If you are a regular reader of this blog you already know that our culture is obsessed with selling divorce to women. Of course, those selling divorce would love to see all women divorce their husbands, but if they have to choose I would say their primary focus would be convincing middle aged women to divorce. Women aged 35-55 seem to be the divorce marketer’s most sought after audience. The images which accompany the sale of divorce to these women show a special relish to the thought of older women sticking it to their loyal husbands. We saw this with the cover image for the AARP study on grey divorce, and you can see in the image linked above from the Daily Mail piece (H/T Lily) pitching divorce to women in their 50s.
These husbands need to be punished for their years of loyalty and boring planning for the future, and these still hot older babes are going to teach them a lesson! While the loyal sticks-in-the-mud are bewildered and crushed with grief, their still hot wives are out living it up! Some take a year to travel the world, sample international cuisine, become more spiritual, and find new love! Others quit their jobs and go off on a motorcycle adventure, like the woman in this story (my take here):
‘I started to realise I actually could, and would, do the unthinkable: I would leave my safe existence, my great job, my marriage, family and friends, and take a year out to travel round the world on an adventure.’
Most ordinary divorcées aren’t quite as extravagant. In my observation divorcées more often resemble Interested’s description:
…in my neighborhood these newly divorced women quickly start blowing through the money and get tired of the pump and dump and then start looking for the next great guy. Most of these gals are prime candidates for having nothing saved come retirement. It’s all vacations, clothes, and nice cars. It’s almost like they share a book. Once the divorce is final go out and buy expensive luxury ride. Then take wonderful vacations (several) the first year and subsequent years. Shop for new clothes constantly.
But where does this new found money come from? Divorce theft is a great racket, don’t get me wrong. However there is only so much money to divide up. Divorce doesn’t create any new wealth; it destroys wealth while increasing expenses. The reality is quite often the only reason new divorcées are able to go on a spending spree is they are no longer under adult supervision. Their time horizon is short, and retirement is something which doesn’t seem to cross their minds.
What if some enlightened banker said, divorce happens and it’s OK to borrow money to get through the next X years. We believe that parenting is important, we’d rather you be actively involved in child’s life than work a second job. We’ll loan you the money you need at a reasonable rate of interest and allow you to pay it back over fifteen, twenty years.
Why didn’t I think of that? All they need is more credit. Then they can work less, spend more, and everything will be just fine! What could possibly go wrong?
Not surprisingly as Interested speculated these women often run into problems when it comes time to retire. In my observation they are very often caught in two conflicting mental paradigms. One says they don’t have to follow the old rules and can chart their own path. The other says they don’t have to be responsible for themselves because men (under the old rules) have the obligation to take care of them. My wife and I know two different retired women who are outright offended at any suggestion that they live on a budget. These women are in their 60s and 70s and have never had to be responsible with money. We know another woman whose life reads like a page out of this blog, who I’ll call Mary. Mary’s first husband was evidently an alpha, and she understandably divorced him after she came home early one day to find him engaged in a threesome with two other women. I actually met husband number two at a party about 6 or 7 years ago. He worked setting up stages for rock bands and had some great stories to tell. Unfortunately husband number 2 died of a heart attack a few years ago. Luckily he had life insurance to make sure Mary wouldn’t be in trouble if he wasn’t there to provide for her.
With her new found windfall, Mary quickly recovered from her grief and moved in alpha bad boy number three. She was living the dream, and her new arm candy appeared to be at least 20 years younger than her (he looked in his 40s, she looked in her 60s). Through our mutual friend we learned that Mary and her new man were going to open up their own restaurant and live the good life. However in no time at all (maybe 2 years), they had blown through Mary’s funds between the (failing) business, expensive bar tabs and lavish vacations. Mary couldn’t pay her mortgage and ended up losing her home. The boy toy is out of the picture now, and Mary lives with our mutual friend. She has been on Match.com and as of last week had a beta provider lined up who she expects to marry by the end of the year. He’s no secret-multimillionaire hunky handyman, but I guess he’ll do. They’ve only been on three dates, so I’m not sure how likely her plan is to pan out.
In addition to the situations I have seen, the media has been putting out pieces on the same issue. Anonymous Reader and Captain Capitalism both sent me links to a piece titled Single, female, retired, broke.
Female baby boomers shattered glass ceilings and enrolled in colleges that shut out their mothers…
Single female baby boomers are the least-prepared of this more than 75-million-strong generation to financially navigate their senior years.
Now that these women are paying the price for following the media’s incessant divorce cheer-leading, we learn that divorce is something which just happened to them (emphasis mine):
And many who devoted their prime to motherhood find themselves divorced and returning to a workforce that doesn’t have space or patience for them.
Nowhere in the piece do they mention that retirement savings are typically divided up as part of divorce. These poor women are just dealt a bad hand, like Katrina Philips:
“I never thought about retirement. No one ever talked about it and what I needed to do,”
“I guess I was stupid about it.”
She wasn’t the only one who inexplicably found herself divorced and without retirement savings. They also interviewed Bette Lee Drake:
“I never thought I’d have to work,”
“I thought I’d be at home as a wife and a mother. I had no ambition. I figured I’d be a princess for the rest of my life.”
Following her divorce Drake’s plan of choosing a low paying profession and putting off saving for retirement until her late 40s didn’t work out as well as she had hoped:
“Retirement? How was I supposed to pay for that, too?”
Or as Lorraine Berry would say, where is the me in saving for retirement?
It turns out that it is the patriarchy’s fault that these glass ceiling breaking feminists didn’t take responsibility for their own retirement. Just because they were trailblazers who didn’t need a man to tell them how to lead their lives, doesn’t absolve men of the responsibility of telling them how to lead their lives:
“They were poorly educated about their retirement,” said Watkins. “There was this old mythology that women weren’t good with numbers and they shouldn’t fuss over them.”
Those patriarchy bastards are downright diabolical! They did it again! Now back to the saga of Katrina Philips:
Philips of Clayton said her retirement plan was her husband. She figured they would rely on his military pension. But he became an ex two years ago, and she said she got none of that…
Once upon a time, Philips, a former banker, did have a retirement account…
She cashed in her retirement to keep from losing her house.
A reader shared another news story about divorcées struggling in retirement. This one is from the New York Times, and is titled A Homeowner With No Savings, but Some Options. In this story we learn about twice divorced Susana Wilson. She is 70 and never saved a dime for retirement. Because of this she lives on $900 a month in Social Security plus additional income she makes sewing dresses. Luckily she inherited a fully paid off home from her parents, so she at least has a place to live.
I know what you are thinking; why doesn’t she just borrow money, like the blogger at since my divorce suggested? I thought of that too, believe me. But it turns out she already tried this and somehow it made things worse. If Captain Capitalism weren’t getting ready to go on vacation, I’d ask him to explain it:
Ms. Wilson would probably manage on her current income, though not without sacrifice, were it not for the debt she had accumulated….
The balance of her income goes toward the monthly minimum payments on $9,000 in credit card debt, racked up for daily living expenses. “I think I might just have to declare bankruptcy,” she said. “I just can’t live with that.”