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More Over-Age-50 Divorces, and More to Think About for Divorcees

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Married Americans over the age of 50 are splitting up at a record pace, and that presents them with a unique number of problems and challenges.

According to a study from Bowling Green University, the divorce rate for Americans age 50 or over doubled between 1990 and 2010. In that time, one in four U.S. divorces involved Americans aged 50 or more.

Here are some more points from the study:
  • The rate of divorce was 2.5 times higher for those in remarriages versus first marriages, whereas the divorce rate was lower the longer a marriage lasted.
  • More than 600,000 people aged 50 and older got divorced in 2010, but little is known about the predictors and consequences of divorces that occur during middle and later life.

What can older divorcees do to minimize the financial impact of divorce on their lives, especially as they get closer to retirement?

We reached out to Howard Hook, a certified public accountant with Princeton, N.J.-based EKS Associates, for some answers.

Hook says the deck is stacked against older divorcees, for a variety of reasons:

They have no second person in the household to help in some of the planning strategies.

Hooks says: Probably the most difficult issue faced by a recently divorced person is managing their time. Whereas prior to the divorce there was some sort of division of the household chores amongst the spouses; now a recently divorced person finds themselves having to do everything themselves. Some of these, such as balancing a checkbook or saving for retirement, are items that someone may never have had to do in their lives or at least not for quite a long period of time. Having to learn or relearn a new skill set is hard enough at any age, but probably harder for someone 50-plus who does not have the time to begin with to devote to doing these things.

They are not eligible to use some of the strategies widely available to married people.

Hooks says: Certain options available to married couples are not available for recently divorced people. For example, if one spouse loses their job and the family needs health insurance, one option available to a married household where both spouses work would be for the family health insurance to be picked up by the other spouse. This is an option not available to a recently divorced person. A careful review of the health insurance options (COBRA, Medicare, private insurance) available to someone without a spouse is crucial to ensuring that cost-effective health insurance will always be available.

Disability is another area of concern. The loss of income due to one spouse's disability may not be as catastrophic for a two-income-earning married couple. For the recently divorced person, this could be devastating. In addition, the recently divorced person may need someone to care for them while disabled, which can be costly. For a married couple, the cost may be less since the nondisabled spouse may be able to take care of the disabled spouse. Privately owned disability insurance becomes more important for the recently divorced person to help mitigate this exposure.
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