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Going through a separation can be one of the most difficult experiences for anyone at any age. But more and more, it’s how a growing number of retirement-age couples are beginning the next phase of life.

Facing this scenario? You’re certainly not alone. While the overall divorce rate has been stable in recent years, it’s more than doubled for those 55 and older since 1990 (FIGURE 1). For those over 65, the rate nearly tripled,1 particularly for couples in second marriages.

The potential causes of this so-called “gray divorce” vary. However, what matters most for those exiting marriage is what comes next. With one out of four breakups happening later in life now, divorce has become a growing obstacle in retirement for millions of Americans.3 Without careful planning, many may be on worse financial footing than their married or widowed peers.



The Divorce Rate for Those Aged 55+ Has Doubled in the Past 27 Years
People who divorced per 1,000 married persons in given age group

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics and US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2017. Most recent data available.


Steps to a Brighter Financial Future

Take the following proactive actions to start your solo financial journey.

  1. Make New Investment Decisions
    One spouse may have assumed a majority of the financial decisions. If you actively handled things, be proactive and reach out to your financial professional to discuss. If you’re the one who wasn’t part of the conversations, talk with your financial professional to catch up on what you need to know now.

  2. Create an Investment Plan for One
    Most of the graying divorced have only a fraction of the assets of married peers. Develop a new strategy to help maintain your goals. Your financial professional may be best equipped to evaluate and help make adjustments.

  3. Calculate New Expenses
    Bottom line: The monthly expenses you’re responsible for essentially just doubled. If you’re planning to live on a fixed income, those extra expenses need to be factored into a new long-term plan. If you had stopped or planned to stop working, you might have to reevaluate.

  4. Get Your Own Insurance
    Your old policies included both spouses. It’s time to secure your own individual insurance coverage—whether that be health, life, disability, homeowners, or automobile. Don’t forget to review your beneficiaries, too. Your financial professional can be a great resource to help you determine your needs and refer you to an insurance professional, if necessary.

  5. File Your Taxes Separately
    Not yet divorced? You can file your last return as married filing separately. New divorce settlements made since 2020 will convey new tax implications as alimony income will no longer be taxed, and alimony payments won’t be tax-deductible. Contact your tax professional to let them know your situation and to discover the best options.


The Rest of Your Life

The next phase of your life will certainly be different. Planning for this new future sooner rather than later can help ensure you stay on track despite impending changes. 

In addition to a lawyer and tax professional, your financial professional can help you navigate through all the decisions. Together, you can work through all of the challenges ahead to turn this new start into the beginning of a better tomorrow.


Talk to your financial professional to help guide you through the important decisions that may follow a late-life split.


1 Bowling Green State University National Center for Family & Marriage, “Age Variation in the Divorce Rate, 1990 and 2017,” 6/22/21.

2 Wall Street Journal,“The Divorce Rate Is at a 40-Year Low, Unless You’re 55 or Older,” 6/21/19. Most recent data available.

3 Research on Aging, “Marital Biography, Social Security Receipt, and Poverty,” 12/16/16. Most recent data available.

4 Kiplinger’s, “The Consequences of Gray Divorce,” 5/2/21.


All information provided is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to provide investment, tax, accounting or legal advice. As with all matters of an investment, tax, or legal nature, you and your clients should consult with a qualified tax or legal professional regarding your or your client’s specific legal or tax situation, as applicable. The preceding is not intended to be a recommendation or advice.

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