Many people think of divorce as mostly occurring with couples who marry too young or those who are just entering their mid-life years. However, in the past ten years, the percentage of those who are divorcing at age 50 or over has dramatically increased. There are many theories out there about why this number is increasing. One is that we are living longer, healthier lives and many do not want to spend their golden years with someone they no longer relate to. Another is that baby boomer couples who have both worked throughout their lives now have the financial means to strike out on their own. Whatever the reason may be, late-life divorces can have a devastating impact not only on couples (and their finances), but also on our economy.
Through my work with clients and focus on the soft sciences and psychology, I’ve found that there are some measures you can take to avoid a late-life divorce.
Couples often lose track of who they are as people and as a couple throughout a busy marriage. Once kids and careers are taken off the table, they are lost and have no idea what to do with themselves. It’s important for both husband and wife to get to know themselves as individuals. What are their dreams and goals? What makes them happy? What are their fears for retirement and older age? Once they get to know themselves better, they are more able to establish boundaries and expectations within the marriage and speak up for their needs.
Communication is the bedrock of any successful marriage. Unfortunately, busy couples who have spent years building careers and raising children often find they have neglected or forgotten to communicate to the point they don’t even know how any longer. As you and your spouse approach retirement, it’s vital for both members to communicate what a successful daily life would look. If one member of the couple envisions exotic vacations and sports cars and the other has her heart set on settling in to welcome grandchildren, a disaster could be in the making.
Focus on Hobbies
Years of chasing after kids and constant meetings can leave little time for hobbies and personal enrichment. When some couples reach retirement, they find they have nothing to keep themselves busy and fulfilled and can easily fall into discontent or even depression. Both members of a couple should have hobbies they enjoy doing on their own and some they can do together. This helps them avoid boredom, irritation with their spouse, and the empty nest syndrome that can cause discord in a marriage.
Make a Plan Together
Whether you are already at retirement age or have a few years to go, now is the time to make a plan with your spouse. Talk about how you will fill your time after retirement. Maybe one of you would like to get some continuing education or travel while the other wants to start a new exercise regimen or reserve a week each month to visit children or grandchildren. Figure out a way that both husband and wife can get what they want and still spend quality time together. Talk with your advisor about where you sit financially and how much you can afford to spend on a monthly basis to put this plan into action.
No one wants to go into their retirement years without a supportive and loving spouse by their side. However, without laying the groundwork for expectations and fulfillment, many of those in their 50s and 60s find themselves doing just that. By planning early, communicating, and figuring out what a successful retirement looks like for both members of a couple, you can avoid the financial and emotional upheaval that comes with a late-life divorce.
Patrick Tucker, owner of True Measure Wealth Management, has over 20 years experience in the industry and has spent the last 15 years learning the ins and outs of the fee-only advisory business. He focuses on client behaviors and what ‘wealth’ means for each individual client to provide caregiving plans that leads to a mindful fulfillment of financial goals. A lifelong learner, Patrick uses his continued knowledge to become a valued partner for his clients and help them explore the wisdom of true wealth.