In one way, Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, and his ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, are nothing special.
At the end of their divorce this month, they joined millions of Americans who split in middle age. Divorce rates after 50 years have doubled in the United States since 1990.
However, both of them are one of the few former colleagues who keep their finances relatively unharmed after the divorce. Jeff is still the richest person in the world, with a net worth of US $ 123.1 billion, and MacKenzie has a wealth of US $ 39.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg billionaire index. Amazon shares have risen 19% since they announced the end of their 25-year marriage in January.
There are some things that are more devastating than divorce. Even people who are very rich can find it tiring economically and emotionally. Academic studies document the serious impact on health.
A 2009 article noted that adults who had just separated or divorced had higher resting blood pressure. Last year, a study in Germany found that "divorce results in considerable weight gain over time, especially in men."
Split after age 50, what is known as "gray divorce," can be very dangerous for emotional and financial health, far worse than doing it at a younger age. A new wave of research calculates damage.
"This is a bleak picture," said Susan Brown, a professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University and co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, which has given birth to many new findings. According to one study, people who experience gray divorce report higher rates of depression than those whose partners die.
Economic effects are even more violent. More and more baby boomers end their marriage, sometimes for the second or third time, they damage their finances to an unprecedented level. "Getting a gray divorce is a big financial surprise," Brown said.
If you divorce after the age of 50, prepare for your wealth to decrease by around 50%, Brown and his colleagues found in an unpublished investigation that analyzed a longitudinal survey of 20,000 Americans born before 1960. That wasn't really a surprise divorce involves sharing family resources.
But his income also collapsed after the gray divorce, especially in the case of women. The researchers analyzed living standards (income adjusted for family size), which reflects the fact that adults who live alone need less income than a single father with two children who are still at home.
They found that when women divorce after age 50, the standard of living dropped by 45%. That more or less doubles the decline revealed in previous research in divorced younger women.
Older men experience a decline in standard of living 21% after divorce. Previous studies have revealed a small or insignificant effect of divorce on the income of younger men.
Even more worrying is that elderly people have not recovered from this financial crisis. Brown and his colleagues were able to monitor the respondents' finances for up to a decade after the divorce.
"There is no significant recovery on the side of wealth," he explained. "There is no recovery that is meaningful in living standards."
At the end of their careers, older Americans did not have time to reverse the financial destruction caused by divorce. Women who spend years at home caring for children have difficulty entering the workforce again.
At retirement age, they may be in a desperate situation. Another study in 2017 by Brown and his colleagues found that US women aged 63 years and over who experienced gray divorce had a poverty rate of 27%, higher than other age groups, including widows, and nine times the rate of married couples. .
Senior Poverty and Divorce Generations
General divorce rates in the United States declined despite the fact that the number of divorces after age 50 increased. The reason is division generation: Americans 20, 30 and 40 years delay and in some cases skip marriage. Those who are married are more likely to stay together.
While baby boomers, which have caused a skyrocketing divorce from the 1970s, continue to divorce at a higher level as we get older.
The boomer's tendency to split, coupled with the aging of the US population, means that the country will register more gray divorces in the coming years.
Even if the number of gray divorces remains the same, more than 828,000 Americans will divorce every year by 2030, Brown and colleagues estimate I-Fen Lin. That's almost 30% more than in 2010 and four times more than 206,000 divorced parents in 1990.