NEW YORK (MainStreet) — During the 2008 financial recession, stocks bottomed and consumers exited the stock market in fear of losing even more money. At the same time, their retirement plans were likely interrupted by job losses and their focus shifted from saving for the future to figuring out how to get by in the present.

While the stock market has rebounded substantially since its March 2009 low, retirement still remains a murky part of personal finance, especially for divorced couples, according to a new study.

HSBC surveyed 16,000 people worldwide and found that 20% of respondents don't think they'll ever be able to retire. For those divorced and living alone, that number jumps to 33%.

The stress and emotional trauma of a divorce takes a huge toll, but Brian Schwartz, vice president and financial advisor for HSBC Securities says a divorced couple should look at retirement in the same way a married couple does.

"The financial aspects of divorce involve thinking about how to divide up your income and lifestyles. This gets even more complex if there are dependent children involved," he adds.

With divorce, it's not always an equal separation of assets. If you emerge from a divorce as the party who ended up with less than you expected, don't feel as though it will be impossible to recover.

"It's never too late to create a plan – if you're the party that got the smaller amount from the divorce, you have to reassess where you stand. It may be easier for a 35-year-old to get back on track, but it doesn't mean it's impossible for someone in their fifties to get back," says Schwartz.

When creating a plan to fit your new life, it's important to consider several factors. First, if you have dependent children, keeping their best interest in mind is key. This includes how their college education will be funded, along with their monthly living expenses until they are no longer dependent.

Secondly, it's vital to not make any major financial decisions in the months following a divorce. This is when your emotions are still flimsy. Making critical investment or financial decisions during this time is risky until you've given yourself time to recover from the divorce.

Schwartz also advises clients to be honest when it comes to the possibility of changing their spending habits after the divorce.

"There is a certain amount of income contributed to a shared lifestyle. Although divorced, it still has to be shared responsibly to facilitate two lifestyles. Both parties may have to alter their standard of living."

- Written by Scott Gamm for MainStreet. Gamm is author of MORE MONEY, PLEASE.