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Bookworm: The D-word and the golden years

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“The New Rules of Divorce: Twelve Secrets to Protecting Your Wealth, Health, and Happiness”

  • By Jacqueline Newman
  • c. 2020, Atria
  • $27, $36 Canada; 249 pages

Not too long ago, you said, “I do.” So, the two of you did, and it was good until it wasn’t and maybe it could be good again somewhere else. Maybe you’re together (for once) on this decision, both fed up and beat down. Is it time to undo “I do?” Think hard about it – and read “The New Rules of Divorce” by Jacqueline Newman.

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Families sure don’t look like they did when your mother was a bride. You didn’t consider that when you got married. You had fairy tales and Happily Ever After in mind but now the Prince is a frog. Do you call a lawyer?

“The New Rules of Divorce: Twelve Secrets to Protecting Your Wealth, Health, and Happiness” author Jacqueline Newman.

Jacqueline Newman says to hold the phone a sec. She wrote this book, she says, in the same manner as she speaks to her divorcing clients: honest and straight. That sometimes includes advice to stick with the marriage, or at least hold off awhile.

Even so, remember that you may not be the only one making the decision to divorce: your spouse might already be talking to a lawyer; if the writing’s on the wall, though, there are ways to protect yourself. Also remember: the courts are well-aware of “the change in the family structure,” which usually means two things: alimony is rare and so is full physical custody of the kids.

Learn the “many facets of divorce” and the different ways to go about a legal split; at least one of them will keep you from going to court. Outside of your lawyer’s office, learn to keep your mouth shut – and that includes your time in court. Don’t air your dirty laundry but do find your tribe: you’re going to need patient, good-listening, non-judgmental, been-there-done-that friends.

“The New Rules of Divorce: Twelve Secrets to Protecting Your Wealth, Health, and Happiness” by Jacqueline Newman.

Try to maintain civility with your soon-to-be-former spouse, if not for your sake but for the kids’. Make a list of things to ask your lawyer and add the questions in this book to that list. And finally, “just behave, please,” especially when it comes to children.

“Focus on your kid – and less on your ex.”

If you were like most brides, getting married took months of prep, money, decisions, and professional help. “The New Rules of Divorce” shows that splitting is no different.

It’s a giant step from thinking about divorce to actually making an appointment to get one, though, and without being pushy, author Jacqueline Newman shows you what you should know before you call. There’s a built-in deep breath in that less-frantic tone, one that might comfort someone who’s shaky about ending their marriage, but Newman also acknowledges that there are times to step up the pace. She has a chapter for that, too, first admitting that her honesty might make you weep. It may also make you snort because she can be funny – even if it’s in a you-have-to-laugh-or-you’ll-cry way.

“The New Rules of Divorce” is not a lawyer-substitute. While it’s written for a female point-of-view, “change … pronouns as needed given your circumstances.” If you’re divorcing, and thinking you probably do fine without it, you do not.

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If you’ve decided to stay, then pick up “Love Skills” by Linda Carroll. It’s a book that will help you learn to forgive, reconnect, and love again.

“When We’re 64: Your Guide to a Great Later Life” author Louise Ansari.

“When We’re 64: Your Guide to a Great Later Life”

  • By Louise Ansari
  • c. 2019, Green Tree, Bloomsbury
  • $18, $24.50 Canada; 200 pages

There was a lot of fire on your last birthday cake. The wits in your family made a big show of bringing an extinguisher tableside (ha ha) but you do have to admit that the candle power then really was impressive. It reminded you that you’re not getting any younger, but with “When We’re 64” by Louise Ansari, you can prepare to kindle the next phase of your life.

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So when will you die? That’s not such an odd question. It’s something you’ve no doubt thought about and for most of us, the good news is that we’re “likely to live longer than [we] think.” Life expectancies have been on the rise for decades, so how can you make your decades the best?

“When We’re 64: Your Guide to a Great Later Life” by Louise Ansari.

There are, says Ansari, many “keys to a great later life.”

First, she says, “Keep working.” If you like your job, downsize your hours instead of retiring fully, or find a part-time job in another industry that intrigues you. This helps keep your mind sharp for new things. Volunteer, if you can’t find the right job; working a free gig might open some surprising doors.

Stay healthy, don’t smoke, lose weight, eat right, and don’t skip doctor’s visits. Also get out and socialize, but remember that relationships with peers, family, and romantic interests may change as you age.

Gently urge others to stop using “young lady,” old “fogey,” and other negative terms, and take “ageist” words and phrases out of your own vocabulary. Strive to be upbeat and learn to “respond more positively” to change; studies show that keeping a happy mindset could add more than seven years to your life!

Finally, the elephant in the room: know that it’s never too late to start saving. Try to figure out how much money you’ll need to fully retire and familiarize yourself with federal laws relating to Social Security. Know where you’ll want to live, and factor that in on your financial spreadsheet – and on that note, make sure your home is appropriate for you for as long as you want to stay there.

While “When We’re 64” seems meant for time-blessed 50-somethings that are squinting at faraway retirement, it’s possible that if you’re a 60- or 70-something who can translate while reading, you’ll still find takeaways here. Yes, author Louise Ansari wrote this book expressly for residents of Great Britain, which means there are policy differences and unique terms in some chapters but it’s not a terrible stretch to recalibrate for stateside situations.

Those are minor issues, compared to the one that truly may turn readers away, which is that this book is a lot like the other several hundred retirement books on shelves already. Don’t misunderstand: it’s a helpful thing, but if you’ve read two other retirement-advice-type books, you’ve read this one, too.

You haven’t started planning, though? Then it’s a good start because it’s filled with soft challenges, simple ideas, and do-able tips. If retirement prep is all new to you, “When We’re 64” could get you fired up.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.