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Gray divorces leave many women economically vulnerable

Sociologists at Bowling Green State University published an article in Research on Aging, a journal. Using data from a research study in 2010, Health and Retirement Study (HRS), they examined disparate spectrum of marital biographies. The researchers focused on a trio of indicators for economic well-being:

  • Poverty status
  • Social Security receipt
  • Social Security benefit levels

What they found does not bode well for women who go through a so-called "gray divorce." In Marital Biography, Social Security Receipt, and Poverty, the sociologists report that many older women are struggling to manage on only Social Security benefits.

The sociologists' findings

In their analysis of 9,649 individuals, the researchers discovered that older divorced women fared the worst economically. As many as 27 percent were living at or below the federal poverty line, compared to only 11 percent of their male counterparts. As one of the study's authors commented, "Gray divorced . . . women face considerable economic instability. Their Social Security benefits are typically low and their poverty rates are quite high, indicating Social Security alone is not sufficient to prevent them from falling into poverty."

The authors not that earlier research on the economic well-being of senior citizens failed to account for the uptick in gray divorces.

Another factor contributing to older, divorced women's financial instability is that this group has fewer years left to work and thus increase their retirement coffers. After a grueling divorce, they may never recover financially from the hit they had to absorb in the property settlement.

A bleak future?

With fewer women remaining married to their spouses for the 10-year minimum required to access their working spouses' retirement benefits, it's likely the number of women hovering on the precipice of poverty in their golden years will only increase.

These women typically lack the safety cushion that allows them to weather setbacks like diagnoses of chronic diseases and disabilities. Instead, these adverse events tend to devastate them financially. Without some kind of economic boost from family, friends or charitable organizations, they can live out their remaining years in abject poverty.

Divorce shouldn't be economically devastating

No one, male or female, should be shackled to a spouse in a loveless or abusive marriage. But some parties fear economic turmoil even more than they detest their current levels of marital strife. While nobody but the spouses themselves can make the call as to whether to pull the plug on the marriage or soldier joylessly on together, it's possible to exit stage left on a bad marriage with enough financial cushion to stave off poverty.

Your Florida family law attorney can address your financial concerns and ensure that you receive all of your share of the marital retirement benefits and other proceeds. With a little planning and strategizing, you can be left in a comfortable financial position and able to thrive as a divorcee in your golden years.

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