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Retirement
Age gap retirement
March 22, 2000: 7:10 a.m. ET

How to prepare for retirement when you are in a May-December marriage
By Staff Writer Jennifer Karchmer
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.
    May-December romances like these can divide a couple by as much as 35 years. So when one member is grabbing for the Geritol and Super Polident, the other may be driving the kids to soccer practice.
    And although these celebrities probably aren't worried about having enough cash for retirement, there are things to consider when one spouse is significantly older.
    "What if 'Bob' passes away first?" said Mike Blehar, senior vice president at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh. "Are there enough assets for the wife to carry on in a life that she's become accustomed to?"
    
All is(n't) fair in love ...

    Let's face it. In most May-December relationships where the couple is separated by a few decades, the man has more gray hairs, if any at all, and he's closer to retirement.
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    "When you hear the stats that the average age of widowhood is 58, it's scary," said certified financial planner Dee Lee.
    But it's only frightening for a woman who doesn't have a contingency plan if her husband passes away possibly decades before she does. And you may still have young children you're carting to ballet lessons or to birthday parties.
    
Portfolio planning

    While Harry is retiring and planning on living off of his portfolio, Sally wants to keep her retirement account active since she has 20 more years until she dips into her account.
    "The woman's IRA is going to be more aggressively managed than her husband's," Blehar said. "We have to take a little more care in describing why we're allocating her IRA significantly differently from his IRA."
    But Blehar explains that couples need to look at their assets as a unit and understand that the growth of the younger spouse's account is what is driving the overall portfolio.
    "We're looking at it as a whole even though his income requirements start to deplete his IRA," he said.
    So your husband, 20 years your senior and the breadwinner in the family, passes away. You can turn to the Social Security Administration to find out what benefits you can collect for both yourself and your kids.
    Survivor's benefits. Regardless of your age, you're eligible to receive survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration when your husband dies if your children are minors, according to Kurt Czarnowski, regional public affairs officer for the Social Security Administration New England office.
    Both the surviving wife who is taking care of the children and the kids who are 18 or younger or 19 years old and still in high school will receive monthly benefits.
    The wife's payments stop when the youngest of the children turns 16. The children's benefits run out when they turn 18.
    "With survivor benefits, it's based on the deceased spouse's work and earnings, not yours," Czarnowski said.
    
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    Widow's benefits. You may not want to think about it, but if you're in a May-December marriage, you'll probably outlive your spouse. He passes away in his 80s but you're approaching 60 with still a few years until you're eligible for Social Security benefits. What do you do?
    When you turn 60, you are eligible for widow's benefits, which are based on the deceased spouse's earnings and taxes he paid throughout his career.
    Life insurance. Because of the age gap and especially if there are children, the older spouse will want to consider a life insurance policy, says Morrie Reiff, a certified financial planner with Planned Asset Management in Encino, Calif.
    A term life insurance policy can be bought in increments of 10, 15 or 20 years and tends to be less expensive than whole life insurance.
    For example, if he takes out a $500,000 policy with an annual premium of $2,000, whether he dies in one year or in 15 years, the insurance company will pay out the entire policy amount to the surviving family.
    In his 25 years of financial planning, Reiff says he's never had a May-December client where the woman was the older partner.
    Financial planner Lee says: "If a 70-year-old (man) marries a 28-year-old (woman), I wouldn't worry about retirement for her, simply because she wouldn't marry him if he were dead broke." She added: "I'm sure if he's got dollars, she wants to make sure some of them come to her if she's taking care of him for the next 10 to 20 years."
    But for a woman who marries an older man, when he's ready to pack it in and vacation in the Caribbean, she may be just firing up her career.
    "Some women do quit their jobs sometimes in the middle of a great career or change focus and downsize, work from home," to be with their partner during their retirement, Lee said. Back to top
    -- Click here to send email about this story to Staff Writer Jennifer Karchmer.

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  RELATED SITES

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.