What to Discuss With Your Spouse About Retirement

Planning for retirement isn’t just about investing your money in different accounts; you and your spouse should have a conversation about how to strategically plan for your retirement needs.

Starting the Conversation

Planning for retirement isn’t just about investing your money in different accounts; you and your spouse should have a conversation about how to strategically plan for your retirement needs.Couples who are in happy marriages before retirement can suddenly have sharp disagreements afterward. It all comes down to open communication in the years leading up to those golden ones.

According to a March 2015 article in the New York Times, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has found that more than half of American households won’t have enough money to support their current lifestyle when they retire. More unfortunate: One in three Americans has not done any planning at all for his or her financial future.

“The two most important topics to cover with your spouse before retirement are finances and health,” says Sarah Kaufman, growth manager of Betterment, an investment management firm.

Kaufman suggests couples consider the following when discussing retirement: how much money you will need, where you should live and what you want to do with your lives.

According to the 2013 Fidelity Investments Couples Retirement Study, more than 40 percent of couples disagree on the lifestyle they want to enjoy during retirement. Men often see themselves being active in sports, while women see themselves enjoying hobbies, doing volunteer work or spending quality time with family. Additionally, 36 percent of couples couldn’t agree on where to live or hadn’t made up their minds.

“Discuss your goals, dreams, and priorities. Clarify expectations about time together and time apart, as well as changing expectations about roles and responsibilities at home. With more dual-career couples, I’ve seen that women don’t necessarily want to live their husband’s retirement dream – they want their own dream, which may include some separate and some together plans,” suggests Dorian Mintzer, retirement coach and co-author of “The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together,” in an article for Betterment.

Mintzer stresses that the husband and wife should decide upon their own individual vision of the future, and then work together toward a shared vision.

A “combination of independence and interdependence” is the ultimate retirement situation, says Mintzer. “Being tied at the hip may foster too much dependence on each other.”

Don’t Forget to Include Yourself in the Planning

It’s important not to feel guilty about taking some quality time for yourself. Planning for retirement is as much about your own individual needs as it is the needs of your spouse and as a couple.

“During the second stage of life – when we’re working and maybe raising a family – everyone else’s needs tend to come first,” says Mintzer. “This stage of life (retirement) is an opportunity to reclaim some ‘me time.’”

Some key retirement questions to consider together in how this “me time” will take shape include:

  • When exactly should we each retire?
  • How much time will we spend with children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and friends?
  • What do we desire for emotional and physical intimacy?
  • How much time should we devote to our social lives and building a community with others?
  • How will we find meaning and purpose in our later years?

“One surprise may be that [couples] start to get on each other’s nerves – and want some time and space apart. That doesn’t mean you have a bad relationship – what it does mean is that you need to have some important conversations. Without the work identity, there may be questions like, ‘Who am I?’ ‘Who are you?’ ‘Who are we?’” says Mintzer.

It’s clear that the key to a happy retirement is being clear – with each other and your expectations.

If you or your spouse would like to talk more about what goes into retirement planning, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.


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