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May 07, 2014

5 Tips for Talking About Retirement with Your Spouse

When you think about retirement, what comes to mind? For you, retirement may sound like freedom. Years of uninterrupted time stretches before you—time you can finally spend pursuing all those vacations and hobbies you’ve put on pause while holding down a full-time job. Your spouse, however, may see a drastically different picture. If you’ve already started the discussion, you may have heard something like this:

  • “Retirement? We’re way too young to be talking about that.”
  • “Our 401Ks really took a hit in recent years. How can we even think about leaving our jobs?”
  • “Not work? We’d be bored after a week!”

Retirement isn’t what it used to be. The average age of retirement has increased from 57 in the early 1990s to 61 today, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. Increasingly more people continue to work for a decade or more after that. Barbara Walters, for example, only recently announced her plans to say goodbye to her lifelong journalism career—and she’s 84. Many maturing boomers increasingly see retirement as gradual transition away from the work force, rather than the sudden end of a chapter in their lives.

For close to 20 years, Maggie Stark, Director of Admissions at Kendal at Oberlin, has talked to many couples considering future retirement plans. She says, “It’s not uncommon at all hear that spouses or partners aren’t exactly on the same page about expectations for the future.” The important thing is to have an honest discussion with your loved one and respect each other’s concerns when it comes to making these important decisions.

Whether you and your spouse see yourselves working part-time or volunteering, you both need to plan ahead to make the most of your retirement. If you’re ready to join the ranks of retirees but your spouse seems reluctant, here are some ways to have a productive conversation:

Broach the Subject Gently

As with any difficult discussion over the course of your marriage, timing is essential. Don’t bring up the idea of retirement when your spouse is exhausted after a long day or while you’re sitting in rush-hour traffic. Choose a time when you’re both relaxed and free from distractions. Start by expressing your concerns, and avoid making accusations. Saying, “I want to spend as much time with you and our family as possible, and I want to make sure our savings will enable us to do that in the next 10 years” will be better received than, “You never want to talk about money.”

Be Willing to Listen

If your spouse sounds defensive, there’s probably a good reason. Ask questions to find out why he or she feels this way. Are there preconceived notions about retirement? Does it bring back memories of a relative or close friend who struggled through it? He or she may see retirement as a fearful time filled with unknowns.

Emphasize the Need to Plan Ahead

Reassure your spouse that you’re in this together, and you want to make the most of this next chapter in your lives. Get a financial planner involved in the discussion so you can both take stock of where you stand with savings. You might discover you’re in a better position to retire than you think. If that’s not the case, it’s better to recognize the shortfalls now while you still have plenty of time to take action. 

Be Prepared with Information

Having resources on hand, such as recent articles, financial documents, or a retirement calculator, will show your spouse that you’re serious about planning together. It helps if the information comes from an unbiased expert. Many community colleges offer classes on retirement planning through their lifelong learning programs. 

Establish Common Goals & Start Planning

Brainstorm a list of goals for your retirement together, and determine how to accomplish them. How much money do you need to live reasonably well?  Do you see yourselves downsizing to eliminate costly home maintenance?  Are you concerned that retirement will isolate you from your peers? Now is the time to consider whether a retirement community may fit into those plans. A campus-based retirement community, such as Kendal at Oberlin, offers the advantage of living with other adults who are eager to stay involved and the added benefit of planning for future health care needs.

In our next blog, we will be discussing tips for talking to your partner about relocating to a retirement community. Subscribe to our blog today so you don’t miss it!

Retirement Living: Why Choose Kendal at Oberlin


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