Divorce costs thousands in retirement income

Senior woman having headache
Divorcees retiring this year will get £2,100 a year less than those who have never been through a marriage break-up.

According to Prudential, which has tracked the plans and aspirations of people planning to retire in the next 12 months, the average expected retirement income of divorcees is £15,700, compared with £17,800 for the never-divorced.

More than one in three of this year's retirees will be affected.

One in five will retire with outstanding debts, averaging £22,100 - a little higher than the never-divorced, who owe on average £21,700.

"Although the emotional impact of divorce may have long passed, it could come as a shock for people to find that it continues to impact them financially into their retirement," says Clare Moffat, pensions specialist at Prudential.

One in five of those who have been divorced expect a retirement income that's below the Joseph Rowntree Foundation minimum income standard for a single pensioner of £9,500. Only 14% of those who have never divorced expect the same.

And, unsurprisingly, the research also shows that people approaching retirement are more likely to delay the date of their retirement - 13% do so, compared with 11% of the rest.

One reason divorcees have it harder is that their lives are shaken up during what are often their peak earning years.

"During a divorce the costs can quickly mount up, with legal fees, the cost of setting up a new home and the effect of splitting any existing retirement savings all potentially impacting the ability of those involved to continue saving into a pension," says Moffat.

"Unfortunately divorce is most likely among those aged 40-44, the period in many people's lives when earning potential peaks and the most valuable pension contributions can be made."

However, many of these divorcees - mostly women - are suffering more from a failure to secure a share of their ex-partners pension at the time of the divorce.

Research from Scottish Widows last year revealed that a staggering 84% of women fail to consider their husband's pension during a divorce. And with women saving an average of only £206 a month into their pension, compared with £298 for men, this matters.

Prudential warns people going through a divorce to think carefully about the long-term implications.

"A pension fund is likely to be one of the largest and most complicated assets a couple will have to split in the event of a divorce," says Moffat.

"Professional advice is particularly important in the face of the recent changes to pensions legislation and divorced retirees acting on advice received under the previous rules may want to consider seeking updated advice on any post-retirement plans they have made."

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Divorce costs thousands in retirement income
Figures from charity Age UK show that 29% of those over 60 feel uncertain or negative about their current financial situation - with millions facing poverty and hardship. Even though saving for retirement is not much fun, the message is therefore that having to rely on dwindling state benefits in retirement is even less so. To avoid ending up in this situation, adviser Hargreaves Lansdown recommends saving a proportion of your salary equal to half your age at the time of starting a pension. In other words, if you are 30 when you start a pension, you should put in 15% throughout your working life. If you start at 24, saving 12% of your salary a year should produce a similar return.
Many older couples rely on the pension income of one person - often the man. Should that person die first, the other person can therefore be left in a difficult position financially.
One way to prevent financial hardship for the surviving person is to take out a joint life annuity that will continue to pay out up to 67% of the original payments to the surviving partner should one of them die.

The disadvantage of this approach, however, is that the rate you receive will be lower. Again, the Pensions Advisory Service on 0845 601 2923 is a useful first port of call if you are unsure what to do.

Around 427,000 households in the over-70 age groups are either three months behind with a debt repayment or subject to some form of debt action such as insolvency, according to the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS).

Its figures also show that those aged 60 or older who came to the CCCS for help last year owed an average of £22,330. Whether you are retired or not, the best way to tackle debt problems is head on.

Free counselling services from the likes of CCCS and Citizens Advice can help with budgeting and dealing with creditors.

Importantly, they can also conduct a welfare benefits check to make sure you are receiving the pension credit, housing and council tax benefits, attendance and disability living allowances you are entitled to.


The average UK pensioner household faces a £111,400 tax bill in retirement as increasing longevity means pensioners are living on average up to 19 years past the age of 65, according to figures from MetLife. And every year in retirement adds an extra £5,864 in direct and indirect taxes based on current tax rates to the costs for the average pensioner household. You can be forced to go bankrupt if you fail to pay your taxes, so it is vital to factor these costs into your retirement planning.It is also important to check that you are receiving all the benefits and tax breaks you are entitled to if you want to make the most of your retirement cash.

The cost of a room in a care home in many parts of the country is now over £30,000 a year, according to figures from Prestige Nursing and Care. So even if the prime minister announces a cap on care costs - last year the economist Andrew Dilnot called for a new system of funding which would mean that no one would pay more than £35,000 for lifetime care - families will still face huge accommodation costs. Ways to cut this cost include opting for home care rather than a care home. Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing and Care, said: "For older people who may need care in the shorter term, home care is an option which allows people to maintain their independence for longer while living in their own home and should be included in the cap." However, the only other answer is to save more while you can.
Older Britons are often targeted by unscrupulous criminals - especially if they have a bit of money put away. For example, many over 50s were victims of the so-called courier scam that tricked into keying their pin numbers into their phones and handing their cards to "couriers" who visited their homes. It parted consumers from £1.5 million in under two years. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Barnard, head of the bank sponsored dedicated cheque and plastic crime unit (DCPCU), said: "Many of us feel confident that we can spot fraudsters, but this type of crime can be sophisticated and could happen to anyone." The same is true of boiler room scams that target wealthier Britons with money to invest, offering "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities to snap up shares at bargain prices. Tactics to watch out for include cold calling, putting you under pressure to pay up or lose the opportunity for good, and claiming to have insider information that they are prepared to share with you.

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