When we think of divorce, we often think of younger couples who have children and mortgages. Most of us assume – and wrongfully so – that once you make it to your golden years things are perfect – money and marriage-wise. Unfortunately, that just isn’t so. According to Statistics Canada, grey divorce is on the rise among those aged 55-59 and women are the ones feeling more of the financial consequences of those separations. While those who have reached retirement may not have to worry about raising their kids or paying off their home, they do have a unique set of concerns when it comes to divorce, especially since they rely on pensions and retirement incomes. The funding to start all over again just isn’t there for most.
Silver Separations On The Rise
In 2006, some 226,205 older Canadians were divorced and living alone; at last look in 2011, that number has risen to 266,080. Although marriage is still the predominant family structure in Canada, at 67% the percentage has dropped dramatically from 70.5% just 10 years ago, and 91.6% in 1961. According to the National Post, there were 1,237 divorces among women 65 and older in 2008. Among men that number was even higher at 2,486. In 852 divorces, both partners were over the age of 65.
The Financial Implications
So what’s the big deal? Surely some of these couples had simply waited until their children were out of the picture. If they’d known all along that they were headed for divorce, did they prepare? And can you prepare for such a devastating financial blow at that age? The problem is that without proper preparation, a divorce in your senior years could leave you financially crippled. Not only are the pensions and retirement incomes you rely on significantly whittled down, but there’s also the added cost of starting over to consider. The good news is that there’s no penalty for splitting your RRSPs and rolling funds from one person to the other. As long as you don’t withdraw your savings prematurely, they can’t be taxed.
Preparing for Divorce
If you're headed for splitsville, it's important to become financially savvy, especially if your spouse had a heavier hand in the family financial planning. Take the time to learn about and understand your finances. Make an appointment with your bank or a financial advisor. They can educate and advise you on your financial situation. Ignoring your financial situation could be cause for financial ruin in the future.
Be Realistic About Change
Prepare for the worst. Most divorces don’t come out of nowhere. If you sense divorce is on the horizon, set yourself up financially. Be sure to open a separate account take control of your finances.
Take a look at your assets and income. What are you working with? Can you make do on what you have? Most likely, you’re going to have to adjust your living expenses. Likely you’ll have the added expense of a new home, so you can’t expect your lifestyle to remain the same. The sooner you make changes to your lifestyle and get your budget under control the better your financial future will be.
A wise person once told me that you should treat marriage and divorce as a business transaction. In business, you need to keep your head, step outside of yourself and leave your emotions at the door. After many years of marriage this might be hard to do – but it’s absolutely necessary. You are, after all, starting a new life on your own. The levelheaded decisions you make today could have a serious impact on your financial situation tomorrow.