Divorce can hurt your retirement — especially if you're a woman, study finds

Divorce can hurt your retirement — especially if you're a woman, study finds
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Studies suggest the ideal marrying age to avoid divorce — at least within the first five years — is between 28 and 32, and if you're in that sweet spot, you may want to get on it. Otherwise, start studying up on strategies to make marriages last.

That's because there's a lot more than just heartache in store for people who end up getting a divorce: The later in life you untie the knot, the less likely it is that you'll ever get to retire — particularly if you're a woman, according to a new working paper from researchers at Boston College and Mathematica Policy Research.

The paper, written by Claudia Olivetti and Dana Rotz, looked at more than 55,000 women between between 1986 and 2008. The authors chose this group because divorce rates started to rise in the 1960s as states began to make divorcing easier, eventually peaking in the early to mid-1980s. 

By looking at this group, researchers were able to determine the financial impact divorce had on women, particularly concerning their ability to retire. 

The results were gloomy: The older a woman is when she gets divorced, the more likely it will be that she keeps working into her golden years. According to the paper, women who got divorced in their 50s were 10 percentage points more likely to work full time in older age than those who got divorced before their 30s.

The authors write in the paper that a loss of financial security from becoming suddenly single causes women to stay in the workforce longer: Women who have ever been divorced "are working longer remedially."

"Think of the housewife of the past," Olivetti said in a phone interview with Mic. "If you specialize and you think you're going to take care of the family while the husband works, you didn't expect to be divorced, but that also implies you don't have wealth for retirement." 

Splitting up in your 50s or 60s — shortly before retirement age — means you've got a lot less time to recover from the financial hit of dividing up your estate.  

If you get divorced in your 20s, on the other hand, you've still got ample time to build your own retirement savings. You'll also likely have the ability to go back to school and further increase your earning potential.

Some experts encourage married couples to keep separate bank accounts as a means of preserving financial independence.

That's something not nearly enough people are doing: One survey from TD Bank found that less than half of people with joint bank accounts also maintain their own account independently. 

The costs can be big, especially if you are a woman. As Ben Steverman at Bloomberg points out, the poverty rate for women divorcees over age 50 is a whopping 27%. 

For older men? Less than 12%.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

James Dennin

James is a staff writer covering money and millennials. Send your tips and your money problems to jdennin@mic.com.

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