Think about the last time you wanted to do x and your spouse or life partner wanted to do y. How did you resolve your conflict? Did you both play fair when negotiating a compromise or does one of you always ‘win’? And if one of you usually gets your way most of the time, is it because he/she is the one that makes more or perhaps all the money in your relationship?
What happens if you’ve been the breadwinner throughout your relationship, but now your spouse/partner has inherited a significant inheritance? Suddenly you find yourself on a more level playing field, financially speaking. Instead of getting your way, as usual, in terms of money decisions, you now need to learn or relearn the art of negotiating with your life partner.
Couples and how they earn, spend and invest their money come in all shapes and sizes. Beyond that, you have to recognize that each person in a long-term relationship has their own money story, core beliefs and many times ‘baggage’ they bring into the relationship.
I Married for Better or Worse But Not for Lunch Every Day
Fast forward through life and now you’re both in your first year of retirement. It’s been a little clunky the first couple of months as you get adjusted to seeing each other every day. There were quite a few loose ends to sort out, but now all that has been taken care of and on to the next phase of your life. Or so you hope….
And then, it happens. You have your first conflict around money since you both retired. Having already developed a retirement income plan prior to launching into retirement, you know precisely the amount of discretionary funds you can use for travel and entertainment. You call this your fun money and you’re eager to spend it albeit, wisely.
Next, imagine you’re the one that earned less, perhaps much less than your spouse during your working years. When you reached financial flashpoints in the past, you quickly learned when to ‘hold-em’ and ‘when to fold-em’. Because he/she earned much more than you, had a far more stressful job than you, and although many times you wanted x and he/she wanted y, as the peacemaker in the family, you went along to get along and keep the peace.
But now, your time has come. No longer are you content being the one that usually lets your spouse get their way. Years and years of not saying yes to yourself, of doing what you knew in your heart was the right thing to do and for all the right reasons; well today’s a new day, it’s your turn, and you’re ready to say yes to yourself, full stop, end of story.
Yes + Yes Wins the Day
As ready as you are to become more assertive, to stand up for yourself and express your desires clearly and passionately, you realize that making up for all the times you didn’t get your way when it came to a money decision by now getting your way all the time is a losing strategy, bound to end in conflict and sore feelings.
I’m not suggesting negotiating with your spouse or life partner is going to be an easy conversation, because it’s not. Often times you’re out of practice and fall into your pre-retirement roles by default. But just like early on in your relationship, there are always differences to adjust to and compromises to be made as you plan for retirement.
But 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 one’s self as individuals and 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 money harmony, some would call it ‘money heaven’, 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.
And remember, the goal when deciding how to spend your money in retirement is to seek and find common ground at all times. If a financial decision, whether large or small, results in a yes and no, back to the negotiating table you must go, because retirement happiness and success is all about a yes and a yes.
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