Women, Money & Divorce After 50
The majority of women (56%) leave major financial and investing decisions to their husbands. Most of these women (80%) are perfectly happy with this arrangement because they feel their husband knows more about financial matters. This arrangement can work out just fine…until it doesn’t. Women usually end up needing to take over their financial decision-making at some point. One reason is that women outlive men by an average of almost 5 years. The other reason is that many marriages end in divorce. In fact, the divorce rate for couples over the age of 50 has doubled since the 1990s. (See: Divorce – Its Impact on Your Financial Plan)
Both spouses need to understand the finances:
Almost all women who have been divorced or widowed advise other women to get more involved in their finances ASAP. They also practice what they preach because 80% of women who remarry report being more active in making financial decisions in their new relationship. However, the most important reason both spouses need to understand the household finances is not so one can take over for the other. The most important reason is that couples who discuss financial matters and make decisions together have happier marriages and lower divorce rates.
How should spouses talk about money?
Let’s face it. Financial discussions between spouses don’t always go well. I can vouch for that from my own experiences ????. It is often easier to avoid discussing money because it can lead to fights about how much to spend, how much to save or invest, and how to prioritize competing demands. Yet avoiding financial discussions increases the chance of divorce. So here are some tips on what to discuss and how to bring up the topic.
The best relationship advice ever:
The best communications advice I ever received was “seek first to understand and then to be understood.” This applies to all types of human communication (business, friends, romance) and is especially important when it comes to touchy topics. It’s important to understand for example that people’s financial attitudes and habits are formed when they are children, probably long before they meet their current spouse. My Money Memories Worksheet is super-helpful in facilitating discussions with your spouse about financial attitudes and preferences to build a strong foundation before diving into specific financial decisions. This worksheet actually brings couples together. You should try it.
Suggested topics to discuss with your significant other:
Each of the following topics should ideally be discussed prior to marriage, but as I often say: “Better late than never.”
- Every Day Expenses: Will you pay for expenses separately, jointly, or in some combination? Will you have separate checking and/or savings accounts? How much money is okay for each of you to spend without checking in with the other person? How will you make joint spending, saving, and investing decisions? How do you feel about combining finances versus keeping your money separate?
There are no right or wrong answers here. I have found that different arrangements work for different couples, so if your current system isn’t working, try changing things up.
- Debt: What types of debt and amounts of debt do you have? Are any of the loans past due? Do you believe you should pay off the debts together, or should each partner be responsible for paying off his or her own debt?
- Real Estate: Do you feel strongly about buying versus renting a home? Are you willing to be “house poor” in order to live where you want? What are you willing to give up, if anything, to have your ideal home?
- Savings: What has been your history when it comes to saving money? Do you have savings goals? How much do you currently have in your savings account(s)?
- Spending: What are your spending priorities? What do you cut back on when money is tight, and what are you not willing to give up? What are your thoughts about paying cash versus using credit cards?
- Philanthropy: Do you typically give to charities? If so, which charities do you support? How much of your income do you believe you should give to others?
The more couples open the lines of communication, the better off they will be in the long run. In fact, couples who regularly engage in money talk report higher marital satisfaction. Even if both spouses always agree on financial matters, it is important that they are both involved so they can take over for the other if/when necessary.
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