How To Avoid Damaging Your Retirement During Divorce

retired man

Divorce can take a huge toll on your emotions and your finances. Many times, people damage their retirement during divorce. Although you might want to get through the process as quickly as possible, you must think about the future. This future includes thinking about your retirement accounts.

This becomes even more of a hassle if your spouse was the one doing all of the saving and not you. Saving and preparing for retirement is more difficult when you are doing it on your own. But, with the proper steps and knowledge you will be on the right track.

Here are the top steps you should take to protect your retirement savings during (and after) divorce:

Negotiate Your Retirement Savings With Your Ex

If you and your ex have roughly the same retirement savings, it may make the splitting process a bit easier. If this is the case, you and your spouse may decide to each keep your own accounts and be done with it. Things will become more complicated if one of you has a lot more savings than the other. The spouse who has less money will be in a position to negotiate for a percentage of the other spouse’s retirement savings. So, as long as you have a qualified domestic relations order, you can legally transfer money from your spouse’s account to you. The only restriction is that you can only claim the retirement savings that was earned during your marriage. If your spouse had retirement savings before your marriage, that amount is not considered marital property.

Forge A Fresh Retirement Plan

Once you get divorced you are going to have to completely rethink your retirement plan.  Things can become trickier if your spouse was making the money that you were placing in your retirement.

Still, it is very important to think ahead and plan your retirement, and then set aside money appropriately. A good strategy will be to decide how many years you think you will be retired for. Then add up your annual living expenses and multiply that figure by the number of years you think you will be retired for. This will tell you how much money you need to have saved. Take any Social Security or pension payments into account as well. 

You may realize that you need to make adjustments to your retirement plan. This could be things such as putting more money away into retirement or retiring later than you had planned. Now you can make a budget for other expenses that has already accounted for saving for retirement.

retirement plan

Related: How To Budget For A Post Divorce Life

Claim Social Security On Your Spouse

Did you know that you can possibly claim Social Security on your ex’s work record? As long as you and your ex were married for a minimum for at least ten years, you will be eligible to claim Social Security benefits from your spouse’s record (even if they remarry). You just have to be sixty two years of age or older, remain unmarried, and make sure that your ex-spouse is entitled to disability and/or retirement benefits. Also in order to qualify, your ex spouse’s benefit must be more than your own benefit from your work record.

Assuming you meet that criteria, you will receive half of the Social Security benefit that your ex otherwise would have received if they had been taking benefits at the retirement age of sixty six or sixty seven. If you have been divorced for at least 2 years and are at least 62, you can claim benefits even if your spouse has not filed for Social Security. Always check with the Social Security Administration if you believe you may be eligible for this.


Never forget about protecting your retirement during divorce. Saving is likely to be more difficult now that you are on your own, but it is extremely important for your future. This process is much less stressful if you are educated and consciously making steps to improve your financial situation.

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