TIME relationships

Why You Need to Talk About Your Partner’s Credit Card Debt

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This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

The modern dating scene is tough — we know that all too well. Finding a great partner feels like hitting the jackpot, so you might be tempted to overlook certain serious red flags in the name of love. But, what if you’re ready to take the next step with your partner and discover that he or she is deep in credit card debt? This is an issue you definitely shouldn’t dismiss — money is one of the main reasons couples fight. Failing to address your partner’s debt before you move in together or get married could cause heartache down the road. So, should you move forward or hit pause? Here’s how to decide.

Consider The Why
Discuss your financial situations. It’s important to get to the bottom of why he or she is dealing with debt. Asking specific questions about how the balance was incurred will give you a better sense of your beloved’s overall level of financial responsibility.For instance, did your partner face a major emergency that they didn’t have the cash to cover? In this case, the debt can be chalked up to an expensive, one-time event. It doesn’t indicate a pattern of irresponsible financial behavior. But, if your partner carries credit card debt due to reckless spending, you should give this some thought. If you budget carefully and live within your means, you might have a hard time coupling up with someone who doesn’t share your values.

(MORE: Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About My Credit Card Debt Anymore)

Consider The How
Next step? Consider how your significant other is dealing with the shortfall to decide if the relationship is worth pursuing. Even if a mountain of credit card debt is the result of frivolous spending, your partner may have realized the blunder. If your mate is taking steps to pay off the balance — moving to a smaller apartment, going out less, taking on an extra job — count these as good signs. Everyone makes mistakes, and working hard to correct a financial misstep means your partner is trying to get on the right track.However, if he or she seems unconcerned about the debt and isn’t making an effort to pay it off, you should take a step back. Credit card debt is a serious financial burden, and your partner should be treating it as such. Ignoring a lingering balance could signal a lack of judgment when it comes to money.

(MORE: Do You Really Need A Credit Card?)

In The End, It All Depends — But Tips Help
Money is a highly personal and emotional topic, so only you can decide if your partner’s credit card debt is a deal-breaker. The important thing is to discuss the issue before taking a major step in your relationship, and keep the lines of communication open. This will help you assess the direction of your partnership and keep you informed about how your mate’s financial situation is evolving.If you want to help improve your partner’s credit card habits, consider sharing these tips: Keep a budget and track your spending — this will keep you from spending more than you can afford to pay off. Pay your bill in full by its due date — you’ll stay out of debt and keep your credit score healthy. Never use more than 30% of your available credit — this will help you achieve and maintain good credit. Read your monthly statement carefully — you’ll be able to spot fraud if it occurs.

The Takeaway
Understanding why your partner is in credit card debt and how he or she is dealing with it is an important step to take before getting serious. Consider it one more stepping stone on the road to finding “the one.”

(MORE: How to Keep Your Finances Safe After a Breakup)

TIME relationships

Woman Spends Entire Week In KFC After Getting Dumped By Her Boyfriend

Col Harland Sanders founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken
Col. Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. John Olson—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

"I just wanted some chicken wings."

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, a woman in China realized that only one person could help her in her time of need: Colonel Sanders.

Tan Shen, 26, accidentally on-purpose spent a full week at a 24/7 KFC in Chengdu, calling in sick to work, to mourn the loss of her relationship.

“I hadn’t planned on staying there long, I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan told Yahoo. “But once I got in there and started eating I decided I needed time to think.”

But is KFC really where you’d want to spend your time of mourning? Are the chicken wings really that good?

After all, Tan herself admits that after a week, “I was getting sick of the taste of chicken, so there was no point in staying there anymore.” (That and local media started showing up to take photos).

Here are some places that might have been better week-long hideaways:

McDonald’s
Find a Play Place and start enjoying the little things in life again.

Walmart
If it’s good enough for a 9-month pregnant woman, as depicted in Where The Heart Is, it should be good enough for the lovesick.

Anthropologie
Just so aesthetically pleasing.

A make-your-own, pay-by-the-pound Fro-Yo shop
Because… cliches.

Maybe then Tan would have looked slightly more upbeat:

TIME apps

Tinder Thinks You’ll Pay to Find a Match. Swipe Right?

Does this mean there will be less bathroom mirror selfies?

Money can’t buy love, but it might be able to buy you a better Tinder date.

The free, location-based mobile dating app, which allows users to swipe right in hopes of finding a match and left to pass, will begin offering “a few premium features” come November, CEO and co-founder Sean Rad recently said at the Forbes Under 30 Summit.

Rad didn’t provide many details, Forbes reported from the event in Philadelphia, but said the new features are ones that “users have been begging us for” and “will offer so much value we think users are willing to pay for them.”

Does this mean less bathroom mirror selfies? Probably not. But Rad hinted that the pay-for-play features might focus on opening up location restrictions, allowing people to make connections while they’re traveling to new places. He also said the “premium” options will cater to areas outside of romance, like “local recommendations when traveling, trying to make friends, doing business.”

“Revenue has always been on the road map,” he added.

But don’t worry, you can still swipe for free while procrastinating at work: “The core offering will always remain free,” Rad said. “At least that’s the plan.”

Watch the full interview below:

TIME Crime

Woman Gets Trapped in Chimney Allegedly Stalking Her Online Date

Mary Poppins would not approve.

A woman rescued from a chimney was arrested and charged with allegedly using the chimney to try and break into the home of a man she had met online.

The Ventura County Fire Department was called to a Thousand Oaks, California, home early Sunday morning, when it was reported that a woman was stuck in a chimney.

Firefighters used a jackhammer to break apart the chimney and lubricated the flue with dish soap in order to lift the woman out of the chimney. She was then placed in a basket and lifted off the roof by a ladder truck, according to Ventura County Fire Department Capt. Mike Lindbery’s tweets regarding the incident.

The woman, who remained conscious during the misadventure, was taken to the hospital for examination. Her condition was not immediately known, according to KTLA.

The so-called “entrapment patient” was later identified as Genoveva Nunez-Figueroa, 30, and the home’s resident, who did not wish to be identified, said he met Nunez-Figueroa online and had gone on several dates with her, but had recently ended the relationship, according to the local ABC news affiliate.

The woman’s “intent was unclear,” according to police, but as Christmas is still months away, she was probably not playing Santa Claus or chimney sweep, as this is the second time Nunez-Figueroa was found on the man’s roof. Two weeks ago, she was spotted, but disappeared when police were called.

Nunez-Figueroa was arrested for allegedly illegally entering a residence and providing false information to a peace officer, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department stated in a news release.

The home’s resident wanted other online daters to learn from his cautionary tale. “Before you have somebody come in your house really check them out … really give it some time before you let somebody in, because they might want to stay,” he told KTLA.

TIME relationships

Why Parents Let Kids Watch More Movies With Sex and Violence

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They're getting desensitized, study suggests

If you’ve felt like PG-13 movies have gotten more violent lately, you’re right. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics reports that violent scenes are now more common, with gun violence tripling in movies since 1985. Sex scenes in R-rated movies are up, too.

One possible reason: the more parents watch movies filled with sex and violence, the less they appear to care about the age of children watching them, too, the study suggests.

Annenberg Public Policy Center researchers screened several movie clips in succession for 1,000 parents of pre-teens and teens, asking them what they thought was an appropriate minimum age for their child to watch the movie. The more movie clips the parents watched, the more lax they became about who should watch the film.

At first, the parents rated violent scenes appropriate for kids at age 16.9 on average, and sex scenes appropriate for kids starting at age 17.2. But by the end of the study, those thresholds had dropped. Parents thought kids ages 13.9 could watch the violent scenes and kids aged 14 could watch the sex scenes.

Outside of the lab, parents have input in how movies are rated. Several members on the board of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the group that rates movies, have children, the study says. Researchers think that the increase in sex and violence may actually be due to parents becoming desensitized to the scenes. This, the authors conclude, “may contribute to the increasing acceptance of both types of content by both parents and the raters employed by the film industry.”

TIME Retirement

The Last Will and Testament of a Millennial

Portrait of woman writing letter at desk
Portrait of woman writing letter at desk, circa 1950 George Marks—Getty Images

It started with leaving my boyfriend my share of the rent — then things got complicated

I’m going to die, I reminded my boyfriend. My eventual death was something I’d been mentioning to lots of people, on Facebook and at engagement parties and at my high-school reunion.

It wasn’t that I thought death was going to come any time soon or in any special way, it’s just that, as they say on Game of Thrones, all men must die. So I was writing a will. I’d downloaded a template. I’d filled it out. I just hadn’t signed it yet, and in the mean time it had become my favorite topic of conversation: I’m going to die, we’re all going to die, I’m filling out paperwork about it, what’s new with you?

I asked my boyfriend: Is there anything else you want me to leave you? Besides my share of the rent. Besides the fish tank and the fish. Besides the coffee table, the pots and pans, the things that I call ours that are legally mine.

He said: Yes, but don’t tell me what it is. Make it something special.

That was a good answer, which wasn’t surprising. He takes deep questions seriously, and we’re well past the point where you have to act like it’s awkward to imply that your relationship will exist more than a few years in the future. So of course he had a good answer — but it was also a difficult one. What object that I owned could possibly say what I needed it to? There was, it must be said, not too much to choose from.

That’s a big part of the reason why young unmarried people with no children — that’s me: 28, legally unattached, childless — don’t usually bother with a will. Unlike a medical directive, which everyone should have, wills are something we can do without. The law of intestacy, the statutes that cover what happens when you die without said last testament, should take care of you just fine unless you’re very wealthy, whereas I fall into the It’s A Wonderful Life category: worth more dead than alive. I’m living comfortably, but my life-insurance policy is my most valuable asset.

Plus, most young people don’t need a will for an even more basic reason. Most of them don’t die.

However, even if death is a constant, life has changed. Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report finding that nearly half of American women 15–44 cohabitated with a partner prior to marriage, using data from 2006–2010. That was a major increase from past studies, and by now the numbers may well be even higher. A cohabitating partner is entitled to nothing when the other dies. Marriage and children are also coming later in life, which means that people are acquiring more wealth before the laws regarding spousal inheritance kick in and before they have to choose a guardian for their child. So for people like me, without a will, there’s no way to say give this thing to my friend, give this thing to my brother, donate this thing to charity.

Hence, my will obsession. If all goes according to plan, it will be the umbrella that keeps the rain from falling, rendered obsolete within a few years. Marriage and children and my inevitable Powerball victory will change my priorities, and I’ll have to write a new one. But, as anyone who’s ever thought about a will must have realized, not everything goes according to plan.

***

Given changing social norms, estate planning ought to be a mainstay for millennial trend-watchers, except that there’s no way to know how many of us are actually out there thinking about the topic. There’s no way to know how many wills there are, period. Lawrence Friedman, a professor at Stanford Law and the author of Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts and Inheritance Law estimates that — though there’s no way to track them — wills may be getting more common as popular awareness increases. A century ago, even counting the super-wealthy, he thinks probably half of the population gave it a thought. But, he says, the role of wills is also changing, as people live longer and are more likely to give their children money while everyone is still alive.

What’s not changing is that wills are fascinating to think about. Whether it’s the buzzy economist Thomas Piketty discussing the way inherited wealth affects society or a historian analyzing Shakespeare’s bequeathing his “second-best bed” to his wife, people who look at wills see more than what the dead person wants to do with his stuff. “I used to say to my class that what DNA is to the body this branch of law is to the social structure,” Friedman puts it.

Though it may seem obvious today that each adult has the right to leave his property to whomever he chooses, that privilege isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion. Historically, there have been two competing theories behind inheritance law. One side holds that having a will is an inalienable right; the 17th century scholar Hugo Grotius wrote that, even though wills can be defined by law, they’re actually part of “the law of nature” that gives humans the ability to own things. John Locke agreed: if we believe property can be owned, it follows that we must believe that ownership includes the right to pass that property to whomever the owner chooses.

On the other hand, there’s just as long a tradition of the idea that wills are a right established by government and not by nature, because, not to put too fine a point on it, you can’t take it with you. If ownership ends at death, the state should get to decide how inheritance works, for example by saying that all property must always go to the eldest son, or by allowing children written out of a will to appeal to the state. Perhaps due to colonial American distaste for the trappings of aristocracy, the U.S. ended up with the former system — and Daniel Rubin, an estates lawyer and vice president of the Estate Planning Council of New York City, says it’s a right worth exercising. “For most young people, it’s not going to be relevant. But it’s a safeguard. People should appreciate the opportunity to do what they want with their stuff,” he says. “We’ve got a concept in the United States of free disposition of your wealth. You can choose to do with it whatever you want.”

Most wills written by young people won’t be read — except maybe by our future selves, nostalgic for the time when a $20 ukulele was a prized possession — and the ones that will be seen will be sad. If I die tomorrow, that will be what’s known as an unnatural order of death, the child going before the parents. Inheritance is not meant to flow upward. On that, tax law and the heart agree. It’s one area where millennials’ will-writing and older generations’ diverge: usually, estate law is a happier field than one might expect, something I’ve been trying to keep in mind. Rubin says he cannot imagine practicing any other area of law and finding it so rewarding.

“It’s never sad. Sometimes people are reluctant to deal with these issues. Perhaps they feel it brings bad luck although they rarely express it that way. It’s probably that they just don’t see the need to do it because they don’t think they’re going to die soon,” he says. “It’s almost uniform that even the most reluctant clients will sign their wills and then leave my office and feel great.”

***

Of course, it’s not as if “what if I die” is a rare thought, even for people under 30. Tom Sawyer took it to extremes; Freud thought we’re all itching to find out. People will be sad, we hope. Maybe we care about funeral arrangements, like the tragic Love, Actually character whose pallbearers march to the sound of the Bay City Rollers. Maybe we think we know what comes next; maybe we think nothing does. Maybe we’ve thought about who gets the heirlooms, the things that always carry a whiff of death about them.

What happens to the ordinary stuff that fills our homes is less likely to cross our minds. And lot of what we have, or at least what I have, is just crap on some level, mostly. That used starter-level Ikea, left behind by an old roommate who moved to California, isn’t exactly something I’d pass down. My most valuable possessions are mostly Bat Mitzvah gift jewelry. And my favorite possessions aren’t necessarily valuable. And if I did give these things away, how would they be received?

Once, I got a gift from a family friend days before she died. It was a beautiful silk scarf. The death was not unexpected, but I didn’t write a thank-you note in time. The envelope meant for that task was on my desk for years. It was hers, though she never got it, so I couldn’t send it to someone else. Nor could I bring myself throw it away. So I put it aside, indefinitely, until I moved apartments and it was lost in the shuffle, quite literally, in a box marked “stationery.” I didn’t want my crap to become that envelope, useless and painful and eventually lost. Potential candidates: an Altoids tin full of spare buttons, my half-filled journals, decade-old mix tapes; pens and pencils, giveaway tote bags, decks of cards, reference books; nice things like a painting, a laptop, that scarf; the stuff that goes unnamed in the will, under the clause that includes the words “all the rest of my estate.”

The things we leave behind can be heavy. Perhaps the most special something I could leave my boyfriend would be the freedom not to carry me with him. I was reminded of a poem that the rabbi always reads during the memorial portion of the Yom Kippur service. “When all that’s left of me / is love, / give me away,” it ends. I’d never really thought I was paying attention during that part, but it was there, in my brain, waiting for such a moment. (I looked it up; it’s called “Epitaph,” by Merrit Malloy).

That’s the other option — and, for a while, despite having spent so much time thinking about my will, I was tempted. I could write a simpler will, with only the instruction to give everything to charity, or I could follow the long-standing young person’s tradition and just scrap the whole endeavor.

Except stuff is the only language left to speak. Even Rubin, who says his work is 97% concerned with money rather than objects, knows the feeling: he has a samovar that came to America with his family when they left Eastern Europe with almost nothing. It’s worth little but referred to throughout his life by his mother as his yerushe, Yiddish for inheritance. And “leave me something special” wasn’t all that my boyfriend said. It’s sad to think about, he said, but I like the idea of being named in your will. It’s a privilege to hear someone speaking to you when you thought the chance was gone, he said. No matter what it says in the will, he said, I’ll be happy to hear your voice. He has a point. After all, the verb “bequeath” is from an Old English word meaning “to speak.”

So I decided not to give up on the will. I’ll give my junk and my money to the people I love — though I did end up adding two more clauses before I felt finished. First, I added a few sentences in my own words to the legalese of the template I’d found online: don’t feel bad if you have to get rid of something, I told my heirs. Legally enforceable? No. Worth saying? Yes. Second, I found that something special, something not too heavy.

I printed the will. I found some witnesses and we signed the paper. I folded it up and put it in an envelope and put that envelope somewhere safe. And then I went back to my life.

TIME Sex

Parents and Teens Aren’t Embarrassed by the Sex Talk Anymore

Condoms Teens Sex
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But there's still a lot more conversations that need to happen, according to new data shared exclusively with TIME

Adolescence is an entirely new beast in the era of high-speed Internet and smartphones. People have never been so easy to chat with nor has content been so easy to download–and that adds a new layer to the parental ritual of having “the talk.” But new data shows that while parents and young people are perfectly willing to chat about sex, they may not be doing it as often as they should.

Planned Parenthood and and New York University’s Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,663 pairs of parents and their children, ages 9-21, to get a sense of how American families of all backgrounds are communicating about sex and healthy relationships. What the inquiry found was that eight out of 10 young people have talked to their parents about sexuality. Among those pairs, about half of the parents said they started having the talk with their kids by age 10 and 80% initiated the conversation by age 13.

While a high majority of parents (80%) talked to their kids about sexuality beyond the basics, like peer pressure and how to stay safe online, responses also revealed that they weren’t doing it all that frequently. Over 20% of parents said they’d never talked to their 15-21-year-olds about strategies for saying no to sex, birth control methods, or where to get accurate sexual health information, and over 30% hadn’t talked to their kids about where to get reproductive health services.

“The great news is that parents and teens are talking about these topics,” says Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Most parents and their children report starting these conversations before the age of 14, and they are talking about topics like peer pressure, puberty and staying safe online. The bad news is that people don’t necessarily have a lot of conversations, so [it] doesn’t become ongoing.”

Although most parents and young people said they didn’t feel embarrassed to talk about sex, nor felt they needed to rely on schools to do it, sometimes parents weren’t very clear about their stance on virginity. For instance, 61% of parents want young people to wait to have sex until they can handle the responsibility (45% advocated waiting for marriage), but only 52% of parents talked to their kids about sexual values, regardless of their beliefs.

Experts suggest that starting the conversation may be the trickiest part. “Young people are dealing with some different contexts than in the past,” says Kantor, citing the pervasiveness of social media. “When was I was growing up, I couldn’t meet up with someone by meeting them on a game online. These things didn’t used to happen.”

Kantor says parents are learning to deal with circumstances they never experienced themselves, and therefore feel like they can’t keep up, or don’t really know where to start when it comes to sexuality in the digital age.

Sometimes, using the same technologies can be the best way to ensure positive learning opportunities–an idea Planned Parenthood has adopted. If young people are getting a lot of sex education from the media other online sources—more than 75% of primetime programming contains sexual content—then parents and educators can harness that for the good.

Planned Parenthood has set up chat and text sex education programs that allow young people to chat in realtime with a PP staffer about everything from STD to morning-after pill questions. In September alone, there were 10,974 conversations, and since the launch in May this year, there have been a total of 393,174. The organization also has an Awkward or Not app that takes young people through an online quiz that gives them the chance to send their parents a text to start a conversation about dating and sex.

“We are very committed to ensuring that parents are the primary sex educators of their own kids,” says Kantor. “Use TV as an opportunity. Even if the show is sending a terrible message, it gives you a chance to get in there with something else. For example, asking, ”Is this what people look like at your school? Not everyone is size two.'”

Ultimately, 90% of parents surveyed said they think that sex ed should be taught in both middle school and high school, which is telling in a country where abstinence-only education is still a mainstay and often sex ed is reserved to a brief health or gym class period—or in some places is entirely non-existent. There’s a lot of incomplete or incorrect information out there when it comes to sexuality, and if parents and young people really don’t feel that embarrassed to have these conversations, then it’s time to break the ice.

Read next: How Nudity Became the New Normal

TIME relationships

Why Dating Someone Younger Shouldn’t Be a Big Deal

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Getty Images

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

One of my friends only dates much younger dudes and it’s not a good look for her. She always end up in super casual relationships where neither of them seem to take it very seriously, but I know she wants to have a family one day. I get that everyone has “a type” but I care about her and don’t want her to keep wasting her time on these scrubs. Should I say something?

Natalie Ruge, Licensed Marriage And Family Therapist

If your friend seems to truly be enjoying her casual relationships and is okay when they don’t last very long, then sounds like it’s more your problem than her problem. A younger man may feel like more of a challenge, give her a sense of control, or just be a better match for her — sexually or otherwise. Some women enjoy being assertive with a younger man, making the first move, and confidently telling him what she likes and doesn’t like. And, if that’s the case, then more power to her! The world needs more people who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go after it, regardless of social norms or peer pressure. It could even be said that the older woman-younger man pairing results in a more equal power dynamic, and research shows that mutual respect and high regard is a strong indicator of a long-term, successful relationship.

(MORE: The Worst Questions Women Get When Online Dating)

I believe that your concern comes from a good place, but it does sound a little bit judgmental. Are these men “scrubs” just because they’re younger, or not in the kind of careers that you consider successful? And, why do you assume that she can’t have a family with someone younger than her? Maybe settling down with an age-appropriate finance type sounds like a death sentence to her. Just because you’re friends and have things in common doesn’t mean you have the same romantic interests. And, that’s a good thing — at least you’ll never fight over an S.O., which is never a good look.

(MORE: Dating 101: The New Rules)

On the other hand, if you’re just curious and want to know her better, there’s no reason why you can’t start a non-judgmental, but honest, conversation about what you want in a committed partner and then ask her what she wants in hers. However you handle it, just remember that for the most part, unsolicited opinions are rarely received well. No matter how nicely you say it, the message will be that you know what’s better for her than she does. If the guys she’s dating treat her like an adult that’s fully capable of making her own choices (and it seems like they are), you should too. Unless a friend is hurting herself or someone else, it’s best to live and let live.

There’s a difference between concern and control, so unless the issue is somehow affecting you directly, or if she seems unhappy about said partners, keep your opinions to yourself and enjoy your friend’s scandalous cougar tales. Maybe she’ll even convince you to give it a go yourself — have fun!

(MORE: Why I Dated a Guy Who Hated My Body)

TIME Dating

These Colleges Have the Most and Least Dateable Alumni

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Toasting wine glasses Getty Images

Colgate has the most dateable alums, according to a new survey of people in New York and San Francisco

There’s an abundant stream of college rankings based on anything from “smartest” students to “sexxxiest” students to the mythical students who are “both hot and smart.

But if you thought these never-ending lists are enough to consult for an ideal dinner date — you might want to check out one more ranking before making that reservation. Paid matchmaking service The Dating Ring collected 7,500 date feedback reports from 1,600 people over an 18-month period to see which college alumni served as the most enjoyable dates. Datability scores were calculated based on the percent of people who said that they would opt for a second date and ranged from 17% (for Babson College) to 81% (for Colgate University).

The Best:

  1. Colgate University
  2. Lehigh University
  3. University of Texas Austin
  4. University of Southern California
  5. McGill University
  6. University of Delaware
  7. San Francisco State University
  8. Boston University
  9. Northwestern University
  10. Williams College

The Worst:

  1. Babson College
  2. University of Chicago
  3. Rutgers University
  4. University of Washington
  5. Michigan State University
  6. SUNY, Binghamton (Binghamton University)
  7. University of California, Berkeley
  8. University of Pennsylvania
  9. Princeton University
  10. University of California, Santa Barbara

Of course, there are caveats. While 316 different colleges were represented, the results weren’t representative of the whole country. A whopping 81% of those surveyed between March 2013 and September 2014 live in New York City while the other 19% live in San Francisco.

TIME relationships

Why Your Grandparents Are Divorcing

Dan Chung—Dan Chung / Aurora Photos

And why you might need to worry about it

For several years now, sociologists have noticed that education is a great protector against divorce. College-educated couples are about half as likely to divorce as high-school-educated couples. In fact, the rate of divorce among the college-educated is lower than it was 30 years ago. All except in one case: people older than 50.

Nearly 1 in 4 people who is experiencing divorce in the U.S. is over 50. Almost 1 in 10 is older than 64. People over the age of 50 are twice as likely to divorce as their forebears were as recently as 1990. And for that age, education doesn’t matter: those with degrees and those without are having the divorce papers drawn up in equal numbers.

Some of this can be attributed to the fact that older people are often on their second or third marriages, which traditionally are less stable than first marriages. But a lot aren’t. “More than half of gray divorces are to couples in first marriages,” write Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin in a new paper for a Council on Contemporary Families symposium, adding that even more than half of these late-life breakups were between couples who had been married more than 20 years.

You’d think after two decades of living in close quarters, people would have ironed out their differences. And you could well be right, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy. “Many of these marriages have not been marked by severe discord,” says the study Gray Divorce: A Growing Risk Regardless of Class or Education, which went online on Oct 8. Instead, it seems like empty-nesters, having finished that joint project known as raising the kids, now find they don’t have so much in common. And since divorce can be free (at least theoretically) of finger-pointing and blame — no-fault divorce is now available in every state — they go their separate ways once the children are grown.

Brown doesn’t think there’s a direct link between no-fault divorce and the uptick in elderly divorces, but rather that they are both part of the same reshaping of marriage that has been under way for several decades. “Marriage is now more individualized,” she says. “For couples who aren’t happy, divorce is an acceptable solution. Neither partner has to be ‘at fault’ — instead, the couple could have simply grown apart.”

The other new realities that make splitting up an increasingly attractive option for the AARP crowd are the fact that women are more financially independent and don’t need to stay with a spouse who really gets on their nerves, nor do their spouses need to stay with them, and the increasing length of time people are living after they stop being in paid employment. “They might spend another 15 to 20 years together beyond retirement, which is a long time if you don’t love someone anymore,” says Brown. Add to that the low stigma attached to divorce and the high level of thrill people expect their marriages to provide (plus let’s throw in, say, the way their spouse crunches on grapes), and it just seems easier to cut bait.

(MORE: Your Facebook Habits Can Help Predict if You’ll Get a Divorce)

But while gray divorce is not bad for children in the way an earlier divorce can be, it still has a significant cost. Older divorced people tend to have only a fifth of the wealth that older married couples or even older widowed folk have. “The net wealth of those who were widowed after age 50 is more than twice as high as the net wealth of gray divorceds,” says the study. “And … on average, gray divorceds can count on less than $14,000 per year from Social Security.”

Brown is worried about this trend on more than just economic grounds, however. “I think there is good reason for serious concern,” she says. “A growing share of older adults is on the brink of old age alone.” These are the years, after all, when the vows about sickness and health really get tested. “Traditionally, spouses have been the first line of defense in caring for frail elders. But now, an increasing share of older adults don’t have a spouse who can care for them.” Asks Brown: “Who will step in and provide this care?”

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