Your retirement isn’t all about your finances. I regularly try to stress that point. Financial security and knowing you have a plan increase your options and peace of mind. But how you spend your time is critical to whether you are happy and have a successful retirement.
Another key soft aspect of your plan is your spouse or significant other. Coordinating retirement thoughts and goals could be the most important part of your plan.
It’s logical to assume that couples are planning for the future together, but often they’re not, according to Fidelity Investments. The Couples Retirement Study conducted for Fidelity the last few years reveals many couples don’t agree on, and often don’t even talk about, key retirement issues.
Only 41% of couples handle investment decisions together, according to the most recent study. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some couples believe in division of labor and that one spouse does some things much better than the other. But one third of couples either can’t agree on or don’t know when they’ll retire. Half don’t agree on whether they’ll work after ?retirement.? Two-thirds don’t agree on the age they’ll retire, and 73% don’t agree on whether they’ve completed a detailed retirement income plan. You would think they’d be able to agree about whether or not they’ve completed a plan. Only 17% of spouses are confident that the other spouse could handle their joint retirement finances alone.
A lot of couples would be more confident as they approach retirement and be in better shape if they talked about some key issues. You need to talk with your spouse about more than retirement finances, though finances are a key issue. Of course, you don’t have to agree on everything, but you should know what each knows and is thinking and try to establish some joint goals and procedures.
One tool you can use is The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle by Roberta K. Taylor and Dorian Mintzer (a Retirement Watch subscriber) (Lincoln Street Press 2011). The authors are experienced therapists who counsel couples and give workshops on managing ?the second half of life.? The book identifies 10 ?must-have conversations? couples should have about those post-career years. As with all retirement planning, ideally you begin these discussions some years before retiring, but it’s never too late to begin. Even those already well into retirement could improve their lifestyles with some conversation.
Retirement brings major changes. Conversations couples should have include the timing of retirement (if, when, and how to retire), finances, how your roles and identities will change, intimacy, family, and health and wellness. You also need to discuss where and how to live, your social life, and your purpose or overall goals in retirement.
People who haven’t had these discussions probably don’t know how to begin them or aren’t comfortable having them. In the book, you benefit from the authors’ experiences and those of other couples they’ve worked with. Each chapter has an extensive discussion of different aspects of the topic that need to be considered and examples of thoughts other have had about them. The chapters end with questions or points a couple should consider and discuss.
I think many couples don’t have these discussions because most people haven’t considered the issues and really don’t know what they think about them. That’s where the book really can come in handy. It gives you ideas and stimulates thought by revealing what others have thought and discovered during the process.
Many people don’t realize how their retirement can affect others. For example, I was working with an organization that hired its recently-retired CEO for a specific project. He wrapped up the project and was invited to the annual holiday party. At the party, his wife was quietly pulling aside key staffers and board members to ask, ?Can’t you find something else for him to do??
It seems his full-time presence at home was interfering with her routine and causing tension. That’s something I’ve heard from other spouses of the retired. The newly-retired spouse either is underfoot or expects to be entertained all day.
Retirement is not a point in time, and a retirement plan is not fixed. Both are processes. You learn or circumstances change, and the plan needs to change. Couples go through the process. If they’re working together and talking the process and results will be better.