5 Questions to Ask Your Spouse Before Retirement 5 Questions to Ask Your Spouse Before Retirement

We often think about retirement in the abstract. Maybe you picture yourself on a beach, or finally writing that novel. Maybe you think of it as a time to just relax and be with your family more. Whatever version of your golden years, there’s a chance that it is missing the nitty-gritty particulars. There is also a chance that you and your spouse do not have the same future scenarios playing through your heads.

Like most things in life, communication regarding retirement is key. You may have spent years together, raised children together, and built a life together, but that doesn’t mean your money values or your ideas for retirement are in synch. In fact, only 1 in 10 couples reported having regular meetings to talk about finances or budget. Couples often have contrasting values regarding finances and mismatched ideas about how/when/where you will retire. The good news is, having some specific conversations and asking specific questions, could get everyone on the same page heading toward retirement.

What Do You Want to Do? 

The first question to ask is of vital importance. You can’t map out the life ahead if you don’t know what you will be doing. So, both partners need to explore how they want their day to day retired life to go. This should also be a time to explore fantasies and life goals and bucket lists items. Do you want to travel, go back to school, continue to work part-time, pick up a new hobby, live in another country, be with grandchildren, etc? The more you understand what you, and your spouse, want their retirement to look like, the better able to compromise and create a plan that works for both.

Where Do You Want to Be? 

Now that you know how you want to spend your days, the next question will be where. This is where conversations related to downsizing, perhaps relocating closer to loved ones, splitting residences between seasons, or traveling, or staying put come in. Making sure you and your partner are in synch on where you want to spend your time is key. Each of the questions answered helps to design and overall plan and budget. For example, WHEN do you want to retire? 43% of couples disagree on that, so it’s worth talking about.[ii] If one partner wants to stay in a large family home and the other wants to sell and buy a condo in Florida, you need to work through that. This is also a good space to be realistic about the long-term, are you up to maintaining a big house? Perhaps a smaller home that is easier to keep, or an apartment in a gated community for retirees may be more your speed. This is the time to talk about needs and wants and again, find a compromise.

How Much Will It Cost?

Once you know how you want to spend your days and where the next step is inevitable, how are you going to pay for it? Realistically, making a day to day budget, factoring in everything from groceries, to utilities, to insurance, taxes and fun money (trips, dinner, gifts, etc.) will give you an idea of how much you need to follow through with the plans above. Based on your investments, social security, pensions, etc. can you afford the plans made above? If the answer is no, the good thing is, you now can rework your plans to something more realistic, together, ahead of time. The further out you have retirement conversations, the more opportunities you have to save more, pay off debts, and seek financial counsel to meet your goals. You may need to downsize, or one partner may need to continue to work longer, you may want to delay collecting social security, etc. The goal is to be and stay financially comfortable well into your later years and if that means being more austere in your later working years, the payoff may be worth it.

How is Your Health?

Everyone wants to think of their retirement as a time of freedom and vigor, but sometimes life has a way of knocking us off the path. Just like you are investing in your future by saving and planning, treating your body as an investment can be equally beneficial. Exercise and a good diet, as well as regular checkups, can make a really dramatic difference regarding the quality of your retirement. For example, seniors who exercise regularly can have hearts that look thirty years younger.[iii] Making goals with your partner to eat better, move more, and be healthy can actually save you money down the line. Even if you do everything right though, things happen, and a lot of people end up having to retire earlier than planned for their health or to care for a loved one. The majority of folks want to stay home and age in place, but a whopping 70% end up in long term care and a semi-private nursing home can cost over $85,000 a year.[iv] The reality is that people live longer and have more medical needs because of it. Having frank conversations with your spouse will alleviate some of the worries. Take time to organize your documents, insurance policies, wills, estates, and power of attorneys. It may feel morbid, but the truth is, the more prepared you are for all eventualities, the less stressful for you and your family down the line. 

What Worries You?

You’ve now discussed your hopes, your plans, your health, and made budgets to accommodate your retirement. Is there anything that worries you? Retirement is a big life event, the end of something and the start of something new. Big transitions, even good ones, can be stressful and anxiety causing. Make time to confide in your spouse, and vice versa, about your fears about retirement. If the worries are about money, how can you work together, to alleviate them? If your concerns are about health, what solutions, again as a team, can you implement? Two heads are better than one, after all.

The Future, As a Team.

Hopefully, after going through these 5 questions, you and your spouse are on the same page and able to look forward to a retirement that you are both excited about and able to afford. Good luck and congrats on this next chapter!

[ii] https://www.fidelity.com/bin-public/060_www_fidelity_com/documents/pr/couples-fact-sheet.pdf

[iii] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/12/10/674380082/exercise-wins-fit-seniors-can-have-hearts-that-look-30-years-younger

[iv] https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/09/26/the-staggering-prices-of-long-term-care-2017/#d0baf162ee24


 

About the Author

Bob Hanna

Bob Hanna

Bob feels strongly that you only retire once leaving no room for mistakes. He is dedicated to building and more importantly preserving investors assets. Bob is a Financial Advisor with Cambridge, an independent broker-dealer, honored to be among the most respected firms in the industry.

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