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Disecting The Finances of Gray Divorce


Gray divorce has been a hot topic in the news as of late, as the nation has seen a rise in the amount of those fitting into the age bracket of 55+ divorcing at a higher rate in the last year. The topic has been dissected by everyone in the media, trying to come up with reasonable explanations as to why after so many years, these people are starting to go their separate ways. however, nobody has really broken down the ins and outs of just how and what happens to the other important items  in a marriage of those who are senior citizens.

Age Brings Assets

One of the first things to think of are the assets for both spouses. We accumulate an abundance of things as we go through our lives, so naturally the older you are, the more you have. Finances too; many of those in the gray divorce category are retired and live off IRA’s and retirement funds, some even off social security. The big questions is, what happens to that?

Divorce and Social Security

The government has put in place a number of specific guidelines in terms of those receiving Social Security. When a divorce occurs, there are a few slight changes as to who and how much is received. If you are age 62 years or older, were married 10 years or more, and are currently unmarried, and you are not entitled to receive a higher benefit based on your own work, you can receive benefits based on your ex’s earnings, even if he or she remarried. If both spouses worked, the lower earner may receive benefits based on the higher earner’s work. If you have never worked, you can collect benefits on your ex spouses work, and your ex is still eligible to collect what he or she has earned over the years.The longer you wait to collect divorced spousal benefits, up to your full retirement age, the higher your benefit will be.

So, this may be a lot to remember for gray divorce law but knowing these things in regards to your finances will help. Grey divorce can be tricky as there are typically more factors involved in the process of filing and obtaining a divorce than for someone of a lower age or who isn’t retired.

All in Order
It is important to take preventative and protective measures during a marriage so that if the day does come where a dissolution of marriage occurs, both parties are comfortably financially stable. Be an active participant in your family finances and you’ll establish the know-how and confidence to better succeed after the divorce is finalized. Make sure you fully understand your share of all assets and that all the details are clearly spelled out in your divorce settlement agreement.

77 Year-Old Marriage Ends


In a time where marriage is thought to have a 50% chance of ending in divorce, we often look to our grandparents’ generation for inspiration. Often asking the question of “How did they stay together?” or “What was different about those eras?” we find ourselves trying to figure out some sort of secret formula to make relationships and marriage work.

In truth there is no magic, the magic is a myth; people fall in love for different reasons, meet under different circumstances, and mesh together over many different facets of life that combine their personality traits and the environment in which they traverse together in. Sometimes someone can tell right away if someone is a match, and sometimes it takes decades for spouses to come to the conclusion that maybe this just isn’t working.

Age of the Absurd

In an age where celebrity marriages last a week, pet custody battles range up to thousands of dollars, and marriage is increasingly marginalized in society, comes a story that may be sad to some. But in truth, it’s just another example of what makes a marriage successfully, and that, no matter the situation, age, or how much you get along with your spouse, the truth is always more important than any other choice.

In 2012 we have seen our share of celebrity divorces dominate the news. Game shows, reality programs, and everything in-between have shown us the stark reality of just how absurd some people can be. Those with any significant amount of logic understand the real world without cameras can even be more stressful than those propped up scenarios involving people that are made to think they are “important.”

An Exercise in Real World Truth

Going back to our grandparents’ generation, we can stand amazed at how their families were able to keep it together. That is why this story seems so familiar despite its first glance perception. In 2012 an Italian man wanted to get divorced from his wife. He claimed to have discovered letters between his wife and another man, and when confronting his wife she admitted to the affair but begged him to stay together. Nothing totally out of the ordinary there right? The twist is that the man is 99 years old. The wife is 96. They have been married for 77 years, and the affair took place nearly 60 years ago. Despite his wife’s pleadings for them to stick together in their marriage the man is moving ahead with the divorce. When the divorce papers go through they will become the oldest divorced couple on record. Opinions on this anomaly situation will vary from “Why would they get divorced now?” to “What difference does the affair make 60 years later?”

The truth is, as always, that the truth wins out. No matter the shape, form, or age of a marriage, the same rules apply. There was no special relationship glue in the 1950’s and this story proves it. People are human, and are hurt by deception. Even at age 99 and over, something happened 60 some odd years ago that broke the trust and hurt a spouse. The truth and communication in a relationship and marriage is always the most important facets in its eventual success.

2nd & 3rd Marriages Destined to Fail?

The rate at which first marriages are lasting for more than 25 years is steadily flirting around the 50% mark. This means that the number of people on their second or third marriage is becoming larger by the minute. Statistics have shown that in the U.S., 50 percent of first marriages, 67 percent of second, and 73 percent of third marriages are ending in divorce.

There are many different theories as to why these numbers are so staggering. One common explanation is that a significant number of people enter into a second or third marriage “on the rebound” of a first or second divorce. This means that they are so used to having a significant other that they rush into another relationship, either not fully knowing their new spouse, or not being 100% sure that they even want to be married to this person.

The divorcees in question are usually vulnerable; they do not wait a sufficient time to recover from their divorce or to get their priorities straight before taking their vows again. They enter their next marriage for the wrong reasons, not having internalized the lessons of their past experiences. Time heals all wounds, as they say. However, many are just not willing to wait for whatever reason.

Reasons for the Fall
Now, obviously there isn’t just one clear cut, factor to account for such high rates of second and third failed marriages. There are some individuals in second and third marriages who consider divorce manageable and not necessarily a tragedy. They have handled it once, so they will handle it again. They may even recognize the warning signs earlier than they did first time around and are quicker to react.

One of the other popular theories for the increase of first marriages during recent decades is the gained equality between the genders. Women have become more financially independent and more self sufficient in the workplace, and men have become increasingly more domestically independent.

Gender roles and stereotypes are breaking down, and a stigma is no longer being placed on the stay at home father, or the businesswoman who works 50 hours a week. With the economy coming to a slow rise, these things aren’t frowned upon.

Therefore it shouldn’t be surprising that if and when these individuals move on to a second or third marriage, they are likely to feel inclined to protect themselves emotionally and financially.

Food For Thought
These reasons reflect the logical and statistical side of why the divorce rate among second and third marriages is so high, so here are the more human interest aspects of the divorce rate.

Usually, second and third marriages are later on in life, meaning children and family have been established in prior relationships. So in these later nuptials, its safe to say that there is less glue holding the marriage together. Children typically act as a stabilizing factor, and when children are absent the marriage is prone to be less sturdy and withstand the storms that marriage brings.

In the U.S, an overwhelmingly high percent of children are born in first marriages, and to spouses that are 35 and under. Most couples in a second marriage do not have common children to bind them together. Conversely, not having shared responsibility for kids means it’s easier to leave when you are going through a rough patch.

Relationships become increasingly tangled and complicated with subsequent marriages, and it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain an even keel when on your third marriage. The luster and grandeur of marriage is somewhat lost after the first time, and becomes hard to maintain.  On a day-to-day level, maintaining those relationships is not easy and frequently generates animosity. It is just harder to keep the love alive as the years go on and previous marriages have worn the soul. Making your first one count is the best advice that anyone can give those who are married or even contemplating a divorce.

Marriage Isn’t a Moral Measuring Stick

85784552Gray divorce was a big deal about three months ago, but now it’s nothing more than a little section on Huffintington Post: Divorce. It appears the world has already tired of the topic, except when celebrities and public figures are involved.

It’s true, Buzz Aldrin and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Lois Driggs Cannon, filed for divorce on December 28th, 2012. We won’t get into the details of the divorce because the amount of money the almost-former Ms. Aldrin is getting makes our pupils turn into dollar signs. What we will get into is how this piece of Aldrin news isn’t quite so depressing or indicative of moral looseness as one might assume.

Dear Old Buzz

Since making the second set of footprints on the moon, Buzz Aldrin has had quite a time of it in life. He’s been through a battle with alcoholism, two divorces and marriages, and a lifetime struggle of being labeled #2. The man is currently 82 years old, and has had a turbulent, probably exhausting life. Yet even at such a jaw dropping age he is making decisions a person half his age is making; he’s getting divorced and continuing his pursuit of happiness.

Buzz Aldrin just might reignite the world’s fascination with gray divorce. Well, at this point it’s more like white divorce, but here’s why divorce at any age isn’t telling of an amoral society.

Marriage Isn’t a Moral Measuring Stick

For generations marriage has been closely associated with morality, wholesomeness, and everything good and pure. But this is a romantic, unrealistic view of what marriage means for society. Just because a couple has decided to legally enter a union does not mean that life is in any way better than a single person’s life. Marriage shouldn’t be viewed just as something people in our world do. Ask yourself, do you want to get married because it’s something “people do”?

This question is what is really so shocking about gray divorce. News about gray divorce snaps people out of their day-to-day lives and makes them reevaluate their own situations. If older people, who are supposed to just wait around for the end, are refusing to settle in their lives, then why should the younger generations? The answer is: They shouldn’t.

Marriage is ________

So if marriage isn’t a moral measuring stick, what is it? Marriage is supposed to the be ultimate display and symbol of love. But love is a fickle emotion, as any stereotypical adolescent knows. For a marriage to stay a real marriage (meaning: still full of love), the spouses must constantly check in on their relationship, which is the basis of the marriage.(Could that simplistic idea be our answer? “Marriage is a relationship.”)

No one wants to be wrong, but if a marriage is discovered to run out of love without a hope of a refill, then why shouldn’t divorce be the solution? If this realization should creep into my life, I hope I have the strength to take a page from Buzz Aldrin and continue to live life like it has meaning up until the end.

As it stands, marriage is viewed as a test with only two options: pass or fail. But since the fail rate is about 50%, maybe it’s time to view marriage in a new light.

Why Are We Shocked By Gray Divorce?

78398457As obsessed as our culture is with youth and beauty, society has made quite a few surprising (but completely welcome) age-embracing motions. The spokeswoman/model for MAC cosmetics is a 90 year old woman, and what a woman Iris Apfel is. She wantonly said, “What’s wrong with getting old? If you’re lucky enough to get old, you should celebrate it.” Today we marvel at modern day medicine, which more than ever includes cosmetic surgery, but still have the gall to sternly criticize a person over 60 who doesn’t jump at early bird dinner specials.

Is there an age when we have to stop reassessing happiness and planning to improve our lives? The obvious answer is no, but the way we sensationalize things like gray divorce says otherwise.

The Wonder Years

In this day and age, 1 in 4 people aged 50 or older are getting a divorce, and this statistic makes our heads explode. People are wondering what has happened to our morals, our families, and our very values just because our parents have come to the conclusion that they are still very much alive and deserve to be happy. True, divorce not a very happy topic. The cause of divorce at least is not a very happy topic, but the by-products (getting out of a toxic relationship, living how you want to live, being who you want to be, meeting knew people, etc.) can be very uplifting.

You see, our baby boomers are not babies anymore. They have lived full lives, seen many changes in the world, and fostered changed offspring; however, they have also looked at the daily vitamin boxes in the face, and decided that the life they take the vitamins for is too precious to ignore anything that makes them less than thrilled to be alive. In their full lives, they might have made unions that have crumbled and been stretched too thin, and decided divorce was the best way forward. But for whatever reasons our baby boomers have decided to put an end to the Mr. and Mrs. letterhead, it’s really none of our business.

Is the Sky Falling?

Divorce, marriage, and other romantic topics are really none of the general public’s business, and my real question is why (after trying to evade time and aging) are we shocked that our parents are starring the clock in the eye and saying “I’ll do what I please in my own time”? Are we jealous of our parents for starting the age-revolution before us?

I’m not entirely sure, but one thing is for sure: We don’t quite know what to make of this age-revolution.

Baby Boomers’ Booming Divorces: Self-Fulfilling Prophesy?

84120557The rate at which baby boomers are divorcing each other defies many traditional expectations, obliterating marriages that have already lasted 25 plus years. Perhaps it’s not so surprising when you remember that the generation came of age as supporters of the cultural upheaval defining the 60′s. Again, many baby boomers are breaking tradition.

You would think marriages that have lasted so long would continue lasting throughout the end of the spouses’ lives. But statistics have been consistently proving that perception wrong, as more older couples enter the divorce process without looking back. There is a theory circulating that gray divorces are the result of the generation’s original expectations going into their marriages, expectations involving the high-held goal of self-fulfillment.

The Stats Tell A Story

Although the overall divorce rate peaked in the 1980s, a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research shows that the baby boomer divorce rate has doubled in the last 20 years. Among those 50 years old or older, the divorce rate went from 1 in 10 in 1990, to 1 in 4 today.

Experts speculate this is partly due to empty-nest syndrome. As opposed to fidelity being a main cause, divorce attorney Don Cosley says, “The reality is that lack of communication is often the deal breaker. Empty nesters wake up one day and realize they have nothing in common with their spouse. That’s because they haven’t kept up the communication in their marriages.” It’s possible that children may have been what was holding a relationship together, so that when they leave the nest, so might love.

Self-Fulfillment, Individual Needs, and Happiness

Social workers and relationship coaches, Linda and Charlie Bloom, offer up another theory regarding the age of entitlement. In addition to baby boomers living longer than any other generation thus far, “those born after 1946 have entered marriage with a goal that was not shared by any previous generation: self-fulfillment.”

At the base of this hypothesis is the notion that, growing up in an era of greater affluence and opportunity, these baby boomers–like the generations that have followed them–feel a sense that they deserve happiness handed to them on a silver platter. And this is the kind of expectation that fueled their motivation to venture into marriage.

While there is nothing wrong with valuing happiness, your individual needs, and personal growth, believing that someone else, your lover, can simply bring all of that to you is a grave mistake. The marriage becomes a blame game of him or her not doing their part to make you happy, when in fact, much of your happiness and success depends on you and the work you put into it.

As the Blooms emphasize, lasting love and happiness comes with your own “willingness to take responsibility for the fulfillment of a desired outcome and making the effort to bring it about.”

Lesson to Learn

Maybe it’s time for the term “self-fulfillment” to be taken more literally, meaning that we fulfill ourselves independently from spouses, and he/she is wonderful icing on the cake. When that shift of attitude takes place, marriage becomes a game of mutual helping and progressing, not finger-pointing. Judging by the high rate of seemingly successful baby boomer couples filing for divorce, it’s likely that they can benefit from this change of perspective.