriage and the spouse meet certain requirements, the homemaker spouse may receive up to half the benefits of the breadwinner.

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Beverly L. Brennan, P.A.
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