Divorce at any age is a difficult experience but if you’re over 50 you’ve got obstacles that the younger don’t encounter. Face it: you’ve got fewer years to bounce back you’ve got less energy. But before you throw in the towel, look on the brighter side: you’re now the captain of your own ship and have the opportunity to navigate to a destination of your own choosing. At the age of 50 we can expect to live another 35 years and there’s much to look forward to if you properly plan and adjust course.
The term “gray” divorce refers to couples who are separating after a long-term marriage or are older in age (gray-haired). Here’s what you need to consider if you’re going to thrive after a later-life divorce.
5 ways to handle a successful split at 50+
As with all divorces, you’re going to have to split your assets and create two households. Two living separately is not as cheap as two sharing a household and your share of the assets isn’t going to see you through retirement like the whole pie was going to for the two of you. At age 50+ you don’t have as many years to recover like you did if you were in the prime of your career. You’re going to have to significantly ramp up those savings or downgrade your retirement expectations. Yes, that stinks, but moaning and groaning isn’t going to make it any better.
So what can you do about it? Cut back, save more, get creative, create a household with a friend, find a new partner/spouse, ramp up your career, and, if you are currently preparing for divorce, consider a less costly process that can adequately address the complexities of your situation, i.e., mediation or a collaboration.
No, two can’t live as cheaply as one. If you’re lucky, that means you may not have access to a vacation home anymore; if you’re living more frugally, you may have to compromise your lifestyle more drastically—in housing, cars, clothing, entertainment, etc. Regardless, you worked hard to get to where you are in mid or later life and it’ll feel particularly daunting that you’re no longer going to be living like you did before the split.
So, what to do? Buck up, for one. Whether the divorce was your choice or not, it’s not going to help if you wallow about your present financial state. Your friends don’t want to hear it repeatedly and your kids don’t want to listen to it anymore, either. Make the best of what you’ve got and make a plan. What can you afford? Utilize a financial planner to create a budget and goals. Determine what’s really important to you and work for it. Set realistic expectations and then adapt.
Work and Career:
Women, especially, may have cut back on working to be home with the kids or care for the home. Now they are faced with a temporary alimony order and need to get back to work if they are going to be able to pay the bills and save for retirement. But who is going to hire you now that you’ve been out of work for so long? Or maybe it’s time for a career change or to put it on a faster track and you’re not sure how to go about it. Enlist the help of a career coach if you don’t have any ready-made answers. And before you say you can’t afford to enlist a career coach, let me say that yes, you’re going to have to spend some money to make some money.
Your spouse may not have been good company in the later years of your marriage but at least s/he was a warm body who grunted once in a while, right? There will be times when you’re jubilant that you’re free to do as you please and excited about enhancing the friendships you have and making new ones. There’ll come a time, too, that you’ll feel a bit empty and lonely. Remember that you have to let go of things, people, and circumstances that hold you down in order to make room for ones that will lift you up! Work with a divorce coach or a therapist, join some clubs, and accept the times of loneliness as necessary in order to move on. You will again have a full life!
As for dating, that’s a choice you need to make based on your own needs and desires. Online dating works for some and there are numerous avenues to pursue if you want to meet potential partners. Don’t get out there, though, until you’re happy with your life and circumstances. If you’re lonely, depressed, or bitter, get some help to deal with those issues before you go partner hunting.
Health and Well-Being:
Let’s face it, at 50+ we’re going to have more health issues. When you had a partner who looked after you, willingly or reluctantly, you had a crutch. Now you don’t. So it’s even more important to take care of yourself. Eat better, get some exercise, and develop a support network. If you can afford it, purchase long-term care insurance. If you can’t, talk to your children, other relatives, and close friends about a plan if you are temporarily or permanently disabled.
Getting older has its plusses and minuses no matter your marital status. If you’re becoming single as an older person, you need to face your realities and make plans to address them head on. If you don’t you may find yourself alone, broke, disabled, and unhappily dependent on others. It’s up to you to make informed and wise choices so that you thrive after your divorce.
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