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Retirement Planning for Couples

Mark Zaifman   |    Tue, Feb 21, 2012 @ 06:00 AM

mapretirement planning for couples

In a recent survey by Fidelity Investments, 500 couples were asked about their plans for retirement. The survey targeted couples near retirement or those who had already retired.

What the survey revealed was that although many couples work hard in the savings aspect of retirement – they do a very poor job at communicating with each other about their individual goals, dreams and expectations around retirement.  Since they hadn’t previously discussed it, a large percent of couples reach retirement age without having decided on the big questions like where to live or at what age to retire.  

As someone who enjoys the process of planning, I find it difficult to imagine why couples wouldn’t want to discuss their future together. I don’t mean only the financials, which is obviously a top priority in retirement planning, but the life planning aspect of retirement - charting the details about the next chapter of a couples life together. To me, this is as exciting as planning the beginning of a life together. 

I’m not suggesting it’s an easy conversation, because often times there are disagreements on the details of where and when. But just like early on in the relationship, there are always new compromises to be made and differences to get used to when you build a life together.

But I say, isn’t that the exciting part of growing old together? It’s an opportunity for a fresh start, exciting new changes and opportunities to grow and expand together. It’s a chance to reinvent ones self as individuals, but as a couple as well. 

I recently came across an excellent book on retirement called The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Transitioning to the Second Half of Life, by Roberta Taylor and Dorian Mintzer. 

The authors are relationship therapists and retirement coaches, which is an excellent combination for the millions of baby boomers getting ready to, or have already retired. This book can help you in mapping out how to live your retirement years in harmony with your partner.

Don’t expect to read the book and have all the answers immediately. The real work is in talking with your partner and having real discussions – arguments and all. Don’t expect to see eye-to-eye on everything, but look at these discussions as series of steps in designing the next chapter in the life you’ve dreamed of.

My wife Pat and I have been talking about retirement options for a long time. When I consider retirement, I don’t think about days filled with golf or tennis. I think about keeping mentally active by working part-time. I plan to take classes to learn new things and meet new people with similar interests. I"ll take more time to travel, exploring places close to home and in other countries. I spend more time volunteering and becoming more involved with local politics. We’ve got the specifics of our retirement picture written in a journal we started in 1992 – so we’re not at a loss as to where to begin.

Since Pat and I have been talking about our retirement for years, we are pretty much in agreement on what our lives will look like.  Since we have a solid financial plan, we know how it’s going to happen.  I admit though, we still haven’t decided on the where – although we currently have it narrowed down to several exciting options. The point is that we began talking about it early on in our relationship and have continued our discussions through the years. We understand the importance of flexibility and we know how to implement Plan A, B or C when necessary.    


Photo by Walt Stoneburner