Discussing Retirement Options with Your Mate

Imagine two days after you retire, you ‘invest’ a chunk of your savings into a camper and boat so you can live your dream of fly fishing the country’s blue ribbon waters. Honey, let’s go! But you’re a bright guy and note her enthusiasm for the adventure is a few notches below yours. Perhaps it’s time to finally have the talk… about retirement.

Some people ask me the secret to being married for 3 decades. Separate vacations. Of course I’m joking, to a degree. Most couples share common values and beliefs (similar to successful businesses or organizations). Yet each member individual goals, priorities and concerns. Negotiating those differences makes for a healthy tribe.

When’s the last time you’ve had a serious discussion about retirement with your mate? And life changers (e.g. recession, career and health) ought to trigger another fireside chat. However, some couples aren’t communicating. Following are some common challenges.

$26,000 Dining Room Set – The set is gorgeous! A long handsome table, and comfortable high back chairs. Twenty-six grand? No silly, it was a steal at six. We must resize the dining room so we don’t have to seat the skinny people on one side and the relaxed fit on the other. (Note: This is a good challenge – The classic goal of being able to spend without worry, and being prudent savers with a solid plan).

Retiring Too Early – Exiting the game too early can be dangerous. The risk is tapping into retirement too much too soon. What can you do to retool, retrain, and remarket your expertise?

Pursing Other Interests – For some, their work is their life – they’ll be carried out on their shields. Others have calendars choked with activities. Any animosity between partners? Spouse is traveling with friends or family while the other ‘toils’ at the office. Or one prefers painting at home, to being ‘dragged’ to another fundraiser. Are they ‘ok?’

Longevity – Actuaries forecast longer life expectancies, and the ladies outlive the guys. Major issues are (1) savings need to stretch, and endure inflation, (2) health deteriorates (i.e. expense and access to caregivers), and (3) the survivor’s (generally women) capacity and comfort in managing personal finances.

Some pointers to help put things in your favor –

Conversations – Communication is necessary for understanding how each other feels, thinks and sees the future. You’re aligning goals, priorities and concerns. Finance discussions can happen at the dinner table, weekend couple retreats, or facilitated by an independent expert.

Education – “I’ll wash, if you’ll cook” shouldn’t apply long term to managing personal finances. Each should know how the money’s made, spent, invested, taxed, and protected – and both attend workshops and meet with their family’s advisors.

Teamwork – It’s better to have shoulders to lean on. Life can be complicated, and there are multiple solutions. You’re trying to make the best decision; expertise and objectivity helps. Work as a team, including trusted professionals – you’ll need resources when your Superman pajamas wears thin.

They say that opposites attract. Better you be united for financial wellness. Retirement planning for couples has challenges. What are yours?

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