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Women, Divorce and Retirement: Be Bold to Secure Your Future

This ongoing Retirement Daily Special Report spotlights, from the checkbook to the courtroom and beyond, the true accounts of women in retirement following a divorce. Many divorced women face devastating personal-financial ruin after the end of a marriage. Learn how some survivors are moving forward and hear from Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) experts about current or next steps not just for the women who wrote to us but for all women facing the same challenges.

By Mary Helen Gillespie

“Joyce,” 61, of Virginia offers up a supportive message to fellow divorcees.

Has your divorce financially impacted your retirement plans?


Did you hire a financial adviser, a CPA, or other finance professional to help you plan your retirement needs during the divorce proceedings? Would you today?

I have free access today to financial professionals as an employee benefit.

Was your divorce attorney concerned about your retirement finances? Was the divorce judge?


How would you describe the quality of your financial life post-divorce?


What other information would you like to share with women in similar situations?

Get what you deserve. Be bold. Take steps to secure a positive future.


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Retirement Daily shared Joyce’s story with Megan Miller, CFP® CDFA®, principal, chief investment officer, and wealth manager at Harbor Wealth Management. Here are her thoughts for Joyce and other women facing similar issues.

What advice would you give to other women currently facing the same challenges this individual faced to improve their divorce outcome (financial or otherwise)?

A main consideration when you are in the middle of a divorce is to understand what your current financial situation is as a married couple and to understand how it will change as a single person. Often you are splitting a two-income household into two one-income households. You need to take a hard look at your lifestyle and make difficult choices about what is important to you while also being realistic.

Divorce will almost always change the outlook on a retirement. It will likely either delay the timing of a retirement or decrease the available, sustainable spending in retirement. You also have additional risks such as only one Social Security check and the need for additional planning around long-term care.

Lastly, know what assets will serve you best in the short term, intermediate term and long-term following the divorce. You may need assets to support you now while you go back to school or as you ramp up your career again. You may want assets that will grow a bit between now and when the kids are out of the house to purchase a new home. You may have Roth assets available to you which are incredibly beneficial in retirement. The key to a successful divorce is to understand what your needs are and then pair them with assets that best suit those needs. Many times, attorneys and judges are truly only focused on the right now, rather than the later on.

What could this woman do to increase her income post-divorce, especially in retirement?

Depending on the details, she can look at her Social Security earnings statement. Can she work additional hours or find a higher-paying job that will help boost those earnings if she will be applying on her own record? She can also plan to work a bit longer into retirement and delay her benefits as long as possible.

What is the one area of advice you ALWAYS give your divorcing clients regardless of wealth?

The most important thing is to know what assets you have and what assets you need. If you don’t know, Ask! The second most important thing that I see overlooked is tax implications. After-tax equivalencies are often quite different than the face value of an asset.

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