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Divorced, Over 50, and Ready for My Dream Career

Jul 20th, 2020 • Gayle E.

The following is a real question sent by a reader and is answered by one of our Hey Money experts!

After 25 years as a devoted wife, my husband decided that he wanted a divorce. That’s his prerogative. I ‘retired’ as a lawyer when our only child was born. I became a personal trainer, health coach and fitness guru. I LOVED it, but went back to the legal profession after the divorce 3 years ago, nothing of which I remotely enjoy, much less love. My annual salary is $60,000.

So, here I am, 56 years-young, single, house paid for, no car payment, 529 fully stocked for the youngster’s engineering degree, $650,000 in IRA (part of it is a Roth), and $50,000 in savings. I do not require a lot of ‘stuff’. I’d love to follow my heart and passion, to return to the wellness profession, or work a purposeful job and volunteer to teach children about the positives of fitness, nutrition and economics.

Based upon the information, when could I retire from law? Is it crazy to jump out of it and take a $40,000 per year job?


Hi Sharon!

Thanks for writing in.

Life has a habit of throwing us curve balls when we least expect it and it sounds like you had one a few years back. That must’ve been painful but you seem to have recovered well and now have your whole life ahead of you.

Whether or not to dump the attorney gig and do something you love is more than just about the numbers, it’s about your happiness. However, let’s look at the numbers first.

Your retirement savings of $650,000 will put you at just over $1M at age 65 assuming a convervative return of 5%, even if you don’t add another penny for the next 9 years. This $1M could provide you about $40k gross per year to live on. Hey, that’s a serendipitous number given that’s the salary for a personal trainer! This doesn’t include any Social Security benefits you’d receive on your or your ex-husband’s record. Did you know that at age 62 you’re eligible to receive benefits on his record if you haven’t remarried?

The big question is can you live on $40,000 per year? What you need in retirement savings is purely based on how much you spend so I can’t tell you if $1M is enough. You’ll have to make that call. If your current spending levels would break a $40,000 income, I encourage you to make changes so you can get there. It may take some time to adjust but it’d be worth it.

Personal Training is one of the top 10 careers for women over 50* so opportunities will continue to be abundant, whether you work with children or work with older clients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the field will grow 10% each year and, although the average earnings is $40k, the top pay is $79k.

Now let’s look at the more important aspects of changing jobs. Will you be happier? Yes. Will you be healthier? Yes. Will being healthier and happier be better for your life? Yes. Will you have opportunities as you age? Yes. Will you make a difference in the lives of others? Yes. Will you be fulfilled? It sure sounds like it! 

The joy you’d experience of doing what you love will make you happier and most likely make it easier to live on less. I don’t think you’re crazy at all and, in this instance, I’d encourage you to follow your heart.

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