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How can Texans keep retirement goals on track after a divorce?

You and your spouse have worked hard for many years and saved money in 401(k)s, pension plans or other types of retirement accounts. You're on your way to living out your golden years in comfort. Then the marriage ends.

Divorce can wreak havoc on your retirement plans if you aren't careful and don't get good advice. Even if you and your estranged spouse have a financial advisor, it's best to get your own to look out for your interests.

A financial professional can also help you stay on track when retirement may be the least of your concerns. In most cases, no matter what the settlement, divorced people need to make some financial adjustments. As a newly-single person, you'll likely have more living expenses. Meanwhile, at least some of your joint retirement savings will probably belong to your ex.

Besides consulting with a good financial advisor, there are things you can do to make sure that you are still saving and investing for retirement after divorce:

-- First, make a budget. Your expenses will likely have changed, so track all of your spending carefully during the first few months on your own to see where your money is going.-- After you've done that, if you find that you no longer have the ability to put some money away, you may need to change some priorities and make cuts. You should never stop saving, even if it's just contributing money to a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan. Experts say that most people need about 70 percent of their pre-retirement income to live comfortably once they stop working.-- Look at your Social Security benefits. On the Social Security Administration website, you can look at your estimated retirement benefits as well as your earnings record. You'll probably note that the longer you wait to start collecting benefits, the higher those monthly benefits will be. Further, if you were married for at least 10 years to your ex-spouse and don't remarry, you may be eligible for some of his or her benefits.

Don't wait until after the divorce to start thinking about how you will stay on track for a comfortable retirement. This should be a topic of discussion with your family law attorney from the beginning. He or she may also be able to recommend a financial planner in your area who has experience helping newly-divorced people plan for the future.

Source: St. Louis American, "Resetting your retirement after divorce," Jason Alderman, April. 22, 2015

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