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Divorce can raise special pitfalls for women near retirement

In California and elsewhere, the plight of a woman who is getting a divorce is a riskier proposition generally than that faced by a male spouse. Statistically, women are living longer than men, and there are twice as many women over 50 who are divorced or getting a divorce today than 20 years ago. Women do not remarry as often as men and they generally make less than men. All these factors combine to make it necessary for divorced women to save a larger chunk of their income for retirement.

For women with a relatively complicated asset and income structure, it can be helpful to work with a financial planner regarding the divorce settlement and the retirement planning that is necessary to stay on secure footing going forward. Often, a woman must decide to work a few years longer than originally anticipated. Stopping work early and taking early Social Security benefits can be an unexpected key to planning for future hardship.

It is better in many cases for a woman to stretch out her working years and to put off taking Social Security benefits as long as possible. This will increase the retirement benefits later available, sometimes very significantly.  One may also have to downsize living conditions slightly to remain comfortable and secure for more years into the future.

When a woman has left the workforce early to take on a caretaker role, negotiations during the divorce may be critically important. She should not give up retirement benefits freely to the other spouse and will do good to hold out for a specified minimum standard of living during her retirement years. It is also important to look at all the nuances of Social Security benefits. If she is a widow, for example, a woman can benefit from taking the Social Security benefits based upon the husband's work record, if is higher than hers. These and many other issues are important to both men and women nearing retirement who reside in California and are getting a divorce.

Source:, "Women need to plan earlier for retirement and save more", Lorraine Mirabella, Oct. 8, 2017

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