The Gray Divorce Podcast: Episode 2 What is Gray Divorce and Why Does it Matter?
This episode offers the proverbial 30,000-foot view of gray divorce.
I am interviewed by digital entrepreneur and wellness advocate Nicole Brodie and we discuss a lot of issues surrounding the rise in gray divorce.
In 1990, fewer than one in 10 people getting divorced were age 50 or older. By 2010, the share was one in four. And as of 2019, one in three people getting divorced in the US were aged 50 years or older, a vivid illustration of the graying of divorce.
We can even subdivide the gray divorce group into middle-aged and older. Between 1990 and 2010 the older adult divorce group, age 65 and up, nearly tripled the rate of divorce while the divorce rate for middle-aged adults, aged 50 to 64 did not quite double.
Why is Gray Divorce experiencing such growth?
This episode touches on a few key reasons which include:
- Divorce culture. It's simply more acceptable these days to get divorced.
- Increased economic power of women.
- The growth of the personal development movement.
- Life expectancy is going up.
- Many older marriages are second and third marriages which tend to be less stable than first marriages.
- No fault divorce laws.
How does Gray Divorce affect men and women differently?
Well, we don't want to generalize too much in many cases we find that women and men experience very different gray divorce “penalties”.
Economic concerns often play a much more important part for women. For instance, often the wife may have spent a good part of her life at home raising the children. She may not have developed a career which paid her as well as her husband. Also, she may have been on her husband's health insurance plan and now needs to fend for herself after divorce.
Men, on the other hand are often challenged socially after divorce. The wife was often the social coordinator. Friends and adult children often side with the wife. Instances of loneliness tend to be higher among men.
This episode also covers the topics of what men and women give as their main reasons for divorcing later in life. We also offer some advice for the gray divorcees.
Announcement: Welcome to the Gray Divorce Podcast, hosted by divorce financial analyst and retirement planning counselor Andrew Hatherley. Join Andrew and guest experts as they help late life divorcees build the financial and mental foundation for a meaningful future. There is life after divorce. Now on to the show.
Andrew Hatherley: Hello everybody and welcome to the Gray Divorce Podcast. Today I'm speaking with Nicole Brodie. Nicole is a digital entrepreneur and wellness advocate who grew up in Australia and Nicole is the mother of three and is certified in health and nutrition life coach among many other credentials. Which I expect we'll get to in the course of our conversation today.
Given that we've only just launched the Gray Divorce Podcast, we're gonna mix things up a little bit today and turn the tables. So instead of me conducting the interview, Nicole will be running the show. That fills me with more than a little bit of trepidation, but hopefully everything will go well and you'll find the podcast helpful, educational, and entertaining.
And we will encourage you to tune into further episodes of The Gray Divorce Podcast. Thanks. So let's get started. Hey, Nicole.
Nicole Brodie: Hi. How is it going? I'm so excited to be able to interview you for your podcast with a very important message for everyone.
Andrew Hatherley: Yes, indeed. Well, it's nice chatting with you too, Nicole, and I'm excited about this and I'm looking forward to getting the word out about the Gray Divorce phenomenon and what's going on and maybe help people, most importantly, help people who are going through gray divorce or late-life divorce.
So hopefully we can uncover a few gems that will help people today.
Nicole Brodie: Definitely. I'm really excited and so I have some great questions for you actually. And the first one is why, why the Gray Divorce Podcast? What, brought this all about? Share it. Please. Share it with everyone.
Andrew Hatherley: Well, I guess it's part of my DNA that when I experience something or read something that I want to share it with other people. I just guess I'm a teacher at heart. So actually having gone through the experience personally I've learned quite a bit of lessons about gray divorce. I would say that professionally, you know, 10 years ago, I guess it was 52 and that's when I kind of went through divorce and I thought at the end of the process, "boy, there's a lot of things I can to help people on the financial side, being a financial advisor". So I earned the credential Certified Divorce Financial Advisor and set up another business, a side business called Wiser Divorce Solutions to help people going through the divorce process. Well, a couple of years after doing that, I started reading more and more about the phenomenon of gray divorce, which, you know, let's define it, it's really divorce for people over the age of 50.
And I joke in my seminars that most of the gray in my hair occurred during the process of the divorce. So really it's people over the age of 50, but what's interesting is that this is really the only section or area of the demographic in which divorce is increasing.
You know, for most of the population the divorce rates have stabilized or even shrunk for a variety of reasons. But for people over the age of 50 and now increasingly more people over the age of 65 divorce is a much more common phenomenon. Just to let you know the statistic here is in 1990, fewer than 1 in 10 people divorcing, were over the age of 50, but by 2010 the number had gone up to 1 in 4. And in the subsequent nine years the numbers have become even more pronounced, particularly for people over the age of 65, these baby boomers.
Nicole Brodie: I wonder why that is? I'm just wondering, do you have any kind of research or understanding, or did you ever dig into why the, because it's a pretty big increase?
Andrew Hatherley: Yeah, no, I mean there's a lot of reasons for it. I think principally divorce culture, there's an understanding that divorce doesn't have the stigma attached to it that it might have been 50 years ago or even 40 years ago. So people are more comfortable getting divorced.
Another important reason for increased divorce over 50 is that the economic situation of women has vastly improved. Over the last 40 years, we've got a situation where women can pull the plug on a marriage and not fear that they're going to be impoverished because so many more have good jobs. Now, having said that, and we can talk about this in a minute, economic concerns are a major issue, more so with women than men, although there is an issue with men too. But certainly, the advancement of women has made them more willing to pull the trigger on an unhappy marriage.
Of course, very important with respect to the rise of gray divorce is life expectancy. You know, there's a great chance that anybody who's 50 years old today could live to 85, and if you're in your fifties or even sixties, seventies, for that matter, and you're anticipating living into your eighties or nineties, you may question whether you want to do it with this person who's not making you happy one hundred percent.
Nicole Brodie: Interesting. So who is this podcast for then? Is it for the Gray Divorce communities, I'm not sure exactly how we would define them. Who is the podcast for? People who wanna get divorced or divorced people?
Andrew Hatherley: Well, I would say primarily it's for people who are either going through divorce , gray divorce, or are emerging from it. When I started my divorce workshop it was all about educating people and wasn't specifically oriented toward gray divorce.
It was just helping people going through divorce and sharing the lessons that I had learned in combination with a family law attorney, and a therapist. It was kind of a general helping people through the divorce educational process. I think there are a lot of important issues around late-life divorce, so it's really primarily for people either in the process or emerging from gray divorce, but also family law attorneys can learn a lot more about the issues facing people going through a late-life divorce. It helps them to understand their clients.
More, I think therapists also understand the concerns of the gray divorcees, both economic and social. It would be a useful educational tool for them. So principally the people who are going through it, and then the professionals that help and that have helped them, I think.
Perhaps also the adult children of people going through gray divorce to perhaps get a better understanding of where their parents' mindsets are.
Nicole Brodie: Yeah. Amazing. And what do you, what is the importance of being educated about divorce?
Andrew Hatherley: How long do we have to discuss that?
Nicole Brodie: Yeah. Right. I mean it's definitely helping but needs discussion.
Andrew Hatherley: Well, first of all, when people get married, the last thing they're going to do is study how divorce works.
And even when you're in marriage it's rare that the person will educate themselves about the process for the purpose of avoiding major mistakes. And the thing about divorce is it can be such an emotional process that the emotions get in the way of thinking. And so, a lot of those emotions, unfortunately, can be exacerbated by people who may have good intentions, but pour fuel on the emotional fires that exist between you and your spouse. For instance, I'm referring specifically to family members or friends. They may want you to know that they've got your back so they'll tell you what they think they know about divorce, but it'll be completely wrong.
Or it'll just increase your antagonism towards your ex. It's interesting. First of all, in divorce it's financial, it's probably the largest financial transaction that's going to occur in your life and it's happening at a time when your emotions are definitely highly charged.
It's really the worst time to be making important financial choices. So you want to try and have as cool a head as possible, and that's where I strongly recommend finding a good professional to speak to on the emotional side. And then of course finding a professional on the legal side so you don't make big legal mistakes in divorce.
And then a professional such as myself, a certified divorce financial analyst, who can help you structure a settlement that takes into consideration your future goals, has a financial planning component to it, and also looks at the tax implications of potential settlement. Which is not necessarily an attorney's area of specialization.
Nicole Brodie: Yeah. You know, there's a picture for you or someone like you to take someone who's going through this turmoil and just to take it and give them the clear picture. Right. This is basically what you do actually. Right?
Andrew Hatherley: Well, You know, with my firm, Wiser Divorce Solutions, I work with people primarily going through the process. And so with the professionals, I work with both family law attorneys and therapists. We'll discuss with people the various ways of getting divorced and it's important that a lot of people aren't aware of the low-pressure or low-antagonism ways of getting divorced.
Like mediation and collaboration which can be brought in before litigation. Now, obviously, there are some situations where litigation is necessary and parties are not able to collaborate. Can you repeat the original question?
Nicole Brodie: I was just asking about how you help people basically.
Andrew Hatherley: As a financial advisor, I work with people to try and build a financial foundation for a good life after divorce, and there's a financial component to that, but also a psychological component to that.
I spent a lot of time reading various authors in positive psychology over the course of the last several years. And incorporating practices that put me in a mindset to go forward. During the workshops, one of the first things I tell people is that there is... This is one of the most important things that come out of the workshops is that there is life after divorce. While you're going through it with the emotions so charged you think the world's going to come to an end and you're going to be impoverished. And in my particular case the attorney on the other side saying that I'll be working untill I was 90 years old or something. Or maybe to be fair to the attorney, I don't think he said that. I think my ex said that.
Nicole Brodie: Can I ask you a question? It might be a bit personal. Do you feel that you were educated enough about divorce when you were going through it?
Andrew Hatherley: No, not at all. And that's probably one of the principal drivers to starting the workshop, getting the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst credentials, and now doing the podcast is that I wasn't prepared. I thought the worst was going to happen. It didn't, and then afterward I had to rebuild. Economically and psychologically and I wasn't prepared for any of that.
So I guess the number one thing I recommend to anybody who's going through divorce is to get educated and speak to professionals. Because that's what they do for a living. And divorce isn't simply a matter of signing a paper and splitting up your assets, you know? With the emotions coming into play it really helps to try and take a long-term rational view, which is not always easy.
There's actually a saying in the legal world that in the criminal justice system, you see bad people on their best behavior. We've all seen pictures of courts where guys will have hate tattooed on their forehead, but they'll go into court and they'll have their suit and tie and they'll say "Yes, your Honor", "No, your Honor", to the judge. Whereas in divorce we see good people on their worst behavior. So I think getting educated upfront can help people be a little bit more grounded. I know one of the greatest satisfactions that I get from our divorce workshop is when we used to do them live and to a lesser extent on Zoom, but you could see the tension and pressure in people when they came into the workshop. And they had so much anxiety and when either the attorney or the divorce financial analyst, myself, or the therapist, worked through some of the questions they had, you could see a mountain of relief being pulled off their shoulders amazingly.
Nicole Brodie: Great mission you are on. That's what happens, I think, when people go through challenges and adversity and everything like that. That's when your mission kind of comes to life. And that's probably why you've been so successful in what you're doing because it's authentic and it's coming from a place of love and wanting to help others go through a better experience than maybe what you went through. You have these amazing workshops and I just wanna ask, why uh, gray divorce really seeing so much growth?
Andrew Hatherley: Well as I said before, not only do we have longevity the increased economic power of women, but also, as you mentioned, the personal development movement.
I'm not just talking about Anthony Robbins, but we have people like Brene Brown and...
Nicole Brodie: I love Brene Brown. Yes. Strong, powerful women.
Andrew Hatherley: Right, and I'm a big fan of a fellow by the name of Arthur Brooks who writes for The Atlantic, and he wrote a book called From Strength to Strength.
Not so much about divorce, but about a late-life renaissance. You know, I think I've learned that as I get older, I've learned to get out of my own head a little bit, and the thing about divorce that propelled this was getting out of my head and how can I help people work through some of the issues I did. Because it's not just while you're going through divorce it's even for years after, you can feel a malaise or a depression for various reasons that something didn't work out. You're a failure. Will you ever meet anybody ever again? These kinds of issues pop up.
Nicole Brodie: Do you have something right now for someone who's listening right now who's saying, yes, I'm in that space right now?
I'm suffering, I'm depressed, I can't get out of bed. What is a tool that maybe you could share with them?
Andrew Hatherley: You know, this will probably sound, what's the word? Prosaic. Banal, cliched. But I'll give you an anecdote from my own life. It was about a year after the divorce. I was still feeling kind of depressed and I mentioned it to my doctor, during my annual checkup. Now, unfortunately, this is the tendency among modern medicine. He immediately thought of a variety of antidepressants and it was almost amusing because I remember saying, "uh, doc, don't you think you should be recommending diet and exercise first"? He might have laughed. I can't remember, but I sort of self-medicated myself with diet and exercise, and sleep.
Nicole Brodie: You know, I love that answer as a wellness coach and mom coach, and that is the best answer. So, elaborate a little bit, just like, what did you start doing? What are the small changes you did, because this is exactly what I think people are missing, right? This kind of education, right?
Andrew Hatherley: I just felt so much better when I incorporated a regimen of a good night's sleep, a healthy breakfast, and working out. Now part of that is building good habits.
So I'm a big fan of James Clear's book Atomic Habits. I love it, so I started stacking healthy habits on top of one another, and certainly the sleep, and I haven't used an alarm clock in years. Well, maybe a couple of flights, just not to miss an early morning flight, but I'll go to bed at 9:30 or 10 o'clock. I'll wake up at 5 or 6 for meditation. That's another thing I forgot to mention. I haven't mentioned it yet, but I'm happily remarried and my wife and I just last year took a course in transcendental meditation and so wake, meditate, exercise, healthy breakfast, and lo and behold, I ended up losing 16 pounds.
And so post-divorce, I'm in the best physical health ever. But as I said to a trainer friend of mine last year, I don't think I could give up exercising. Now the benefits are terrific physically, but I think just as important are the mental benefits, how you feel after working out. A hundred percent you can wake up grumpy, and sometimes I do wake up grumpy.
Believe me, life's not perfect. I'll wake up grumpy and say, you know what, I'm going to the gym because I know I'll feel better when I get out of the gym and my wife's found the same thing. So just those basics and they're so underrated. I forgot to mention another thing that's worked out very well is intermittent fasting.
I find that the quality of my sleep improves tremendously when I don't eat after four or five in the afternoon.
Nicole Brodie: Yeah, I do intermittent fasting too. So we have these very aligned things and I think anyone listening right now I just don't want people to think, oh my God, I have to now intermittent fast, do my mindfulness, meditation, go to the gym, like, oh my God.
So maybe someone listening, start with one. If you are not exercising, go for a walk. If you aren't drinking enough, drink more water. So take one and stack them. And can they reach out to you and contact you for support?
Andrew Hatherley: Most definitely. I mean a lot of these resources are on both websites. For my advisory firm and Wiser Divorce Solutions, they'll be in the show notes. Along with my email so by all means, feel free and you can always schedule a conversation with me there too. It's funny you mentioned you're right. All these things you don't have to do all at once, and I certainly didn't do them all at once. I know I probably sound a little bit like a person trying to teach someone a golf swing. You need to do this and this and this, and your head becomes a jumble. Just start by getting a decent night's sleep.
Nicole Brodie: Exactly. And it stacks cuz someone listening might be going through a divorce and that just is overwhelming.
But just that one thing and like what you did, implementing a few things can really change your mindset and make you happier. And then everything just seems much, much easier to cope with. Right. This is what I do with my clients as well. I think that's amazing that that's what you've done and it worked instead of taking the antidepressants. For you at least. So, thank you.
And that's, that's wonderful and I think the listeners might just get this one piece of information today and take that with them and really help them move forward where they are now.
Andrew Hatherley: Right. And I'm not a practicing MD so obviously speak to your doctor. For some people it's antidepressants.
Nicole Brodie: Yeah, of course. This is not advice, this is just our personal experiences. Always seek medical help if you are feeling any signs of depression or things like that.
Andrew Hatherley: Definitely. But you mentioned the habits and the building on the habits. It's just a positive momentum that you can build for yourself when you get one or two things going right.
Both financially and in your personal social life. I mean, I remember it was pretty traumatic for me as a financial advisor who got into that business because financial security is such an important part of me. It's kind of hardwired into me in helping people achieve their financial security so that when you're divorced and half your net income goes away it can be challenging. So one habit stack on the financial side that I found was to keep track. You're not gonna recover overnight. By measuring your growth slowly over time, like you would getting on a scale perhaps to measure physical goals, is keep track of your net worth. Because I found that net worth concerns of the assets that you have, minus the liabilities or debts that you've got equals your net worth.
And if you can chip away at that gradually over time, it'll create a sense of accomplishment and lead you on that path toward financial recovery. I find that was a tremendous tool for me. Amazing. And then it worked. That worked very well. And just the diet and exercise that led me to quit some bad habits. I mean, I had quit smoking already by 2016 or 2017, but I was still vaping. And I thought, you know it's not a good thing. Anyway, we agree on that. And so I just, as of 2019, it was 20 October 2019, just gave inhaling, other than air, just well done. Obviously, there are other bad habits people can have that once you get on the virtuous circle of developing one or two good habits, some of the bad habits can fall by the wayside, hopefully.
Nicole Brodie: Definitely, definitely. So, okay. That's all the habits and mindset and mindfulness, which I think is super, super important. Talking about maybe the positive and negative implications of this increased rate of divorce among the older population. Can you shed some light on some of the positives and maybe even some of the negatives?
Andrew Hatherley: Right, in terms of positives I'd like to say at the outset that I'm not pro-divorce. I'm pro-relationship. And because I don't know how many studies have shown that a happy life is founded principally on social relationships, not money. And of course, this is another issue altogether. But I would say from a positive aspect as I mentioned a minute ago, you know you can emerge from divorce. Divorce is not the end. It can be the start of a new beginning. So that's the positive. This has certainly been my case in terms of reinventing myself and kind of getting out of my head, and looking to others.
Looking to give a little bit more, and be a little less selfish. It came naturally. So that's a positive development. I think it's good that people who are living a purposeful, healthy life just contribute more to society.
Being your best self isn't just a selfish goal to unleash the dragon within like Anthony Robbins might say. I think it was Marion Williamson, who said something very profound on this is that being your best version of yourself is not just good for you. It's good for the people around you in society as a whole because you're likely contributing to the world. That's kind of the positives and negatives.
The lady's name was Jocelyn Crowley wrote a book on gray divorce. She spoke about the economic penalty and the social penalty of gray divorce. And I think she was correct in stating that the economic penalty, more often than not, hits women more than men because a woman who's over 50 or even in the sixties and seventies, may have given up a career to raise children.
May not be being paid as much as a man if she is working and also the income prospects for somebody who's 50. Or 60 or whatever, even older, getting back into the workforce or developing in the workforce are a little bit more difficult than they are for somebody who's 20 or 30 years of age. You know, it's a form of discrimination that strangely seems still acceptable in this society is ageism.
Unfortunately, older people have a tremendous amount to give which can be a problem, particularly more so for women, although men certainly have economic concerns as well.
But the economic question hits harder on the women's side. Also, with respect to health insurance, the wife may be on her husband's health insurance plan, and while COBRA exists to continue on a plan that's limited in time for three years. There's the Affordable Care Act, but ultimately that still may be more expensive health program certainly than continuing on an existing plan. I mean, the fact of divorce in general, not just gray divorce, is that when a couple split one household is becoming two. So it's certainly at the outset after divorce, neither party is going to experience a higher standard of living and it's a very rare situation because you've had to create two new households.
There's that question, which tends to be more of a concern for women, but for men, particularly in gray divorce because we tend to get a little bit more set in our ways as we get older. The gray divorce penalty for men is the lack of a social network, because quite often the wife is the one arranging the get-togethers with friends, and dinner parties, and the wife, let's say mother may often have a stronger bond, obviously maternal bond with the adult children. So many times an older man, middle-aged or older man may experience loneliness to a greater degree than the woman. Now, once again, these aren't exclusive women who experience loneliness as well. But uh, in terms of relative concerns generally, you tend to see the economic concerns being a little higher on the female side and the social concerns being a little higher on the male side. And it's interesting because women typically, I think somewhere between 62 to 68% of gray divorces are initiated by women.
And of course, you can break down the statistics. One would imagine that these are probably situations where women are initiating the divorce because they feel confident economically or in a sad situation where it's a question of abuse or addiction where they just have to get out of the marriage.
Nicole Brodie: Okay. Very interesting. This has been extremely interesting actually, with a lot of insights. I want to ask you just one more question and that's "What would be your one message for the listeners today"? I would like to say the listeners that are right now going through this stage right now.
What is your one message that you could just, if you, they were sitting in front of you right now, physically, what is your one message for them?
Andrew Hatherley: Can I give two messages? What I would say is to speak to professionals, or get advice from publicly available professional knowledge.
That's the beauty of the internet, is that professionals such as myself offer a lot of free advice on the internet. So both in terms of family law, attorneys, divorce financial analyst handling the money side, and therapists.
Nicole Brodie: What's the website for someone who maybe doesn't get to the show notes?
Andrew Hatherley: My website is TranscendRetirement.net, and for essentially the financials after divorce, Wiser Divorce Solutions is the name of my divorce advisory.
Nicole Brodie: Okay, amazing. Continue with your second message.
Andrew Hatherley: The second message is that there is life after divorce and you can have an extremely strong second act. It's the cliche. It used to be 40 is the new 30, then it was 50 is the new 40. I think in some circles we're seeing 60 is the new 50, but you've got a lot of time even if you're much older. Just live in the present. Take advantage of what you can do to live your best life.
And emerging from a gray divorce gives you an opportunity to kind of reset yourself and get out of your head a little bit and realize that a happy contended life is really mainly about relationships. If your money can serve as a foundation for building a life of relationships and purpose, then you're using your money in a good way.
Not being concerned about what your neighbors are doing, what car they're driving, or what kind of house they're living in, Nobody on their deathbed ever said I wish I'd spent more time in the office, or I wish I'd bought that Aston.
Nicole Brodie: Amazing. Thank you, Andrew. I think someone maybe needed to possibly hear that message today. So thank you. This has been wonderful and insightful, and I'm sure everyone listening will tune into the next episode, but for now, I think we're done. Unless you have anything else to add.
Andrew Hatherley: No, I think that's good. I think we left people with quite a few messages today. So hopefully listeners found it entertaining and educational and informative and hopefully a little bit inspiring.
Nicole Brodie: Definitely, definitely. So thank you everyone and goodbye for now.
Announcement: Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of The Gray Divorce Podcast. To learn more or get in contact with your host, you can visit Andrew's website at TranscendRetirement.net. Also, please feel free to rate, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. That helps others find the show and we greatly appreciate it.
Thanks again for listening, and we'll catch you in the next episode.
Andrew Hatherley: Information provided is educational only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Each situation is unique and should be discussed with your tax or legal advisor prior to implementation. Andrew Hatherley is not an attorney and does not provide legal advice. Information provided is financial in nature.
Advisory services offered through Haly Capital Management LLC and Divorce Financial Analysis Services offered through Wiser Divorce Solutions and affiliated company.