MONEY retirement planning

Do Your Retirement Dreams Match Your Partner’s?

Your dream is nonstop travel; your spouse wants to stay put. You’d like to quit now; she’s not ready. Learn about eight retirement issues that can cause a rift, and how to get on the same page.

  • Where to live

    Thirty-four percent of retiring couples disagree about where or whether to move.

    According to a 2013 Hearts & Wallets survey, deciding where to settle down in retirement is one of the biggest areas of disconnect between couples. “Typically the question of where to live is wrapped up in bigger issues like the partners’ connection to the community and obligations to other family members,” says Catherine Frank, executive director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Asheville, N.C.

    Can’t agree on a location? Start with a compromise: a season or two renting in the area that one of you dreams of. If the rental works out, you might buy a second home, assuming you can truly afford it.

    Expect to pay about 1% of the home’s cost annually for maintenance, on top of insurance, utilities, and any homeowners association fees. And don’t forget to factor in the cost of transportation to and from the new property.

  • Part-time work

    Many employees suspect they’ll be happier if they don’t quit work cold-turkey, but few end up actually taking part-time jobs.

    In fact, only one-quarter of people ever work for pay in retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The benefit of downshifting to a part-time job you enjoy, however, is far greater than the extra spending money.

    Studying several hundred college professors who cut down their hours upon retiring but didn’t completely quit, researchers found that the greater the involvement in part-time work, the more likely the professors were satisfied with both their retirement and life in general.

    While you may like staying in the game, be aware that you’ll increase strife on the home front if you use your workload as an excuse to avoid taking out the garbage and picking up food at the grocery store. A separate study of retired physicians — 95% of them male — found that the increased time that the doctors spent on household chores in retirement was significantly associated with wives’ life satisfaction. Sometimes love is just about making dinner — and doing the dishes.

  • Staying healthy

    Health dips for both men and women in the first years of retirement, according to a study by University of Missouri sociology professor Angela Curl. The likely culprit: a decline in social connections and physical activity.

    You don’t need drastic measures to stay healthy. A daily 45-minute walk can improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, according to recent studies. Researchers have also found that you’ll be more likely to stick with the program if you’re paired with a buddy — say, the one you’re married to.

  • Family finances

    Spouses often end up splitting household responsibilities, but that can create big problems with money in retirement years. Only 43% of husbands, for example, are confident their wives can manage the family finances.

    Women share this lack of confidence, according to a 2013 Fidelity survey — a big problem, since they will likely outlive their husbands.

    “Men have tried to shelter women from those details,” says Boca Raton, Fla., planner Mari Adam. “But that ends up as a huge disservice.” Along with mundane details like account numbers and passwords, both of you should know all about your investments, savings, and insurance policies.

  • Syncing retirement

    How happy you are in retirement might depend on whether you and your partner stop working at the same time.

    University of Minnesota professor Phyllis Moen found that newly retired men were least satisfied when their wives kept working; wives with newly retired husbands also reported lower levels of marital satisfaction than those in two-income or two-retiree marriages.

    Fewer couples nowadays — especially those with multiyear age gaps — are willing or able to sync retirement. Many boomer women who temporarily exited the workforce when their kids were young are nearing their career peak, says Miriam Goodman, author of Too Much Togetherness: Surviving Retirement as a Couple — just as their husbands are ready to taper off.

    To get the timing right in your household, analyze the costs and benefits for each of you of staying in the workforce. Is one of you just shy of a pension? How big could your Social Security checks grow? Weigh those benefits against each spouse’s desire to retire.

    If you decide one of you should go first, start planning how the retired spouse will be occupied and what you’ll be doing together. “When one partner feels abandoned, that’s when resentment builds,” says Goodman. And take heart: Moen found that marital satisfaction rebounded a few years after both partners retired.

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