Divorce among people age 50 and older is sweeping the nation. How financial advisors
can help clients navigate the epidemic
of so-called gray divorce, especially by
rejigging retirement plans, is a focus
for Dennis Stearns, founder of fee-only
Stearns Financial Group. The veteran
advisor has worked in this area, which,
he says, often gets “messy,” for a decade.
Stearns, whose firm, based in
Greensboro, North Carolina, manag-
es about $1 billion, discusses how he
helps clients find the right financial
solutions. The gray divorce expert is
author of “Fourth Quarter Fumbles:
How Successful People Avoid Critical
Mistakes Later in Life.”
While the divorce rate of younger
couples has dropped in recent years,
since 1990 the rate of folks 50 and over
has doubled, according to the National
Center for Health Statistics and the U.S.
Census Bureau. For ages 65 and older,
the rate has approximately tripled over
the same period.
Baby boomer wives as well as women
born a few years earlier — known, like
men, as war babies — who are unhappy
in their marriages now have impetus to
divorce even in marriages of 30 years or
more because of increased longevity and
the resultant ability to remain longer as
earners in the labor force.
How does gray divorce impact a
couple’s retirement plan?
Unless you’re Jeff Bezos, getting
divorced will be a major economic problem. Divorce is one of the top three
threats to financial independence. The
others are not having a handle on living
expenses when circumstances change
and behavioral finance traps around
Is this only about younger boomers?
No. A 74-year-old woman recently
walked into our office and said, ”I have
10 or 20 good years ahead of me. The
guy I’m married to is OK, but he’s probably a 4 on a 10-scale. Frankly, I don’t
want to be his caregiver when he’s starting to go downhill because he’ll be even
more of a pain in the rear end.” We’ve
heard variations on that story a lot.
Why is gray divorce a threat to
Later in life there’s less ability on the
part of the surviving spouse — most
often the wife — to make up ground
concerning money. She may have to
How to Rescue Retirement When Older
Dennis Stearns highlights the “must-know” issues tied to the “exploding
trend” of gray divorce.
By Jane Wollman-Rusoff