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How to talk about retirement with your spouse

When it comes to planning your golden years, it's important that you and your partner are on the same page.

By Apr 15, 2014 10:48AM
This post comes from AJ Smith at partner site on MSN MoneyImagining retirement, like dreaming of vacation or if you win the lottery, can be fun. But what if you and your spouse are picturing very different things? Getting on the same page with your significant other early on can help you to plan a successful retirement.

TFinancial planning © Yellow Dog Productions, Lifesize, Getty Imagesalk about goals

You and your husband/wife/partner don’t have to agree on everything about what you expect in retirement but you do need to figure out how to weave the two dreams together. Whether you want to downsize, travel more, indulge in expensive hobbies or something else, write down your retirement vision. Then compare it with your spouse’s vision. Now think about what you would need to make those dreams a reality.

Questions you want to try to answer include when you want to retire, what you see yourself doing in retirement and how much money you will need for a comfortable retirement. how much money you will need for a comfortable retirement.  It may require some compromise to create a shared retirement dream.

Discuss savings styles

Now that you know what you are aiming for, you need to figure out how you are going to reach those goals. Basically who is going to save what. Also, what life decisions will affect how you save. If one of you plans to take time out of the workforce to raise children, you’ll need to compensate for that.

Look into your retirement saving options -- including what is offered through your workplaces. If your company offers a match to 401k plans, make sure to take full advantage. Look into IRA options to supplement your workplace plan or in case your company doesn’t offer one.

Make time to talk

The best time to open this (and all) financial discussion is early in the relationship. But don’t talk about retirement once and forget it. Your retirement goals may evolve over time. Perhaps you take on a passion project that you want to continue into retirement that either makes or requires more money. Maybe early retirement is more appealing or an opportunity to continue working part time for longer. Your goals can change so set a regular time to re-assess.

Maybe early on you should consider having the conversation once every five years plus at the time of any major life changes like buying a house, having a child, switching jobs, etc. Then as retirement gets closer, you may want to discuss it annually to make sure you are on track for the retirement of both your dreams.

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Apr 15, 2014 4:55PM
The best financial advice I ever got that enabled me to retire early was pay off your house as fast as you can and keep your first wife.
Apr 15, 2014 3:22PM

I hate articles like this. Write down your dream and decide how to make it happen? Ok my dream is to retire in a luxurious villa on the beach in Hawaii and fly back to the mainland 2-3 times a year to visit family. How do I make that happen? Win the lottery?

The grim reality is that for MOST of us retirement is going to be about survival not travelling the world. And those who can afford to travel the world don't really need to worry about how they are going to make that happen.

How about an article on how people, especially boomers need to reallign their dreams with reality and plan accordingly.

Apr 15, 2014 1:53PM
It makes a lot more sense to discuss all things financial BEFORE you get married, at least to make sure you're on the same page and have similar goals.
"Honey, about our retirement...", it's going to be stolen by the Democrats and then given to the illegal's, the lazy, the entitled, and to some family in Kenya.
Apr 15, 2014 3:40PM
Our financial planner says we should be able to do everything on our bucket list and still have a bit left to leave for the kids. If we are both dead within the first month after retirement!
Apr 15, 2014 2:29PM
Gee, if you're married - especially for decades - what DO you talk about?  Or, don't you talk?  Money management issues seem to be a daily part of my wife and I's conversations.  We maintain a budget that we both agreed upon.  We save everything we can.  We don't let our finances rule our lives however.  We certainly see the necessity of providing ourselves with a "reasonably" comfortable retirement, but not at the expense of being unable to enjoy "the moment".  Perhaps we were unusual in that we had our children early in our marriage, we traveled the U.S. with them as they were growing up, and now, when we do travel we occasionally include our grandchildren.  Life is too short to be a slave to the financial naysayers.  You do what you can do and don't have a stroke over worrying about the future.  Hey, you are where you are today and you're okay - not?  I am!
Apr 15, 2014 2:22PM
I told the wife I was going to retire and my wife told me where we were going to live after I retired.  End of discussion.
Apr 15, 2014 2:43PM
Our financial planner says we have a 100% chance of having at least a dollar when we are 90. Sounds good to me.
Apr 15, 2014 9:10PM

One day a fisherman was laying down on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole sticking up in the dirt and his single line cast out into the shiny blue surf. He was enjoying the heat of the afternoon sun and the hope of catching a fish.

About that time, a republican came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family.

"You aren't going to catch many fish that way," said the republican to the fisherman, "you should be working rather than lying on the beach!"

The fisherman looked up at the republican, smiled and replied, "And what will my reward be?"

"Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!" was the republican's answer.

"And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman, still smiling.

The republican replied, "You will make money and you'll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!"

"And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman again.

The republican was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman's questions. "You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!" he said.

"And then what will my reward be?" repeated the fisherman.

The republican was getting angry. "Don't you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!"

Once again the fisherman asked, "And then what will my reward be?"

The republican was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, "Don't you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won't have a care in the world!"

The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, "And what do you think I'm doing right now........

Apr 16, 2014 5:12AM
Honey, I spent all of our retirement on health care....Sorry.
Apr 15, 2014 3:01PM
My wife and I have a plan but since nobody knows what retirement life costs until one gets there, it is just that, a plan. We've committed to a time and date to pull the plug so the rest will be adjustments on the fly.
Apr 15, 2014 7:37PM
My husband and I have discussed retirement over the years:  We both agreed we would travel the world and eat in the finest restaurants and sleep in the most beautiful hotels.   We wouldn't have a care in the world for all the years of our hard work.  Well, guess what?   I got laid off in this disgustingly messed up economy and he is working now 10 years past what he expected.  So, we will fill up a kiddy pool in our backyard and sleep in our comfy bed.   BUT, wait, the taxes we are paying to live in this "retirement home" may make it impossible to stay here, too.   Your articles are  not very realistic!
Apr 15, 2014 5:00PM
I'm a 28 year old single male in the finance industry. I max out my traditional 401k every year. After reading this I'm confident marriage probably isn't for me ha.
Apr 15, 2014 3:24PM

The title "Honey about your retirement..."

Here's the rest of the article: "We don't have any money saved, so you're going to work until you die. Thanks! We love you".

Apr 15, 2014 7:24PM
With "welfare" prez like obama ..retirement seems  like a far fetched pipe dream
Apr 16, 2014 2:44AM
This administration is a lot like slot machines, you keep putting money into it, never really see where the money is going, hope for it to change your life for the better, hear a lot of racket going on, see that things inside are doing nothing more than spinning in circles going nowhere, realize that the money you did put in usually goes to someone else, and you get very little back for what you put in.
Apr 16, 2014 9:14AM
When we moved to Obamaville, our retirement dreams were dashed.
Apr 16, 2014 7:53AM

How NOT to start *any* conversation (this is for you ladies)...


Seriously. You might as well stick us behind the ear with an ice pick.

Apr 16, 2014 10:30AM
Nice advice, but it just doesn't work exactly this way. My wife has severe anxiety about finances because she had a tough upbringing. Every time I even bring something up other than giving her periodic updates about the size of our retirement accounts, she gets very confrontational, so I usually try to stay away from talking about that as much as possible. The one area where I do have success is asking her where she'd like to live, and what kind of hobbies etc. she'd like to partake in to keep busy during retirement. Based on what I gather on those conversations, I take care of setting money aside to help realize those goals. She just doesn't want to know much more than the basics about those decisions lol.

I'm sure most couples don't have to dance around like this quite as much, but I'm sure it's a pretty good point of friction for many (especially if they're having trouble putting money aside). Still, if they can take baby steps to start gathering some information about what each other wants or expects, it will be much easier when it gets closer (biggest are probably living arrangements, potential timing, and hobbies as opposed to jumping straight into the money and savings aspect).

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