New Love for Older Adults: Don’t Make the Same Financial Mistakes

If you find yourself getting ready to get hitched again (or for the first time), consider taking steps to protect yourself financially.

An older couple stand closely together in the kitchen, looking lovingly at each other.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We are hearing a lot about the ABC reality show The Golden Bachelor and how older people are finding new love and new mates. Plastic surgery aside, these people are supposed to represent the new older generation of vibrant and active adults who have a lot of life still to live. Other than hearts, hugs and hot tubs, have you thought about how you are going to pay for your new longer love life?

Does age create financial wisdom?

Babies born today have more than a 50% chance of living to be over 105. If you are an older person, you are also expected to live longer than you may have thought. An American man who turns 70 today will live to be 85, on average, and a woman will live to 87, according to a study published by the American Journal of Public Health. This changes the landscape for the possibility of outliving your money. And we see this as 43% of people are scared that they haven’t saved enough.

Here is an example cited by USA Today: “Let’s say a man retires at 65 with $250,000 in savings. If he scrimps and spends it down at a rate of only $30,000 a year, the money might last him to age 73½. But longevity tables say he can expect to live another decade.”

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Retirement accounts such as 401(k)s are Americans’ largest retirement savings. The average 65- to 70-year-olds have saved around $186,000, according to Empower. But Fidelity has said that your retirement account at age 67 should equal about 10 times your annual income. So if you make, say, $62,000 a year, you should have $620,000 in your 401(k), which is a far cry from reality.

The World Economic Forum and Mercer conducted a poll of people responding to the idea of living longer. The poll found that people really don’t understand the financial facts of later life and that there is a huge need for “longevity literacy.” This coincides with a Goldman Sachs survey that said that Baby Boomers are the least likely of all of the generations to be optimistic about their finances.

Finding love in all the wrong places?

The Golden Bachelor is inspiring many golden folks to look for love. New love is found for them in the old-fashioned way of being fixed up and just meeting people, but also on the internet. A Pew Research Center survey found that about one in six Americans over the age of 50 uses a dating site. Another Pew Research Center dating study found about 30% of adults over 50 are single and that 26% of those folks have tried to find dates on dating sites. Love can be one click away.

Ground Hog Day: Love and money

Nearly 45% of Americans 65-plus are single, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These folks are not only widows and widowers, but many are also taking steps to remarry. But wedded bliss is not guaranteed. I want to point out that the divorce rate hovers around 67% for second marriages and 73% for third marriages, though not all of these are among older adults.

Gray divorce, or divorce over 50, is the latest phenomena in the world of divorce. In fact, the divorce rate for adults ages 50-plus has roughly doubled in the past 25 years, according to the Pew Research Center. This trend is led by women who don’t want to necessarily spend the rest of their lives in an unfulfilling marriage, and they are doing something about it. About 70% of divorces are initiated by women. (In fact, I’m writing a book about this, so stay tuned.)

The issue I want to address is that many older adults are not prepared for gray divorce financially, and if they are looking to couple up again, they may repeat some of the same financial mistakes that plagued them in their previous marriage(s).

Good and bad news

At least you don’t have to think about whether you want to have kids with your Golden Bachelor. And maybe you don’t have to worry about him being a bartender, where the divorce rate tops the average rate of 50% at 52.7%. Also, if you are financially set, your older partner’s educational background, religion, earnings and assets may be less of a consideration. You may just be looking for a companion with whom to share life and who hopefully doesn’t snore.

Psychology Today reports that you have to think about your budget when you consider getting married later in life. You also have to look at health considerations. Are you prepared to take care of your new spouse both financially and physically?

Financial infidelity: Protect yourself the next time around

You also need to come clean with each other about your whole financial picture. What are your financial obligations and income? Are you supporting adult children? These issues can hit you in the face if they come to light later. I fell into this trap with my later-in-life marriage. My husband supported his two adult daughters, who saw me as a financial threat. I’m financially independent, but that didn’t matter. Don’t fret, he got rid of me, and the kids are enjoying Daddy’s money. (Did I mention he divorced me via text? You will have to wait for the book to come out to hear this story!)

Consider a prenup

I recommend that older adults who are tying the knot again create a legally binding prenuptial agreement. This agreement will clarify what can get to be murky issues if there is a divorce. With a premarital agreement, couples agree on all financial matters before they say “I do.” But even though people know that divorce can get messy, and even support the idea of a prenup, just 15% of all married couples have one, according to The Harris Poll.

My other advice is to go into the next marriage with your eyes wide open. Try to make sure that you are financially protected, and here is an interesting aside: Stay away from friends who have gotten a divorce. Why? Because, according to a Pew Research Center study, couples who have friends who have divorced have a 75% increase in the risk of their own marriage ending.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Neale Godfrey, Financial Literacy Expert
President & CEO, Children's Financial Network Inc.

Neale Godfrey is a New York Times #1 best-selling author of 27 books, which empower families (and their kids and grandkids) to take charge of their financial lives. Godfrey started her journey with The Chase Manhattan Bank, joining as one of the first female executives, and later became president of The First Women's Bank and founder of The First Children's Bank. Neale pioneered the topic of "kids and money," which took off after her 13 appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."