The retirement conversation – planning with your partner

retirement conversation

Retirement. It’s that magical moment when you leave work behind, sleep in every day, and travel as much as you want. Or wait, maybe it’s an opportunity to finally start that business you’ve always dreamed of, or be there for your grandkids, or go back to school to get your master’s degree or start training for that marathon.

You may know what YOU want out of retirement, but do you know exactly what your partner wants? As you get closer to an age where you’re looking to leave 9 to 5 behind, it’s important to sit down together and talk about what those years will look like. 

This survey by Fidelity Investments is a few years old, but the findings hold true.  There are significant disconnects between couples when it comes to retirement planning, even with those who are getting close to retirement age. If you want to move to Portugal and live the good life, but your partner is thinking more along the lines of taking care of the grandkids full-time, that’s a pretty big disconnect, and it’s important to get on the same page sooner rather than later. 

Why aren’t we talking to each other about this stuff? Well, it’s an easy thing to put off. People put a lot of thought into retirement planning from a financial perspective. Having “enough” saved is certainly a big concern, but what we will actually do with that time and money can often come in as a distant second. 

Start talking today: 6 questions to kickstart the conversation 

Not sure how to start? It’s okay to take it slow and really explore your thoughts and plans first with no judgments or commitments to any specific path. Just hear each other out and figure out what’s most important to both of you, where you can compromise, and what’s realistic in terms of how much you have saved and any commitments you have to family, your business, etc.

Start with the basics: 

WHEN will we retire? 65 isn’t the magic number it once was. People are leaving work well before that age, or they’re staying longer…whether they choose to or because they have to. Everyone is different. Talk about the when for each of you. Will you both retire at the same time? Will it be your 60th birthday? Or will you taper off, reducing your work over time without leaving abruptly? Put an actual number on it to make things feel more real. 

WHERE will we live? Will you stay in your current home? Buy a condo? Move in with the kids? Go live near a beach or on an Italian hillside? One partner’s desire to winter in the tropics may conflict with the other’s to be close to family. 

WHY do we want to retire? What is it about retirement that appeals to you? Leaving your job behind? Having a quieter lifestyle? More time with family and friends? Finally getting to travel? Talking about those priorities now will help you figure things out in a more concrete way. 

WHAT will we do? When we think about what we’re looking forward to when we retire, we tend to think in terms of sleeping in, slowing down, travelling, but what will that actually look like every day? You’ve probably never taken more than a week or two off at a time, in retirement, you’ll have 52 weeks to fill. That may sound dreamy right now, but you may be surprised at how quickly you get bored if you don’t have a plan. 

It’s actually not that usual for people to retire, then go back to work. As it turns out, un-retiring is a thing. Talk about what will replace the purpose and satisfaction you get from work. Once you’ve had a few months of a slower lifestyle, figure out what will occupy your time. Be sure to be specific. Don’t talk in generalities like, “I want to spend more time on hobbies.” Plan on taking a carpentry class or making quilts. If you want to travel, what will that entail? A couple of week-long trips a year or relocating to another country for months at a time? 

WHO will we spend time with? Just you and your partner at home 24/7 is a lot of togetherness (COVID has probably taught you that…).  You’ll probably want to plan for interacting with other people by volunteering, joining clubs, working part-time, travelling with friends, moving into a community, or building with other folks you can connect with.  There are lots of options. 

HOW will we do it? When you know what you want to do, when you want to do it and why, it’s easier to figure out how much money you’ll need. A financial advisor can help you crunch the numbers and get you on your way to a retirement you can both be happy with.  

Chances are, you’ll disagree on things, but keep talking. Find places to compromise and figure out what will work for both of you. (You don’t have to do everything together. Independence is a good thing.)

Talk to friends who have already retired to see how they’re making it work. Have your financial advisor weigh in, he or she may be able to suggest things you haven’t thought of. Want to get a handle on how you’ll pay for those plans and enjoy a long, healthy retirement? Get the basics with a free webinar Know Your Options: Navigating Aging Resources and Policies. This will give you immediate access to tools that will help you live longer, better. Ursuline College longevity experts, Anne Murphy Brown, J.D., Lynn Ulatowski, PhD ,and Stacey O’Brien, DSW, MSSA, LISW-S, will cover topics from nutrition and fitness, to aging policy, to practical tips on getting organized for your post-work years.

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