Talking Through Some Big Decisions Will Help You and Your Partner Get on the Same Page Before Retirement

It’s common for couples to have very different ideas about what retirement would be like, and the cost of providing those different lifestyles may vary significantly. For example, a career-oriented husband may think he’d like to continue working in some capacity, while his wife could be counting the days until the two of them can spend more time together. If these two don’t share their ideas about the future, their visions could conflict.

Reconciling your perceptions, wants and needs for retirement—and how you’ll pay for them—is essential to enjoying this new stage of your life. To help set the stage, schedule periodic “pre-retirement dates” in which you share, dream and plan together. The conversation may seem awkward at first, so try to answer some of the following questions.

1. When do you want to retire? These days, retirement age can range anywhere from 55 to 85. For some, continuing to work may be a financial imperative, while others just want to stay active and mentally sharp.

2. Where do you want to live? On the beach or a golf course? Near your children or near a major airport? Should you move to a community with peers your own age or to a college town filled with cultural events? Many couples assume they’ll continue living right where they are, but never consider other options. Choosing to retire elsewhere can have financial advantages, such as downsizing from the family home or moving to a less expensive locale. Talk about what activities you want to engage in when you retire— that might help pinpoint where to live. 

3. Who do you want to spend time with? You retire, but your best friends stay on the job. Suddenly, you have little in common anymore. Consider whether spending more time with your spouse is something you both want or if you’ll want to broaden your social group.

4. What activities motivate you? Discuss what you and your spouse will enjoy doing together, and what you’ll do apart. Have you talked about splitting up the household chores? If one spouse chooses to work longer, the other may need to take on more housework than before. Also, consider how much time you’ll spend with children and grandchildren. Spouses may have very different ideas about this—as may your adult children.

5. How do you plan to pay for retirement? Naturally, you can dream up a pie-in-the-sky retirement if you don’t have to pay for it. You should calculate the total of income that your retirement sources will yield. If it’s not enough to meet your plans, or if any of the sources can’t be counted on for a reliable level of income, ask your financial adviser about ways you might reposition assets to meet your long-term goals. Couples may also be out of sync in their attitudes toward risk, which should also be addressed.

6. How much do you know about each other’s dying wishes?

The discussion should also include sharing your thoughts on end-of-life wishes. It’s important to accept the reality that declining health will be a factor in retirement. One of you is likely to wind up taking care of the other, and you should talk about each of your preferences for medical care and end-of-life issues long before you reach that point. Doing so can help you better appreciate the time you have together.

Five things to consider:

  • Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
  • The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
  • How comfortable you want to be.
  • How you want people to treat you.
  • What you want your loved ones to know.

Source: Ivy Funds

W. Dale Crossley, JD Financial Planner, RJFS


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