The rate divorce among couples in their 50’s or older has grown so much in recent years that it has earned its own moniker: gray divorce. A recent article in the Fiscal Times by Christina Couch highlights some of the financial issues which are resulting in retired couples spitting up. Not surprisingly, they are really not any different from the reasons why any couple decides to divorce. A generalization of the reasons would be that couples in their 50’s develop different expecations as to how to spend this time of their life. In many respects, the decision to retire or not retire; the type of lifestyle to live in retirement; or life goals closely mirror the same tensions younger couples have in their marriages.
People come into a marriage or grow within a marrige to have different goals for how they want to live their life. From the standpoint of what one person is prepared to accept in the other, the decision to retire at 62 while the other spouse works is not too dissimilar from a spouse in their late 20’s deciding to go back to go back to school or make a radical career change with finanical reprecussions. There are pressures which may not have been expected. From a financial standpoint, the couple may not have been on the same page as to the impact the retirement of one has on the financial stability of the couple.
Ms. Couch makes some connections that this growing segment of divorces is driven by demographics as much as anything: members of the baby boomer generation are living longer lives; women have had long careers and can afford to divorce; parties are not necessarily in disparate financial positions once they reach retirement age. As complications arise with health care, Social Security, and other retirement issues increase, the rise of gray divorce is not likely to subside; the possibility exsits, however, that some divorces could be prevented through communication and financial education.