Even so, with retirement around the corner, “this is the worst point in time for separating from a financial perspective,” says Sachs. Both parties are likely to experience an initial drop in their standard of living although men bounce back faster.
Despite the many challenges of grey divorce, it does have a silver lining or two. For one thing, there are no bitter court battles over who gets the kids (although it may make sense to set a fair schedule for visiting grandkids). And when it comes to marrying again, the maturity of advanced age means the union has a better shot compared to second marriages among younger folk.
Many divorced people over 50 look at the experience as an opportunity for personal growth. After all, they shape their own futures. Gwen Martin meditates on what matters to her while connecting with nature. “In the woods, I’ll see a tree that has been through storms, maybe even fire, but has somehow survived,” she says. “We are part of nature and we have the capacity to survive everything.”
COUNSEL FOR COPING
A divorce is a colossal life change and emotional process. Consider these survival suggestions.
• Allow yourself time to go through the grief process and adjust to your lifestyle changes.
• Don’t neglect your needs. Eat well, exercise and get a good sleep.
• Reclaim your identity as an individual and pursue personal interests.
• Explore personal growth: face your fears, remember your successes and boost your self-confidence.
• Consider joining a support group.
Preventing Financial Fiasco
After the divorce dust settles, will you be struggling? Here are seven tips for maintaining your financial health.
• Even if you aren’t divorcing, you should be familiar with all bank records, retirement plans, tax returns and assets. Be aware of beneficiaries and property ownership.
• If you are considering a split, start tracking your spending. It’ll help you figure out where to make cuts if you need to later.
• Calculate how much a divorce will cost so you can budget for it if possible instead of incurring debt.
• Let banking and investment firms know your marital status will be changing and consider closing joint accounts.
• If you’ve never had a credit card in your own name, now’s the time to get one. A credit history will come in handy in the future.
• If you’re paying or receiving support, learn what that means for your income tax.
• Even if you’re tempted, don’t go on a spending spree to spite your partner. You’ll only end up with more debt.
Canada’s not the only country seeing a spike in grey divorce. American author Deirdre Bair interviewed over 300 divorced men and women for her new book, Calling It Quits: Late-Life Divorce and Starting Over (Random House, 2007).
Bair, herself divorced after 43 years of marriage, explores why the divorce rate among older couples has exploded. She describes people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s who suddenly realized they’d prefer to be apart. (One woman in her 80s, who left her husband after surviving an organ transplant, told Bair: “I don’t know how many years I have left. I just know I don’t want to live them with him!”) This book examines the specific coping techniques of older divorced people, and how their lives change after breaking it off.