Late-Life Divorce And Retirement for the Elderly

  • Divorce can be a challenging experience for anybody, but more so for older people
  • Late-life divorce has a great impact on finances, forcing individuals – especially women – to delay retirement
  • There is a disparity in poverty levels for married people who have never been divorced and people who get divorced

Divorce can be an extremely taxing and stressful experience for anyone, but it’s particularly more challenging for couples who decide to split up later in life. Recent studies show that baby boomers suffer disproportionately from the financial fallout of late-life divorce – especially women.

According to Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family & Marriage Research, even as divorce rates for younger couples have fallen in recent years, the late-life divorce rates in the U.S. doubled from 1990 to 2010. As a result, the overall risk of getting divorced in the country remains a constant – about half of all marriages will end in divorce.

Late-life divorce turns out to be part of the reason why one in five Americans over 65-years-old is working. Unlike divorces earlier in life, divorce in older age has a huge impact on finances, forcing individuals to delay retirement.

Monetary Stress of Divorce Pushes Older Women Back to the Workforce

New research suggests that the financial stress brought about by late-life divorce plays a big role in pushing older women back into the workforce. A study by Dana Rotz of Mathematica Policy Research and Claudia Olivetti of Boston College reveals that the later a woman divorces, the more likely she will be working full time late in life.

Olivetti and Rotz used survey data of almost 56,000 women and found that those who divorced their spouses in their 50s were about 10% more likely to be working from ages 50 to 74.

How Divorce Affects the Finances of Older People

The financial rigors of divorce are bigger than simply paying the legal fees and court costs. It also means splitting assets in two. In addition, divorce means that many expenses suddenly double – two homes to maintain, two sets of bills, and so on.

As a result of this dynamic, divorced individuals are more likely to be poor. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research found that poverty rate is low for married people over 62 years of age who never divorced. Only 3.4% of this group are poor. On the other hand, 16% of single people divorced before age 50 are poor, and 19% of single people divorced after age 50 are poor.

One reason for the disparity in poverty levels is social security. Married people who have never one through a divorce receive an average of $22,607 every year from the federal retirement program, while single people divorced later in life qualify for an average of $12,092.

In addition, women who divorce late-in-life seem to end up worse off than men. The poverty rate for divorced men after age 50 is 11.4%, while the poverty rate for women after age 50 is almost 27%. For this reason, a family law attorney who understands these dynamics is critical. 

If you need legal assistance in your late-life divorce, contact Lyttle Law Firm. You may reach us at 512.215.5225.