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Planning to Retire with Your Spouse

Dave Bernard

Many people have an idea of what they want their retirement years to look like, but sometimes individuals neglect to share this vision with their spouse. According to a study by the research firm Hearts and Wallets, only 38 percent of couples plan for their retirement together.

Any important planning that will impact the next significant chunk of life should not be undertaken without the involvement and input of your significant other. Since you will be in this together, it is important that both sides are involved in strategies and decisions. In fact, in retirement you're likely to have more time together because you don't head off to separate jobs. Here are some important retirement questions to discuss with your spouse:

Will you retire at the same time? Many couples have an age difference, and one person will reach retirement age before the other. You may want to have one individual remain employed so you both can continue receiving benefits and insurance for as long as possible. It might be helpful for one of you to give retirement a "test drive" to see if your calculations regarding expenses and expectations about keeping busy are realistic. The age each of you can claim and maximize Social Security benefits should also play a role in your decision.

On the other hand, retiring at the same time enables you to begin immediately sharing all of your experiences together. You can travel, explore, and experiment with your new chapter in life and support each other every step of the way.

Do you share common interests? Perhaps you and your spouse have shared interests you plan to enjoy pursuing together in retirement. This can be anything from playing tennis or golf to enjoying quiet reading by the fire. You might need to add new activities to your repertoire once you have more free time. But don't forget about the importance of having individual interests as well. We can all benefit from time alone or the opportunity to pursue our own special passions. The trick is to find a balance between the two so that both spouses feel involved and fulfilled in their shared retirement.

What are your views on retirement? Before you enter your second act together it is wise to discuss and share what retirement means to you individually. Putting your retirement plans into words can help all those involved to better understand individual hopes and expectations. Some couples who do this discover that their visions diverge dramatically. But if you identify the aspects of retirement you disagree about early enough in the planning process you will still have time to compromise and reach common ground before you retire. Even if you cannot agree on everything you can benefit from understanding the other's point of view.

Who will be responsible for what? While working we typically find ourselves stepping up to do what needs to be done based on our availability. Whoever has the time will take care of household chores, pick up the kids, or do the shopping. One week it might be you and the next it might be your spouse. Once retired, you no longer have to squeeze responsibilities into your busy day, since you now control your time. It can be helpful to divide chores between the two of you so that you can get things done without issue.

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only the Beginning.

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