August 21, 2023 — Understanding Silver Divorce: Discover how to simplify a painful process


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"When it comes to Silver Divorce, time is money in more ways than one," says Peter Neuwirth, founder of the consulting firm that helps navigate the painful process to make it run smoother. Listen to Pete's podcast where he explains how.

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Monday Morning Magic from Inkandescent® PR + Publishing Co. — “Divorce among couples where one or both spouses are over 50 has increased dramatically in the last few years. The challenges that lawyers and financial advisors face when working with clients going through a silver divorce can be extremely daunting,” knows actuary and author Peter Neuwirth, who had this devastating experience shortly after his house burnt down in the Glass Fire that blew through Northern California on September 27, 2020.

“Many professionals on whom the courts rely simply don’t have the expertise or experience to effectively address the overwhelming complexities that often arise in such cases – particularly those around real estate, taxes, and qualified retirement plans,” says Pete, who with partners Barry Sacks and Mary Jo Lafaye, are working to fill this gap. “We at Silver Divorce Consulting have a team of experts who can support family lawyers, CPAs, and financial advisors in their efforts to help their clients navigate through a silver divorce without experiencing the devastating financial consequences and extremely long timelines associated with so many divorces that involve older couples.”

The back story: Because it always helps to know what inspires us to reach out and help others through trying times, here’s Pete’s experience with silver divorce.

Having my house burn down in a California wildfire taught me much about risk. In the last chapter of my second book, Money Mountaineering, I muse on the difference between financial forest fires and  “real” ones like the Glass Fire of September 2020, which destroyed my home in Santa Rosa just before I completed writing the book and was about to submit it to my publisher. Three years later, I see now that the distinction between unforeseen events that destroy our physical possessions and those that burn up our financial resources is more apparent than real. This was hammered home to me when, less than two months after my house was destroyed—on November 19, 2020—my wife of 21 years filed for divorce.

I shouldn’t have been shocked since I had already moved out of our Berkeley home in March of that year when the pandemic lockdown made living in the same house unsustainable for us. Still, the timing of her filing could not have been worse, as I was still living in temporary quarters. Many of the paper documents and financial statements necessary to deal with a legal/financial transaction like a divorce had been incinerated in the 2000-degree heat that had transformed my home into an unrecognizable pile of rubble.

For several months, I tried to negotiate an amicable and peaceful end to our marriage. Initially, I was hopeful that the financial cost of my divorce would be an example of the kind of unpredictable contingent expense (i.e., “spike expense”) that is almost inevitable during a long retirement. During the early part of 2021, when I was still hopeful for a quick settlement, I began writing about how much of a financial risk divorce poses to those planning for retirement and how optimism bias can cause you to underestimate the probability of it happening to you.

Two of those pieces can be found on my website — spike-expense-risk and optimism-bias. I believe you’ll find that these essays are worth reading and will provide some thoughts not just on the nature of the risk but steps worth considering before marriage that can mitigate, at least somewhat, the financial consequences of divorce.

Click here to learn how Peter Neuwirth & Associates can help you navigate your Silver Divorce

Until next Monday: May you decide never to cut what you can untie. — Hope Katz Gibbs, founder and president, Inkandescent® Inc. • author, Why Divorce: 5 Reasons to Leave

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Meet the Silver Divorce Consulting team

Actuary Peter Neuwirth

Actuary Peter J. Neuwirth FSA, FCA, specializes in retirement plan issues. He is a 1979 graduate of Harvard College with a BA in Mathematics and Linguistics. After leaving Harvard, he went to work at Connecticut General Life Insurance, now CIGNA. For the next 38 years, he worked as an actuary in significant leadership positions at Aon, Hewitt Associates, Watson Wyatt, Towers Perrin, and Towers Watson. He spent five years as a chief actuary at Godwins, seven at Coates Kenney, and a year at Price Waterhouse. In 2016, Pete retired to focus on writing and researching financial wellness issues, including using home equity to generate retirement income. His two current books include Money Mountaineering: Use the Principles of Holistic Financial Wellness to Thrive in a Complex World and What’s Your Future Worth? Using Present Value to Make Better Decisions. Pete is a frequent speaker at conferences nationwide, including the Conference of Consulting Actuaries, Enrolled Actuaries, and the Western Pension and Benefits Conference. Click here to meet Pete.

Barry H. Sacks

Attorney Barry Sacks, Ph.D., JD earned his Ph.D. in semiconductor physics from M.I.T., then taught at U.C. Berkeley. He earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School and is a Certified Specialist in Taxation Law from the California Board of Legal Specialization. After spending 35 years as an ERISA attorney specializing in qualified retirement plans, he used his breadth of skills to discover a role for a reverse mortgage to help make a retirement portfolio last longer. Barry now has a law practice providing special services to tax professionals in “Offers in Compromise” for retirees living on 401(k) accounts or securities portfolios. With his brother, Professor Stephen Sacks, Barry published the pioneering research paper modeling a strategy that uses reverse mortgage credit lines to mitigate the effects of adverse sequences of investment returns in retirement accounts (Journal of Financial Planning). Click here to learn more about Barry.

Mary Jo Lafaye

Reverse Mortgage Specialist Mary Jo Lafaye is a licensed Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) Specialist with Mutual of Omaha Mortgage. She has decades of experience in the reverse mortgage field, including seven years with Security One Lending and five years with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. She earned numerous awards, including Wells Fargo Leader’s Club Member, with the highest customer service scores. She was chosen to train private bankers and wealth management advisors on ways to employ this repayment-deferred line of credit as a retirement planning and cash-flow management tool. She is certified to offer complimentary one and two-hour Continuing Education (CE) classes for CFPs, CPAs, and realtors. Click here to learn more about Mary Jo.