By Allison Mifsud
When we think about relationships, finding ‘someone to grow old with’ is a common desire. Many people have found someone they think is that person, raised children and spent 2 or 3 decades together, only to discover as empty nesters that they actually can’t spend one more minute with them.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are almost 50,000 divorces per year in Australia and the age people are divorcing at is increasing. At last count (2015), the average age at the time of divorce was 45 for women and 43 for men. This means that newly single divorcees are approaching, or are over 50 by the time they’re ready to get their life back on track.
Divorce is difficult at any age, however those over 50 certainly have more challenges when it comes to real estate and rebuilding their life after divorce. In an ideal world, a couple who have spent most of their working life building up their assets would separate amicably by dividing their wealth equally. Together they would finance a new start for each individual and smoothly make the transition, however, what’s ‘iideal’ is a rarely reality. In many cases, one partner is left with very little financial security and a cloud of uncertainty over how to take care of themselves in the kind of future they never really planned for.
For many who have spent a good part of their adult life working towards a shared and co-dependant future, the shock can be something they never recover from. However, there are those who see it for the opportunity that it is – the chance at a whole new version of their life they may never have imagined. Working out how to start over after divorce can be a challenge but some creative thinking can deliver surprising results.
Immediate Lifestyle Solutions
Finances can be tight in the aftermath – one person may be reduced to no income, while the other might need to continue supporting both partners and finance two separate lifestyles as they now live apart. The first thing that happens post separation is that they both need to find somewhere to live. Moving in with adult children is only a solution for so long and staying on alone in the family home is really just rubbing salt into the wound.
The best course of action is to choose the most budget friendly option in the short term. This buys time to rebuild finances and work up to something better. Looking for short term furnished apartments or asking amongst friends may be useful. You never know who has an empty granny flat or holiday home they might be happy to rent out as an immediate solution. Given the increasing rate of divorce, it’s likely a friend may be going through the same thing so why not join forces and share something?
Purchasing a relocatable property is also an interesting idea – for example a caravan, a small house boat, or a prefabricated home. These kinds of properties offer more flexibility in terms of lifestyle, whilst securing a place to live, without being restricted to long term leases or even locations!
Once a place to live has been found, each partner can start to plan what the next phase of their life might look like. Losing your place in a shared financial strategy does not take you out of the game entirely – you just need to rethink your budget and start smaller, which may not always be as bad an option as it seems. Investing post-divorce capital in a car space for example can result in a good return. Car spaces in up and coming commercial locations can deliver excellent rental yields and many experience considerable capital growth in just a few years. This would allow for selling when the time is right and investing in something else when things feel a little more stable.
Combining investment plans with housing solutions is also a solid approach depending on budgets. Rentvesting for example, allows re-entry into the property market, by buying a solid investment property in an affordable area, rather than missing out because prices have soared in the ideal suburb. Lifestyle can still be a priority as you rent what you want or need in the area that suits you for now and have the flexibility to move later if required.
Your ‘One Day’ Has Finally Arrived
The new-found freedom of life after divorce can be exhilarating. Many are able to make choices that not only accommodate for their new financial situation, but allow them to live a whole new version of their life they’d previously only imagined. Australians can explore incredibly cheap and idyllic lifestyles in exotic foreign locations, for a fraction of the cost of re-establishing themselves here. A small villa in Italy, perhaps a place in Portugal, or a shack on the beach in Thailand? Maybe a project such as restoring an old riad in a Moroccan medina or rebuilding and starting a BnB in an abandoned Irish castle? These ideas might seem a little ‘pie in the sky’ but start doing some research and you might be delighted at the opportunities that soon reveal themselves.
Solutions don’t even necessarily have to be pinned down to property. For those who’ve come out of the divorce with a decent financial settlement and can reasonably divide that between the years they have left, retirement may start to look very glamorous indeed.
Many travel companies offer 6 month cruises to destinations only dreamt of before now. The cost of a berth on a ship, with all food and activities included, may end up being cheaper than setting up again with all the trappings of city life. Calculating out flights and long-term rentals of holiday houses off season, could mean that a life lived on the road ends up being more economically sound. Also - much, much more interesting than the one filled with sensible choices and all the memories of your past clogging up your shiny new perspective.
Divorce can be devastating and is, in every case, life changing. But what happens next is entirely up to the individual. Now’s the time to do all the things listed for ‘one day’ - drink Champagne at breakfast, sell the family car and buy a Vespa. Borrow a friend’s cottage and write that book, or, best of all, get a string of lovers and make up for all those years with the same old partner (no offence to the ex).