First Person: Avoiding a Married Couples’ Retirement Crisis

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I was curious about a phenomena experts are calling a married couples' retirement crisis even though I'm 25 years away from retiring. Similar to couples who live together before they get married, we have had a practice run at the retirement lifestyle. We aren't out watching television together all day or out playing golf. We just spend a lot of time together because of the telecommuting trend. We each have home offices. According to a recent article by PBS's Next Avenue, newly-retired couples report the most friction and lowest satisfaction with their marriages. Recent studies have also shown a rise in the number of people 65 and older seeking divorce. A new Fidelity Investment Couples' Retirement Study gave me some talking points so that I could clarify my retirement expectations with my husband.

Getting on the same page

According to the Fidelity survey, 38 percent of couples have different ideas of what their retirement lifestyle will look like in retirement. I asked my husband whether he envisions us traveling or staying at home. We decided we need to have enough money in our retirement budget for my husband to golf and for me to go out to eat with friends. However, traveling isn't important enough to add to our budget.

Deciding where to live

The survey showed 36 percent of couples don't agree on where to live in retirement, which was up from 33 percent in a 2011 survey. I wasn't sure if my husband would want to move to community with golf amenities. I felt a great sense of relief knowing he wants to stay put. After we pay off our mortgage in another 14 years, we won't need to save money to go toward a nicer home in retirement. We can retire with no mortgage debt.

Working in retirement

My husband was surprised to learn that I want to work out of the home as a freelancer when I reach retirement age. I was surprised to find my husband never wants to retire. He just plans to take a few more vacation days when he is older. The Fidelity survey showed 32 percent of couples didn't agree on whether or not to keep working.

Showing consideration

Since we each work out of home offices periodically throughout the week, my husband and I have learned to be considerate. We give one another privacy and quiet. Experts say retired couples often feel disenchanted with their predicament after the initial honeymoon stage of retirement wears out. Perhaps they don't have enough money to do anything fun or they find out people don't have time to hang out with them. We have separate hobbies and interests as well as ones we share.

Ultimately, the current married retirement couples' crisis seems specific to the baby boomer generation. I don't think younger generations are as caught up in sexual stereotypes about who cleans the house or who retires first. Also, telecommuting and blending family and work duties is so common with my younger generations that the transition from work to retirement should be effortless.

More from this contributor:

Irrational Retirement Choices

I'm Happy in our Smaller Home

Fighting Fair About Money


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