Couples have some very unique challenges – and opportunities – when making retirement decisions that their single counterparts do not. A lot of factors go into a couple’s retirement choices, such as developing new routines, renegotiating household chores, and others that come with such a drastic life change. As with all major life transitions, retirement, too, can cause disagreements between spouses. Phyllis Moen, sociology professor at the University of Minnesota, says, “Oftentimes, people think of retirement as an individual decision, when really couples have two retirements: his and hers.” Here are 8 vital tips to consider when you and your spouse are planning for retirement:
1. Decide whether you will retire together or at separate times.
Some couples may want to retire within the same time period, while others will have years between his and her retirements. In fact, Fidelity Investments conducted a survey in 2011, which found that 62% of couples don’t agree on their expected retirement ages. Moen concurs that, “[Often], men want to retire earlier than some women who have gone back to school or are starting a new career, especially if there is a big age gap in the couple.”
2. Prepare for more face-to-face time with each other.
For the majority of couples, nights and weekends have been their primary “together time,” so for many in retirement, seeing their spouse all day, every day can be quite disconcerting. Maximiliane Szinovacz, gerontology professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston says, “Two-earner couples often haven’t spent that much time together at home because during the day they were both working. Now that they are both at home, one of the issues becomes how much time to spend together.” Prior to retirement, consider setting up activities, both independently and as a couple, so you have a good balance of time together and apart. There are various hobbies, volunteer opportunities, part-time jobs, consulting work, etc. that either (or both) of you could do to make sure you don’t tire of seeing each other too regularly.
3. Renegotiate household chore responsibilities.
As your normal routines change with this new transition, the division of labor in your household may also need adjustment. Szinovacz says, “Some couples face the husband underfoot problem, where the wife feels that the privacy she had at home is now taken away from her because the husband is always there. And not only is he there, but he becomes involved in things he hasn’t been involved in before and interferes.” Similarly, in this type of situation where one spouse is retired while the other is not, the working half may feel that their spouse’s newfound free-time can be filled with taking on more household responsibilities, while the retired husband or wife would prefer to “enjoy” their free time rather than take on more housework.
4. Don’t let your social life falter.
Professor Moen says, “Work not only organizes our lives, but is a major source of social networks and relationships, and all that goes away when you retire.” So, be sure to maintain any friendships you can and even start new ones during retirement. Strike up relationships with those that will share your new hobbies or volunteer positions, and re-create a new social network that better suits your new lifestyle.
5. Decide where to live in retirement.
One major decision couples face in retirement is where to spend these years. A majority of couples will move to destinations that provide pleasant weather year-round, are closer to family/grandchildren, have more affordable living, or simply to wherever their hobbies take them. Be sure to discuss your options with your spouse at great length and weighing all pros and cons, so you make the best decision for both of you. Fidelity found that 1/3 of married couples either don’t agree or don’t know where they want to live in retirement. This is another aspect of marriage that may require compromise for both parties to be happy, but this compromise will be well worth it in order to enjoy the years you have both worked so hard to reach.
6. Coordinate benefits so you are comfortable in retirement.
An extremely important aspect of retiring is knowing when benefits can kick in and being sure you don’t incur any penalties because of being uninformed. Pay attention to eligibility ages for pensions, Social Security, and penalty-free retirement account withdrawals, and take steps together to maximize your benefits as a couple. Marriages have a plethora of Social Security options that single people do not. These include being able to claim a spousal benefit of up to 50% of the higher earner’s benefit and survivor’s payments. David Ekerdt, a sociology professor and director of gerontology at the University of Kansas says, “Claiming early will lock your surviving spouse into a lower benefit for the rest of his or her life. If one can continue to work, the monthly checks are larger the longer one waits past 62, and it protects your spouse’s income after you have passed away.”
7. Always prepare for unexpected health problems associated with aging.
It is a good idea to prepare for these health problems because at some point during retirement, it is likely that one or both spouses will need some sort of medical care. Ekerdt says, “This is the time to talk about issues regarding preferences for medical treatment and even for body disposition after death, and how the other should go forward if something were to happen to their spouse.” These conversations are never truly pleasant, but preparing for these types of situations can save a lot of grief and ease the burden for each spouse.
8. If you have grandchildren, plan for time with them and other family.
Be sure to discuss your plans to invest in your family. You may decide that retirement is the best time to spend more time with everyone, or you may also decide that you should work on budgeting your time better so you can spend time with family while also making time for everything else you want to do in retirement. Be sure not to let your children dictate your retirement by asking for you to help take care of grandchildren more often than you’d prefer as well. If you want to spend more time traveling, for example, work out a plan with your family so everything is budgeted appropriately.
Be sure to call us if you would like help working out a retirement plan for you and your spouse. We can help you discuss the financial aspects of retirement, maximizing your Social Security, as well as all of the lifestyle transitions retirement brings so you may have a happy, enjoyable future.