Baby Boomer Trends in Divorce
by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)
Is there really a "graying of divorce" or is that just media hype? Divorced Baby Boomers seem to be everywhere. What about me? My friends?
If you look up anything about Baby Boomers and divorce, you will find numerous annoying articles about “the graying of divorce” and, gasp, Al Gore's divorce or Bill O'Reilly's separation. Well, what is going on? Is it an epidemic? Should we brace ourselves for the next round of divorces, worrying ourselves sick that Marilyn and Dan Quayle or Joe and Jill Biden could be next?
Relax. You are not more likely to get a divorce just because you have gray hair.
Why do people in the media make such a fuss about “gray divorce" whenever they run out of real news?
According to the article Divorce, Boomers and Financial Planning by Lili Vasileff, “The real divorce rates for seniors have been nearly steady since 1970. The surge in divorced Boomers actually reflects that more divorced adults are becoming seniors.”
Baby Boomer Divorce Statistics
It is hard to get a handle on Baby Boomer trends by looking only at marriage and divorce statistics. Many Boomers are, indeed, divorced, but not all of those divorced men and women are single.
In the last decade, the number of senior men and women who are “living together” has almost doubled. Therefore, these cohabitating people, though unmarried, are hardly single or lonely.
And, these findings are not surprising. The Baby Boomers are, for better or worse, the generation that made the cohabitation trend acceptable and mainstream in the 70s.
Why Boomers Cohabitate
Every couple has a different, unique story, however the overriding reason that Boomers refrain from tying the knot (a second or third time) is their fear of financial loss. In addition, when the economy is sputtering, financial difficulties are magnified, as it is harder to replace lost income or assets.
Remarriage can affect:
- medical insurance
- Social Security
Divorce and Medical Insurance
Here is one common way that health-insurance issues can affect remarriage statistics.
A woman who remarries may lose the medical insurance she depends on from her former spouse. (Women often negotiate for health insurance during their divorces.) So, a bad medical history can thwart the possibility of remarriage for many older women. When younger couples divorce, health and health-care coverage is less likely to be an issue when considering marriage or remarriage.
Divorce and Social Security
Although Baby Boomer women have usually worked at some point in their lives, it is quite likely that their husbands’ lifetime earnings are greater than their own lifetime earnings. A woman’s benefits, as an ex-spouse and divorced survivor, may be higher than the amount she would get from Social Security on her own. Women in this situation may be better off staying single than remarrying. However, there are many variables that affect this, so women should talk to a financial planner about their specific circumstances.
When Baby Boomers divorce just before or during their retirement years, there are important pension scenarios that must be considered. A financial planner can help to determine the best ways to handle divorce-pension negotiations. Many older women qualify for a portion of their husbands’ pensions.
The “graying” of divorce may not be a new epidemic, however many Baby Boomers have been divorced at least once in their lifetimes. Whether the break-up happened when they were in their 20s or in their 60s, there are definitely a lot of divorced Baby Boomers who should talk to financial planners about divorce, retirement, and remarriage.
Note: Information from this article is not intended to be a substitute for advice from a lawyer, financial planner, therapist, or other professional. Please consult a lawyer or other professional for specific advice.
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