6 retirement conversations every couple needs to have
As you look forward to retirement, you probably have at least a general idea of how you hope your life will unfold in the years to come. You may have visualized where you want to live, where you hope to travel and when you would like to retire. You might have an assortment of bucket list items you'd like to accomplish someday.
Have you shared these dreams, desires and goals with your spouse? It's important to see how closely they align with those of your spouse. It's easy to envision your ideal future with your spouse by your side, without actually getting your spouse's input and buy-in.
Here are six conversations that will help you and your spouse create a retirement lifestyle plan that you will both enjoy.
1. When do you plan to retire? Often, one spouse will retire before the other. This may occur due to an age difference. Maybe one spouse is laid off, accepts an early retirement package or qualifies for his or her employer's retirement benefits sooner that the other one. Perhaps one spouse is happily engaged in a fulfilling career while the other has reached a career dead-end and is ready to move on.
Having one working spouse and one retired spouse requires some conversation to align expectations. If the spouse who retires first dreams of traveling extensively, that will have to be postponed. Perhaps the working spouse will now expect a home-cooked meal each day after a long day at work, and he or she will expect the retired spouse to do a lot more of the housework. Perhaps one spouse doesn't want to retire at all, while the other is eager for some leisure time.
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2. How much money do you need to have saved? This is a complicated question, and the answer depends a lot on what kind of lifestyle you hope to enjoy after you retire. You might wish to live in an upscale retirement community and travel extensively or be willing to downsize and become more frugal in order to retire sooner or make up for not having saved enough. You will need to decide if you want to have money left over to leave to your heirs or spend it all on yourself and your spouse.
Just as money matters are an essential discussion topic during your working years, how much money you'll need for your future is equally important to discuss. Your understanding of finances and assumptions for how much money you'll need could differ significantly. Both of you need to align on the kind of lifestyle you hope to enjoy during retirement in order to agree on how much money you will need to support that.
3. Where and how do you want to live? You will need to decide if you want to move after you retire or stay where you are. And even if you stay in the same area, perhaps you will want to downsize to a smaller home.
There's also the question of how you want to live. Do you want to live in a senior community or stay in a neighborhood with people of all ages? You can choose to live lavishly or frugally. Retirees have the option to travel the continent in a recreational vehicle or even move to a foreign country.
To help guide your discussion, first establish what criteria are most important to you. This will provide a framework that will make it easier to focus on places you'll be more likely to enjoy and avoid places that may seem attractive but lack important qualities that you value.
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4. What activities do you plan to pursue? You probably have a good idea of what activities will fill your days after you retire, but it's important to compare your list with your spouse's to see how closely your lists align. Talk about which of your desired activities you will do together as a couple and which you will do on your own. You'll want to agree on the ratio of one to the other.
5. How much time do you plan to spend together? During your working career, your work schedules necessitate spending a lot of time apart, unless you own a business together or both work from home. After you stop working, you'll see a lot more of each other. Regardless of how much you enjoy each other's company, suddenly being together constantly will require significant adjustment.
One of you may envision spending all your time together and doing everything as a couple while the other may desire time alone for reading or participating in solo projects and activities. Your visions of how much time you spend at home versus outside the home may be different as well.
6. What family obligations will you have? Your retirement visions probably focus primarily on you and your spouse. However, other people in your lives may complicate the picture, and the two of you may have differing views on how you will handle these situations.
For example, how will you respond if an adult child asks to live with you due to unemployment or a divorce? How will you handle a request to help care for grandchildren? Will one or both of you have aging parents who need additional care? Scenarios such as these can impact many aspects of your retirement. In addition to the financial impact, they may also influence where you live, how much you can travel and how much free time you have.
One of you may feel that you've earned your retirement and you need to stand firm in not letting these requests and situations hijack your golden years. The other may feel a stronger pull to help the family members in need.
You should also discuss how much time you want to spend visiting family members, and how important it is to live near them. If your family members are geographically dispersed, how will you choose who you'll be closer to?
You shouldn't assume that your spouse envisions the same future that you do. For every couple, there are many potential differences which require both partners to talk openly and be flexible in order to find the right balance. But with a series of thoughtful, honest conversations you can resolve many of these issues in a way that satisfies both of you.
Dave Hughes is the founder of Retire Fabulously.
Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report