Divorce Derails Retirement Outlook for Many

“Although more women are taking the reins of their household finances, divorce and widowhood remain significant roadblocks to achieving true financial security,” according to a new study from Allianz Life.

The latest update of Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America’s ongoing study, “Women, Money and Power,” suggests the majority of women who went through a divorce say the effect “created a personal financial crisis.”

In fact, it is a strong majority indicating as much: 64%. Nearly an equal amount (59%) noted that losing their spouse/significant other due to divorce was a real “wake-up call” for them from a financial standpoint.

“Although fewer widowed respondents (43%) said losing their spouse due to the spouse’s death created a financial crisis, a full 60% felt the loss of their spouse served as a financial wake-up call,” the study explains.

Interestingly, these responses came “despite the fact that the majority of women in the study (51%) claimed they are the chief financial officer of their household.” The findings are also somewhat surprising given that more than two-thirds of women said they currently feel financially secure, with that number rising to 73% for married women. Evidently married couples rely strongly on each other to feel financially secure.

“It’s clear that no matter how confident women feel about their current financial situation and ability to manage money, divorce and/or becoming a widow can create turmoil that has lasting effects,” observes Allianz Life Senior Director of Consumer Insights Deb Repya. “It’s important that women play an active role in every aspect of their family’s financial planning so they are better prepared for whatever challenges the future may bring.”

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Asked what worries keep them up at night, more than a third (34%) of women in the study identified “running out of money in retirement” as their top concern.

“Not surprisingly, this fear was much higher for divorcees and widows with half of all divorced respondents and a full 40% of widowed respondents ranking it as their biggest worry,” the study explains. “Furthermore, divorced women said they struggle the most with saving enough to meet their goals, with 65% agreeing it’s hard to save for both short- and long-term goals because they live paycheck to paycheck. This response was significantly higher than that from either single (51%) or married (47%) respondents.”

Allianz warns only 30% of women in the study reported using a financial professional for guidance, “but 75% of those who do say they wish they had done it sooner.” Naturally there is an opportunity for advisers to better serve this client segment.

“While connecting with a financial professional can help instill confidence to deal with future challenges, these relationships can also be problematic, as many women say they feel left out of the financial planning conversation,” Allianz adds. “More than half claim the professional treats their spouse/partner as the decisionmaker, and this happens regardless of whether the financial professional is male or female.”

The study concludes that, even for members of married couples, it is best not to wholly depend on others for financial security.

“It’s never too early to start building up your financial acumen, whether that means researching financial topics on your own, getting more practice by taking on increased responsibility at home or communicating the importance of financial planning to younger family members,” Repya says.