Divorce can be tough for obvious reasons – heartbreak, anger, and loneliness to name a few – but it can also sting the wallet. Many divorcees struggle to recover financially after splitting up, having spent their savings on lawyers and no longer having a second source of income to draw from.
To make matters worse, many divorcees are reaching the age where they need to start taking retirement planning seriously. That’s a tall order when you’re struggling just to keep up with the bills.
Thankfully, it’s entirely possible to go through a divorce and still retire on time. All it takes is a little sacrifice, a little know-how, and a focus on the future.
Evaluate Your Savings
Once the divorce is final, take some time to evaluate your assets and liabilities. People often spend thousands on divorce lawyers, so switching to a single-income household can wreak havoc on an unprepared budget.
Go through your retirement, bank, and brokerage accounts to get a full summary of what you have. Then, meet with a financial planner to find out if you’re still on the right track for retirement.
It’s not unusual for a divorcee to find out they’ll have to wait a little bit longer to retire than they originally planned, but that’s better than attempting to retire when you’re not financially prepared for it.
Divorce is expensive, and not just because of the legal fees. Many divorced individuals suddenly live alone after years of cohabitating, and sharing a household is always cheaper than paying for everything by yourself.
Unfortunately, it’s often impossible to maintain the lifestyle you had while married without a second salary. The best way to stay on track for retirement may require downsizing to reduce your expenses.
“Divorce has a huge effect on retirement,” said financial planner Sara Stanich of The Stanich Group. “Even if you managed to save enough for one household in retirement, it’s unlikely you saved enough for two.”
Consider moving to a one-bedroom apartment or splitting a house with roommates. Remember how much fun “The Golden Girls” had in their later years?
Examine your budget with a fine-toothed comb and eliminate anything excessive. Downgrade your car, your electronics, and anything else you can think of. This is a time to figure out your priorities, so think long and hard about what you really want to be spending money on. Divorce can decimate your life savings and change how you thought retirement would go, but not adjusting your expectations will only make the problem worse.
Don’t Forget Your Social Security Benefits
People who were married for 10 years or more are entitled to their partner’s spousal benefits, which holds true even if you’re divorced. The only way you’ll lose those monthly checks is if you remarry.
Like your own social security benefits, the longer you wait to collect spousal benefits, the more money you’ll get every month. Taking benefits early at 62 can result in a 15% decrease, so wait until your full retirement age to collect.
If you end up meeting someone else you want to spend the rest of your life with, calculate how much you’ll lose if you remarry. It might be more worthwhile to live together and avoid marriage for practicality’s sake.
How a Reverse Mortgage Can Help
If your divorce is causing financial problems in your retirement planning, a reverse mortgage could offer some solutions. If you want to up your savings, the loan could increase your monthly cash flow savings or create an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. Looking to downsize? Use a reverse mortgage to purchase a new home with no monthly mortgage payments required as long as you live there. You just need to pay your property taxes, homeowners insurance, and home maintenance costs. If you want to wait to draw on your social security benefits, use the loan proceeds to live on while allowing your other assets (including social security) more time to grow in value.
When it comes to making financial decisions, we recommend speaking to a financial advisor.
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer and owner of www.consciouscoins.com/