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Retirement When Your Spouse Still Works

Dave Bernard

You and your significant other may not retire at the same time. There might be a difference in age that impacts your decision. Or you may decide it makes sense if one of you remains employed to continue to earn income and maintain health coverage. If you happen to retire before your partner, adjustments will need to be made as you try to realize the fulfilling retirement you both desire.

Let's say that you are the lucky one to retire first while your partner continues to work. As a new retiree, you may initially be a bit unsure who you are supposed to be outside of your working role. The skills you carefully honed over the course of your career may no longer have much relevance in retirement. Who you were on the job is not necessarily who you will be or even want to be as a retiree.

Though you are fortunate enough to retire, many of your friends will still be working every day. Don't be surprised if some people feel a bit jealous of your new station in life, especially if they are in a situation that makes their own retirement a distant possibility or perhaps unlikely at all. Consider this an opportunity for you to make new friends with interests outside of a job.

Once you depart the working world, your interests may begin to change as well. Without those water cooler discussions and strategy meetings, you will be free to consider what else the world has to offer. You will have time on your hands, so finding new avenues to channel your energy is important and can be exciting. In retirement, it helps to establish a balance between down time and activity, which will both have their place in your second act. There will be days when you will be happy to just sit back and watch the world go by at a stress-free pace. You can be productive tomorrow or the next day, as you now have the freedom to do what you want to.

If your partner is still working, he or she might not be able to relate to your new life in retirement. Your spouse might feel a little animosity as he or she gets out of bed in the cold morning to navigate commuter traffic while you roll over for another hour of blissful sleep. And your division of household duties might need to change. If you are no longer required to work, you could be expected to take over more chores, such as the grocery shopping or taking pets to the vet.

After a busy day of work, your partner may arrive home looking for some quiet time with minimal discussion. However, you, who have been alone for the past ten hours and closely monitoring the clock as their arrival approaches, can hardly wait to share all your day's activities and accomplishments. You may find yourself wanting to go out to dinner, while your working spouse would much prefer a peaceful night at home with some simple fare. A little sensitivity to the situation can go a long way to help meet both of your needs.

The transition into retirement, whether by one spouse alone or both at the same time, can be helped along by open communication and discussion of important topics. If neither person has been retired before, this is new ground for both people. And with the likelihood of twenty or more years in retirement, the sooner an equitable arrangement is negotiated, the better.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

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