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Divorce can derail your retirement plans

The breakdown of a relationship affects you in many ways, including financially. Here are some tips to help you deal with it.

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  • Finance
  • Read Time: 5 mins

One of the joys of retirement is getting more time to spend with your significant other.

Indeed, many couples spend years, if not decades, carefully planning what they will do during their retirement.

But real life can get in the way of dreams – and, sad but true, we should not automatically assume that our relationships will last a lifetime.

When a marriage or long-term partnership breaks down, things can become messy.

Even when the parties agree over the distribution of their assets and issues such as child support, divorce comes at a price.

The financial issues are difficult to deal with under normal circumstances let alone when you are trying to manage the emotional impact of the breakdown.

It can mean that the retirement you’ve planned as a couple is no longer achievable as individuals. The dream for the future suddenly becomes more modest and there will be a scramble to try to recover “lost” time and assets.

Nobody is suggesting that you should stay in an unhappy or volatile marriage simply for financial reasons.

However, it’s worth noting that the assumptions we make about retirement during our working lives do not always hold true.

Put simply, shared assets – from the family home to investments, including superannuation – are not as valuable when split in two.

Create a new plan

Even if you own the family home outright, you might find that your half of the sale price buys very little – or nothing at all, meaning a new mortgage at a stage in life when your original plan was to build up your super.

When marriages breakdown, it typically happens when the couples are in their 40s. But it’s not unknown among older couples. In either case, the amount of time you have to recover financially is limited.

In this case, you’ll almost certainly have to dial down your expectations.

If you are forced back into a rental, or you need to buy a cheaper property, you may not have the same level of comfort you enjoyed in the family home. You may even end up in a situation where you need to look at shared accommodation or consider a retirement village.

You’ll probably also need to purchase items to replace those you once shared. This can range from kitchen appliances to cars.

Of course, couples with minor children face extra challenges.

Going solo

In many ways, life in Australia is geared towards couples – even though single-person households are becoming more common. More than one in 10 Australians live alone, and one in four homes is a single-person household.

This has a lot of implications for the economy – including contributing to the housing shortage, high house prices and high rents.

While two can’t live as cheaply as one, they certainly can live at less than twice the cost of a solo person. Which is why the married rate of pension is lower than the single rate.

Of course, there are many people who enter new relationships, which can also improve their financial position, and others who find themselves happier on their own.

Divorce can give you the freedom to explore new horizons – including new forms of income, such as converting a hobby into an online business.

You should, of course, seek professional legal and financial advice if you find yourself in a relationship breakdown but here are some things to consider:

  • Is the proposed property division fair and equitable? It is much easier to agree on this than fight it out between lawyers or in court.

  • What arrangements will be made regarding superannuation or other investments?

  • Are the needs of dependent children properly catered for and your responsibilities towards them clearly spelt out?
  • Importantly, how’s your mental health? Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend or relative, or a service such as Lifeline (phone 13 11 14) or Beyond Blue.

Disclaimer: Any links provided are for general information only and should not be taken as constituting professional advice. National Seniors is not a financial advisor. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice to check how any information provided relates to your unique circumstances. 

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