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Divorce over 50 takes a big toll on finances

It's not uncommon today for older California couples to end a marriage. The divorce rate for Americans 50 and over has doubled since 1990. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is over 50, came through his divorce relatively unscathed financially. Other individuals, however, may not be so lucky, regardless of what kind of assets are involved.

Previous pstudies on what's termed gray divorce show that splitting later in life may contribute to high blood pressure, depression, and other health-related issues. The financial fallout can be just as problematic. According to research based on a survey of 20,000 Americans born before 1960, wealth is pretty much cut in half for divorced individuals 50 and over. Older women, in particular, tend to take a hard hit financially when the knot is untied. Gray-divorced women 63-plus have a poverty rate of nearly 30 percent. For men within the same age group this figure is just over 11 percent.

With Social Security, a divorced person can only collect from an ex-spouse's record if the marriage lasted for at least a decade. However, gray-divorced women receive the lowest amount of all groups collecting Social Security benefits. There's also evidence suggesting CEOs who get divorced often receive additional compensation, possibly to ease the financial strain of large settlements. But this group is mostly comprised of men. Older women, on the other hand, may have trouble re-entering the workforce, especially if they spent many years caring for children and/or managing household affairs.

In order to help an older client prepare for the end of a marriage, a family law attorney may recommend a consultation with an accountant or financial adviser. Such professionals could also provide a more accurate assessment of available assets. An attorney may use this information to negotiate a settlement that's less financially devastating for a lower-earning spouse divorcing later in life.

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