7/26/2012 2:21 PM ET|
7 retirement questions for couples
After all the hard work and commitment, retirement should be smooth sailing for couples, right? Not so fast. Couples still need to communicate and compromise.
Picking a date to retire is a difficult enough decision for one person to make. But spouses need to come up with a retirement plan that works for both members of the couple.
Couples need to establish a clear picture of what retirement will look like for each individual, as well as for the two of them as a unit. When both members of a couple have been working, they have created individual lives in addition to lives together. Conflict can best be avoided if each spouse understands what is important to the other. It's a good idea to ask questions and pay attention to the other's answers before retirement. Just because you have known each other for a long time does not mean you know one another's retirement preferences if they remain unspoken. Here are seven questions to discuss with your spouse before retirement:
1. What would the perfect retirement life be like?
Your idea of the ideal retirement may be coffee and a newspaper in the morning, golf in the afternoon, cocktails at five and a good book to round out the day. That's not a bad way to go -- unless your spouse wants to be on the move, constantly traveling and trying new things. Discuss what is most important to each of you. Determine if your expectations for retirement follow a similar path, and identify where your goals diverge. You don't necessarily need to adjust the course, but it is important to understand each other's perspective.
2. Who will be responsible for what in retirement?
Before retiring, each member of the couple probably did certain household chores. After retirement, you may need to renegotiate which individual is responsible for different duties. You can avoid friction if you address responsibilities up front. For example, my wife is a whiz with the kitchen floors and I have no problem cleaning the bathrooms, so everyone wins. You also need to maintain enough flexibility to address new things to be done as they arise.
3. What interests do you have in common?
Many couples have a list of activities they enjoy doing together, such as playing bridge or tennis, hiking, traveling, attending concerts, practicing yoga or dining out. Retirement is a good time to take a look at your list to make sure you agree that these things are what you want to continue sharing in retirement. Consider adding new activities you have not done in the past but would like to investigate now that you have the time.
4. What are your individual interests?
It is important to have your own interests in addition to those shared with your spouse. Hanging out together 24 hours a day is not healthy. You each need time apart to think, recharge and pursue separate hobbies. If you understand this at the outset, you can avoid one person feeling slighted when the other heads out the door to do his or her own thing. We all need space and private time, and a little independence can make the heart grow fonder.
5. What are your goals in retirement?
Make a list of the individual goals you wish to pursue and your shared goals as a couple.
6. Will you stay in your current home or relocate?
If you'll still be paying off a mortgage, you might want to downsize to reduce your monthly expenses. Perhaps there is a new location you would like to move to. For example, I have always wanted to eventually move closer to the ocean.
7. Who will pay for what?
If you had separate bank accounts while working, you each likely assumed responsibility for certain bills. Is that the way you want to continue things in retirement? Decide if you want to pay some or all of your bills out of a joint account. There is no need for money to be a sore spot if you address it in advance.
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