“If I’d met Nancy instead of Karen 30 years ago, I wouldn’t be divorced. And I’d definitely have more money.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because Nancy and I work as a team. We want to invest in our future. Karen just wanted to spend our money. The more we made, the more she spent. She always wanted more: more money, more vacations, more clothes—you name it. Once we divorced and split everything up, I was pretty much broke.
I felt bad for Dave.
It turns out we Boomers are divorcing at a rapid clip.
Boomers are divorcing at a higher rate than the general population.
Research from Bowling Green University finds that the divorce rate for Boomers over age 50 has doubled since 1990.
Worse, Boomers who have already been divorced once are 2.5 times more likely to divorce again than are their never divorced peers.
Worse still, Boomers who have already been divorced once–and whose current marriage is less than 9 years old–are 10 times more likely to divorce again.
Apparently, there is group of Boomers who find that when they are no longer working, raising children, or in absolute robust health, their marriages become strained and end in divorce. Longer life expectancies seem to reduce the probability that married Boomer couples will stay together until that final curtain call.
They call it gray divorce and it’s happening to us.
In his book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, Wes Moss describes in simple but unerring detail how divorce is a wealth killer. Among other things, he points out that divorce divides your assets in half each time you go through it. He notes, if you have $20 million and get divorced four times, you’re down to $1.25 million. That’s a lot of green to part with.
So, what can a Boomer do?
Take these steps to get back on your feet financially.
If you are already divorced, don’t despair that you’ll never be financially secure. Employ the financial principles we discuss in this blog. Spend less than you earn. Invest the difference. Eliminate credit card debt. Establish a 6- to 8-month emergency fund before calamity strikes to cover your living expenses. Track your expenses so that you see where you are wasting your hard-earned cash. Develop an investment portfolio of index funds to grow your savings and protect yourself against inflation. We will discuss these strategies in future blog posts.
Don’t stop there, Boomer. Read! Andrew Tobias’ classic The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need. This is a good general book on keeping your financial house in order. The Your Money or Your Life by Vickie Robbins and Joe Dominguez is a powerful book on how to think about money in general.
Contemplating divorce? Take these steps.
If you’re contemplating divorce, ask yourself the Ann Landers question: Am I better off with or without my spouse? Here’s an article from the Huffington Post that describes marital problems that some counselors consider unsolvable.
If you’re well-being demands divorce, then take the steps listed above.
On the other hand, if you think you’re better off staying married, consider marriage counseling. You think marriage counseling is too expensive? Try divorce! There are plenty of counselors out there. Consider going alone if you have to.
Insistent you can’t afford to spend much money? Then go to the library. There are any number of worthy books out there on keeping your marriage together. They have been on multiple national bestseller lists for years. Consider John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work or Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. (Ignore the cheesy cover!) We’re talking about love, but we’re also talking about money and a comfortable retirement. This is, after all a blog about Boomer money (and more).
Divorce: an affair of the heart and wallet.
I wish Dave and Karen had taken these steps before they divorced. I know they’d be better off—at least financially. “I’m not sure when I’ll be able to retire,” Dave told me. “But I’m aggressively saving every dime.”
“Perfect!” I tried to be upbeat, but felt sad.
I waved as he drove off in his rusted-out car.