Retiring Couples: Plan Your New Lifestyle Together

If you’ve been married for a while, you’ll agree that so far most of your time has been spent apart.  Time and attention has been devoted to careers and raising a family.

So, it’s no surprise that many couples dream of the day when they can retire and sail off into the sunset together.

Do you wonder what it will be like when you’re together 24/7?

Retirement is a period of a long-anticipated, but significant, life change and it can take some adjustment, especially within your relationship with each other.

Discuss your plans for the future

Couples work very hard to save for retirement.  However, far too many don’t take the time to jointly discuss their plans for the future.

It’s obvious you need to talk to each other about not just financial issues, but also what type of lifestyle you each hope to enjoy.

A Fidelity Investments retirement study found that for the most part, the surveyed couples who were approaching retirement or already retired weren’t communicating with each other very well.

  • Half of the boomers surveyed don’t even discuss their retirement plans, let alone agree on it.
  • 36% of couples don’t agree, or don’t know, where they will live in retirement.
  • Nearly two-thirds of couples approaching retirement didn’t agree on the age at which they would retire.

Related:  Designing Your Retirement Lifestyle

There are major decisions to consider and even rock-solid couples may discover they have some different goals or expectations for retirement.

Here are five suggestions to make the transition easier for both of you.

     1.  Share your vision of what your retirement will look like

You may think your retirement will be fine as long as you’re financially secure.  But that’s not necessarily so. 

Maybe you are anticipating years of travel and adventure while your spouse wants to stay home relaxing, gardening or fishing, or even start a business or second career.

What if your spouse wants to move to the coast but you don’t want to spend the money and you hate the idea of living in a damp, rainy region?

Talk about such issues as how much time you will spend visiting your children and grandchildren and whether you want to explore new interests or volunteer.

Not surprisingly, you need to be willing to compromise and explore new solutions until you meet somewhere in the middle.  Or you can give your separate visions a trial run and then later re-evaluate.  Make it a rule that you both have to agree on any major decision.

The goal is to clarify what is important to each of you and develop a shared vision so you enjoy  the next part of your life together.

     2.  How much time will you spend together?

There will be some things you enjoy doing together and other you won’t.  You need to agree on how much time you will allow each other to enjoy individual pursuits.

The fact that your spouse doesn’t want to spend all of his or her time with you doesn’t mean he or she no longer loves you.  It’s rare for a couple to truly enjoy being together 24 hours a day, every day (think about that if you plan to criss cross the country in an RV).

But you’ll still find you are around each other most of the time and it can be easy to take your time together for granted or start to argue about silly things.  If you need some “space” designate a separate room or area for each partner if possible.

Make sure you plan some time to have fun together.

    3.  Pursue your own interests and maintain separate friendships

You shouldn’t assume that you will automatically be included in your spouse’s social circles.  Nor should either spouse feel like they have to spend less time with their friends in order to spend more time together. 

Spend some time socializing with others as a couple, not just with your partner.

You can find other people to connect with by taking classes, joining clubs or volunteering.

    4.  How will your roles change?

If you don’t retire at the same time how will you feel if you are no longer the primary breadwinner?  The spouse who retires first will probably transition into the role of primary homemaker but make sure he (let’s assume it’s the husband) knows that’s the agenda. 

Related:  Should Couples Retire at the Same Time?

One issue that can cause friction is when a husband assumes his wife will take on all the household tasks while he enjoys his leisure (essentially the homemaker never retires).  Renegotiate how you divide up the chores and don’t supervise each other’s work.  That rarely ends well.

    5.  Monitor your finances together

With many couples, one spouse assumes the responsibility for managing the household finances.  In anticipation of living on a more limited income, you should talk about how your budget will change.  Both spouses should understand their financial situation and agree on how to adjust their spending habits.

The bottom line

Retirement can be a very enjoyable and fulfilling experience for many couples but it can also present challenges. Many aspects of your life can change all at once.

Your partner’s plan for retirement should agree with yours. 

With open communication, compromise and awareness of the changes that are taking place, you and your spouse can work together to create a lifestyle that you both enjoy.

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