Today one in four people getting a divorce in the United States is over the age of 50. 20 years ago that number was much smaller, with only one in ten people being over the age of 50. Part of this increase could be coming from the generally aging population, but sociologists say that there is much more to the phenomenon than that. One main factor is likely that women are more economically dependent, so they have a realistic option of leaving a marriage that did not exist a generation ago.
Longer lifespans may also be a contributing factor, with people living longer and being in better health at older ages, travel and recreational activities are more important during retirement.
However, divorcing at an older age can come along with its own challenges, both financial and emotional. On the emotional side, many new support groups and seminars are springing up to help guide older individuals through a divorce and help them transition to an independent life.
On the financial front, a special concern for older people divorcing is preserving retirement funds while dividing assets. This can be difficult if an early withdrawal is required or if it is necessary to sell jointly held stocks, since those actions trigger penalties and taxes. Finding the best way to effectively divide assets and establish financial independence while preserving the maximum amount of one’s retirement savings requires careful planning an a mutual understanding by both spouses that the priority is to accomplish that goal.
Source: NPR, “Older Americans' Breakups Are Causing A 'Graying' Divorce Trend,” Ina Jaffe, Feb. 24, 2014.