Are You and Your Spouse Planning the Same Retirement?

By Nora Dunn on 15 September 2008 (Updated 22 September 2008) 2 comments
Photo: Nora Dunn

You expect to spend your retirement years living in Costa Rica. Your spouse expects to stay local and join the golf club.

And you don’t figure this out until the day before you retire. Oops.

 

Marriage Killers

There are a few things that tend to take even the most solid of couples by surprise: weddings, finances, and retirement planning.

Weddings: You get engaged to the person of your dreams and look forward to realizing your joint vision of eloping to the Caribbean. You realize to your dismay that the vision was single-sided when you are asked to become a Catholic to satisfy your spouse’s parents’ wishes of a traditional wedding with a guest list of approximately 300. Engaged couples have been known to break up trying to plan their wedding.

Finances: Finances aren’t easy to communicate about at the best of times. It is one of the primary reasons for divorce.

Retirement: By the time two people have stuck in it together through thick and thin to reach retirement, marriage break-up is rare, but it happens. If you realize too late that you and your spouse are on very different pages with regards to what your retirement will look like, you could be on thin ice.

 

Just a Few More Years…

Some people spend their whole working lives just “hanging on” until retirement. Somehow they figure that day they stop working, everything will be better. They will have more free time, they won’t be a slave to a desk (or a boss), and will finally get to reap the benefits of a lifetime of hard work.

 

But what exactly will that retirement look like? And have you shared your vision with your spouse (and vice versa)?

 

I’m Not Telling

Some people are very private in nature. The idea of sharing their life’s dreams with a financial planner sends them running for the hills. What? Talk to a stranger about things I don’t even talk to other family members about? Never.

 

But without some form of communication about retirement, you could find those precious years of leisure wasting away as you and your spouse struggle to find a common ground to enjoy your golden years on. And talking to a financial planner is a great way to open the lines of communication. Not only do they have the tools to help you reach your goals effectively, but they can quarterback the plan and provide perspective and guidance where it is needed.

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If however, you are still unable to share this personal side of yourselves with an outsider, then here are a few questions for you and your spouse to discuss to get the wheels turning:

 

  • What will an average day look like for us when we’re retired?
  • Where will we live? What will our home be like?
  • What activities or hobbies will we enjoy? Together or separately?
  • How much will it cost: daily, weekly, monthly, and annually? (Use today’s dollars to make things easy. You can calculate a reasonable rate of inflation to determine the future value pretty easily).
  • What do we have to do now to make this vision a reality later?

 

Dream A Little

Keeping your nose to the grindstone and not allowing yourself to dream about retirement for whatever reason can make you lose sight of the forest through all the trees pretty quickly. If however, while you are looking towards retirement, you become depressed about having to continue working currently for what seems like eons to go, then maybe it is time to look at a new career. Heck – maybe you’ll want to break free of the norm and retire early! (I managed it at the age of 30, without being rich by any stretch. It just took some creativity, lots of flexibility, and a new twist on my definition of retirement).

 

 

You are never too young to start talking to your spouse about retirement. Because the sooner you both know what you want, the sooner you both can shoot for it, and the sooner you both will get there.

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Jenna

How about the spouse who dreams of retirement with a diffrent significant other (often years younger) This can really throw a curve in your retirement plans!

Guest's picture

Great article. In romance opposites may attract, when it comes to retirement, opposites can distract. Couples, if they want to avoid problems later in their marriage, should talk and agree on a retirement plan before they get married.

Here's a list of questions you should ask your soon-to-be life partner.

Marriage and Retirement

I speak from personal experience. A disagreement over retirement resulted in the end of a 17 year marriage.