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Financial security pushes couples to divorce court

They've been married for four decades; she's 65, he's 69. These baby boomers feel financially secure, now that the stock market and home prices have recovered.

They've been married for four decades; she's 65, he's 69. These baby boomers feel financially secure, now that the stock market and home prices have recovered.

Finally, they can split up.

Marianna Goldenberg, a certified divorce finance analyst in Newtown Square, says in this couple's case, and that of other boomer-generation clients, finances are the main reason they're untying the knot.

Welcome to the era of the "gray divorce."

This couple "never had financial independence enough to divorce," Goldenberg says. "He worked for the school district. She did therapy consulting. They have a house and a little bit of savings. Their biggest income was his pension. He was cheating all throughout. Then her mother passed away. She inherited a million dollars. That was the trigger."

Goldenberg's oldest divorce client is 75 years old. "In her case, her husband had been cheating. They'd been married about 46 years. They're both in good health."

So why divorce?

"The kids were grown. She doesn't need to take care of someone. That's what it would be down the road," Goldenberg says. "She wanted freedom to travel and live her own life. It's a financial decision at that point. If they can afford to, why live with someone if you don't have to?"

A Bowling Green State University study found that 25 percent of all new divorce filings were by those 55 and older - the result of changing attitudes toward marriage and monogamy.

Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) were the first cohorts to divorce and remarry in large numbers during young adulthood. They came of age during the acceleration of divorce in the 1970s and early 1980s.

About one in four people who divorced in 2010 was age 50 or older, vs. one in 10 in 1990, according to the study. Boomers also portend a rising divorce rate out to the year 2030, according to study authors Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green.

"In an era of individualism and lengthening life expectancies, older adults are more reluctant now to remain in empty-shell marriages," they wrote in the 2013 paper.

"It's a new way of living out the midlife crisis," says Tim Seiders, a financial planner in Montgomery County. "Many married couples now have two incomes, they can survive financially on their own."

Seiders says splitting up is a huge preretirement issue for those at divorce information workshops, open to men and women, held in conjunction with and Second Saturday, national organizations that promote financial education for women.

He leads such workshops on the second Saturday of each month at the Blue Bell campus of Montgomery County Community College. Others are scheduled in Delaware County in September and in Bucks County in October. Generally, a family law attorney, a family therapist, and a financial planner are present. (Information: www.secondsatur-

"One woman, who was 68, was not going to retire and leave her marital relationship as it was," says Seiders. "She was concerned about what the rules were on division of assets. Another said, 'I'm not going to die, not having lived.' "

The Women's Resource Center in Wayne also offers "divorce resource" nights each year ( The conversation includes a Delaware County custodial master, followed by brief pitches by various sponsors (a Realtor, mortgage broker, CPA, therapist, private detective, mediator, estate attorney, credit counselor), an overview of divorce, and a talk by family law attorneys.

Dividing assets

Divorcing couples nearing retirement don't want to outlive their assets. What looks like an equitable division on paper often isn't in real life.

Focus on retirement assets and split those first, financial advisers say. If you can afford to keep that money in savings, it's a better first step in dividing assets, assuming you don't need cash to live on.

Goldenberg highlights a couple worth $4 million, including a $500,000 house and $1 million in joint assets. Of the $2.5 million remaining, $1.5 million belonged to his retirement and 401(k) accounts, and $1 million was in savings.

"On paper, it looked like an equal split: He kept the retirement accounts, she got the house, and they split the $1 million in savings. But it's not," she says.

Financial planners can run projections with life-expectancy tables. The husband had $500,000 more in retirement assets that should grow tax-deferred for another 15 years. He also made double the salary. In a few decades, Goldenberg says, "there will be a discrepancy due to the tax-deferred compounding of the retirement accounts. And that's not an equitable settlement at the time of divorce."

The couple agreed to split the retirement accounts 50-50 to make up the difference.

215-854-2808 @erinarvedlund