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Will Your Marriage Survive Retirement?
Retirement seems like the ultimate together time. The kids have grown, work is done, and the two of you just get to kick back and enjoy each other.
However, that is not always how it works. There can be practical problems, of course, like not having enough money to retire comfortably. But even if you do all the financial things correctly, you can still find yourselves unprepared for retirement emotionally – and practically.
Experts agree that retirement is a huge step for most couples. It involves changes in your daily routine, in your financial situation, in your relationship. Some couples find that the changes are positive, that they are stronger individually and as a couple after retirement. But others find that they are fighting more often, more frustrated with each other, less satisfied personally and with their relationship. How can you help to ensure that you end up on the positive end of retirement?
First, start early. Before you retire – several years before you retire – begin to talk about retirement. Talk honestly and openly about the expectations each of you brings. Cover issues like:
- When will you retire? Some people prefer to work past traditional retirement age, either because they need the money or because they love their work. Consider when you are eligible to retire, and whether you think you will be ready then. If you are both working, talk about whether you can – or want to – retire at the same time. Some couples find the transition to retirement easier if they don't both make it at once. Others find that if only one person retires, the person who retires feels less important in the relationship, or the person still working feels resentful.
- Are you financially prepared? Have you saved and invested well enough to provide a comfortable retirement? How much money will you have to live on in retirement, and what kind of lifestyle will you be able to live? Will that make you happy? If not, should you consider retiring later or working part-time once you retire?
- Where will you live? Most experts urge couples not to move immediately after they retire. Instead, couples should give themselves awhile to adjust to these major life changes in familiar surroundings. But when you have adjusted to retirement, do you want to move? If so, where?
- How do you want to spend your time? This is related to the issue of where you want to live. Talk about how each of you sees the days unfolding. Remember that retirement is not a vacation. You could spend decades in retirement and, if you are lucky, your health could allow you to do many different things for much of that time. So speak frankly about how each of you envisions spending your time. Do you want to spend it with the grandchildren? Do you mean you want to visit them daily, take them on trips, see them on holidays? Do you want to travel? Where and how? Las Vegas or Morocco? Driving or flying? Weekends or entire seasons away? And can you afford the kind of travel you want?
- What about daily activities? Once you are retired, who will do what? You probably have gone to the supermarket and seen retired couples shopping – and bickering. The old joke of the husband constantly underfoot in retirement has roots in truth. You can start this discussion by looking at how you divide household responsibilities now, and what your expectations are for retirement. If the wife does all the laundry now, for example, does she expect her husband to help her once he is retired, or would she rather he just stay out of the way? If the husband has always handled the banking, will he continue after retirement? It is probably best if you both know how to do the laundry and the banking, experts say. But that doesn't mean you both have to do these and similar chores on a daily basis.
- Who will you spend time with? Family, of course, but what about friends? If you are like most couples, each of you probably has friends individually and you have friends as a couple. Will you continue to see your individual friends in retirement?
- How much togetherness do you want? This is a critical question for most retiring couples. Do you want to do everything together, or do you want to continue to pursue individual interests you had before you retired? You might want to take a few longer vacations to evaluate your togetherness quotient. Most people find that, although they enjoy the additional togetherness that retirement brings, they also enjoy having some time alone.
The trick, of course, is to find the right balance.