Beyond the emotional impact that divorce can have on couples of any age that decide to split, it can have a potentially devastating effect on the retirement plans of those who divorce later in life. Divorce after 50 usually results in a loss of income for both parties, which can mean working longer to fund a single retirement.
A recent article at Forbes.com pointed out three common mistakes made by those over 50 who are divorcing that can ruin retirement plans:
Choosing the house over other assets. For many people, choosing the family home in a divorce is more of an emotional than a rational choice. If the housing bust of the last few years has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t count on a house as a nest egg. Plus, a house is likely to cost you more as well in property taxes, maintenance and unexpected expenses like a roof or furnace replacement. So don’t automatically sacrifice retirement assets for a house until you weigh the costs.
Forgetting to consider the tax implications of retirement assets. If you decide to divvy up retirement savings by one of you taking the 401(k) and the other taking the Roth IRA, you need to realize that these are not equal distributions. Withdrawals from a 401(k) or traditional IRA will be taxed during retirement, while withdrawals from a Roth IRA are not taxed during retirement. Therefore, the payout from the Roth IRA will be larger over time.
Rolling over a spouse’s retirement account into an IRA after the divorce. If you are under the age of 59 1/2 at the time of your divorce, you have a one-time opportunity to withdraw money from an ex-spouse’s 401(k) or 403(b) without having to pay the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty as long as those funds have been allocated to you under a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). If you do a rollover and need to tap the account early, you will have to pay the tax penalty. And while it may be tempting to dip into retirement savings now, remember that you are eroding the nest egg that needs to last you for 20-30 years in retirement.