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Many Americans Lack Financial Plan for Divorce or Widowhood

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TD Ameritrade recently looked at the challenges of divorce and widowhood in the U.S. and uncovered some disturbing findings.

Sixty-five percent of married individuals do not have a financial plan in place in the event of a divorce or spouse’s death, yet 72% of men and 62% of women expressed confidence in their ability to manage their own financial situation if faced with one of those events.

This comes at a time when some four in 10 marriages fail and about a quarter of Americans 65 and older become widowed, TD Ameritrade said.

The population gap between married and unmarried Americans has contracted sharply over the past 65 years.

Head Solutions Group conducted an online survey for TD Ameritrade in mid-August with 2,019 Americans aged 37 and older, including 1,011 married individuals, 496 who were single and never married and 308 who were divorced.

Married individuals in the study reported annual personal income of $61,700, $13,100 more than widows/widowers reported and $9,800 more than divorcees.

“Advance planning could provide a much-needed boost in financial security for those who unexpectedly end up alone at any phase of their lives,” David Lynch, managing director and head of branches for TD Ameritrade, said in a statement.

“Considering divorce or the loss of a spouse is a smart addition to any long-term financial plan. It’s no different than planning for things like a major illness, disability or potential long-term care needs.”

The survey found that widowed and divorced Americans were likelier to trust themselves than to trust a financial advisor to manage their savings and investments.

Advisors face unique challenges in retaining female clients following a divorce or a spouse’s death.

According to the TD Ameritrade study, divorce undermines the financial security of many Americans. Only a quarter of divorced respondents said they currently felt financially secure, compared with 43% of married Americans.

In an average month, 47% of divorcees were not saving or investing any of their take-home pay, versus 32% of their married peers.

As for retirement, 41% of divorced individuals said they expected to fully retire, compared with 47% of married respondents. Only three in 10 divorcees expected to enjoy financial security in retirement, versus 52% of those who were married.

And 49% of divorced respondents said they were worried about running out of money in retirement, compared with 38% of married people.

Widowhood also is financially challenging, though somewhat less so, according to the survey.

Thirty-nine percent of widowed individuals said they felt financially secure at present, and 42% said they expected to be very financially secure in retirement — both much better proportions compared with their divorced counterparts.

However, in an average month, two-thirds of widows and widowers said they were not saving or investing any of their take-home pay. They expected 46% of their retirement income, on average, to come from Social Security, while their married counterparts expected these benefits to be only 29% of their retirement income.

Lynch noted that women may outlive their husbands by five years or more. But even though women lose their spouses on average at age 59, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, widowhood can happen at any time during married life, he said.

“Married people of all ages should take steps now to ensure they are involved in both big and small family financial matters,” he said. “They should understand their household assets and liabilities, and ideally, consider establishing multiple income streams that would help them better control their financial futures.”

But even if one plans ahead for widowhood, things can go wrong, as one woman discovered.


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