The good news: divorce rates among younger generations are on the decline. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the over-50 age bracket.
When the Baby Boomer generation reached adulthood during the 1970s and 80s, divorce rates inflated. Now that the Boomers are reaching retirement age, divorce rates haven’t slowed down. In fact, the divorce rate among seniors actually doubled in a 20-year span (from 1990-2010).
Divorces pose financial hardships at any age, but it’s been shown that later divorces present even bigger obstacles. Late divorces can often lead to delayed retirements, and they may be partially to blame for the fact that one in five Americans over the age of 65 currently remains in the workforce.
This issue has shown to be especially problematic for women. A new study has found that financial stress from divorce plays a major role in forcing older women to go back to work. According to the study by Mathematica Policy Research, the later in life a woman gets a divorce, the more likely she is to be working full time later on in life. The study uses data from nearly 56,000 women and found that women who divorced in their 50s were 10% likelier to work full time from ages 50-74 than were women who divorced before they hit their 30s.
Women file for two-thirds of divorces, so they’re already being forced to deal with both the emotional and financial burden of going to court, splitting assets, and fighting for child custody when applicable. Many women are suddenly held responsible for maintaining the cost of their current home and another house or apartment. They may be forced to make make ill-advised financial decisions like trading retirement assets.
The impact of these financial hardships are highlighted when you examine the data pertaining to seniors who live below the poverty line. While only 3.4% of married Americans aged 62 and over with no history of divorces live in poverty, 19% of divorced single people over age 50 are poor. The burden for women is further emphasized by the fact that the poverty rate for divorced single men above age 50 is 11.4%, while the rate for women in the same age group with the same specifications is nearly 27%.
For many, the only solution is to remarry. The poverty rate among those who divorced after age 50 and then remarried is just 3.3%. However, second and third marriages are even less likely to last than first-time marriages. Overall, it paints a bleak picture of the options for women, who already often earn less than their male counterparts in the workforce and will be forced to continue working into old age.