When seniors separate

The breakdown of a long marriage is especially heartbreaking, but it’s no longer uncommon.  This Canadian Press article contains some good advice for older Canadians who are separating.

(Well, except for the recommendation that couples who get along “try to divorce without a lawyer to save money.”  If you think paying a lawyer is expensive and frustrating, try navigating the family court system without one.)

Divorce is hard enough but seniors who split up in retirement, especially women, can lower their quality of life and end up in debt or even poverty, experts say.

“It’s so difficult for couples financially to divorce to begin with,” said financial planner Marta Stiteler of the Pillar Retirement Group in Hamilton, Ont.

“When you do it in retirement, it’s like a double whammy.”

If a split is amicable, seniors should try to divorce without a lawyer to save money [good luck with that – DJP] Stiteler said, but advised that couples should at least get separate legal and financial advice.

“Women, they are the most vulnerable if they are of retirement age now. Some may never have worked or may never have been involved in the finances of the home.”

[…]

…married couples who get divorced between the ages of 67 and 80 are projected to have the largest decrease in wealth and the largest increase in poverty, said Dabu, vice-president of retirement and financial planning strategy for BMO (TSX:BMO).

“If you’re in retirement and you’re not working, both of you now have to split that income and are supporting two separate households. That can have a significant impact on your retirement lifestyle,” Dabu said.

“It’s one of the big causes of debt, certainly, in retirement.”

Stiteler said emotion, if possible, should be left out of ending the marriage.

“Don’t give up everything to keep the house because of sentimental reasons. Something I see a lot of is that people want to keep the house in lieu of the pension. If you have to sell the marital home, you have to sell the marital home.”

She advises getting an actuarial appraisal of any retirement pensions to find out their value and also said couples need to know exactly what assets, accounts and finances they individually and jointly have.

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