One would assume after 30-plus years of marriage, most couples would be easing into their golden years with plans of carefree travel and retirement living. Not so according to a recent story in the AARP Bulletin.
While the overall divorce rate in the U.S. has declined since 1990, it has doubled for those over 50. The trend has become so significant, researchers are calling it "gray divorce," and project that one out of three boomers will face older age unmarried.
Reasons vary from "we just grew apart," to changes in jobs, interests, lifestyle, goals, health, children's lives or personal ambitions.
And then there's longevity. "We live so much longer now," says Dr. Pepper Schwartz. "Today's 65 year-olds can envision at least 20 more active years, and they don't want those years to be frustrating or disappointing."
An AARP study entitled, The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond, also found that, “Women are especially vulnerable financially following divorce and are more likely than men to be troubled about becoming financially destitute.”
“Older women’s losses are greater,” says author Erica Manfred in her book, He’s History, You’re Not: Surviving Divorce after 40. “ They have been married the longest and take the hardest hit both financially and emotionally. It can be especially devastating when you lack the resilience of youth to help you bounce back.”
In my experience, divorcing women in this age group can face some of the biggest financial and personal challenges of their lives. Yet, I also see many who come to view divorce as an opportunity to emerge stronger, wiser and in more control of their destinies than ever before.
My advice to boomer women seeking divorce is to work hard to learn as much as you can about your legal rights and the divorce process. Get answers to all your questions so you make informed decisions about every aspect. Secure a board certified attorney who is experienced in divorce. If necessary, secure a certified divorce financial expert to help you fully understand your financial situation and what to expect after the divorce.
I also encourage women to think of this as an opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth. Divorce happens and it can be tough to go through. But many women use the experience to begin again and transition to a better place, with new goals and new aspirations.