Even as they enter their 50s and 60s, couples tend to avoid discussing their retirement. Although the subject can be uncomfortable because it touches on the end of life, not talking about retirement often leads to problems, both financial and domestic. To ensure that you and your partner are both well taken care of when you choose transition from the workforce, we recommend that you discuss the topics outlined below as early as you can.
- When do you plan to retire?
Because this question impacts both finances and lifestyle, it can often be the most difficult one for couples to resolve. Your partner may wish to retire early after a prosperous career, but you still feel satisfied in your work and are not yet ready to leave it behind.
The best way to get past a potential roadblock is to examine the impact one partner’s earlier retirement will have on your mutual financial situation. Having one partner remain in the workforce can increase retirement savings, grow your employer-sponsored pension, and delay taking out social security benefits, which can be helpful in making sure that neither of you run out of money once you’re both fully retired. Having one partner keep working may be especially beneficial in light of the fact that women are expected to live as much as 10 years longer than men, which could result in their living past their retirement savings.
- Where do you plan to retire?
This question impacts the kind of lifestyle you and your partner might want. Talk about your interests and the activities you wish to pursue in your free time. Depending on whether you’d like to live in a pricier urban setting or somewhere less expensive and more rural, the answer will also impact your finances. State income and property taxes, which vary widely, can also affect your decision. Whether to live in a house—which can require financial investments for upkeep as it ages—or to downsize to a condominium to free up more cash and have less maintenance activities to worry about is another key point to consider.
- What does retirement mean to you / how will we spend our time?
If you’re both retiring around the same time, do you or your partner plan to work part-time, whether to make extra money or simply to remain active, as many retired professionals increasingly do today? If one of you chooses to retire early, will that partner help the other in his or her professional career? Would you or your partner be happy spending your days pursuing exclusively non-professional interests? What do those interests include? Consider the costs of travel, theatre, family time, etc.
Developing a financial plan for retirement can help answer these questions. It is recommended that each partner prepare to answer these questions separately, as that will make your discussion more productive when you come together to merge your ideas into a unified plan. Do not let yourselves get frustrated if you cannot find common ground right away. Plans of this nature often take months of negotiation before they are set.
- Whose investment style will we follow to meet our mutual goals?
You or your partner may manage your own 401(k)s or IRAs as you move through your careers. This individualized approach does not need to change. However, the two of you should choose a financial advisor that can guide both of your individualized efforts to work together in an overall portfolio that serves your mutual goals. You should also discuss ways to keep your investment funds growing even after you begin drawing on them.
- Will we leave any money to our children and/or to charity?
If you’ve come to this point in your retirement discussion, it is likely that you have agreed upon the points outlined above to your mutual satisfaction. Still, this topic can also produce passionate discussion, depending on your family situation. After you agree upon the best ways to serve your family and legacy, we recommend working with a financial advisor to learn about the many different tools for passing on wealth to heirs or the charitable organization(s) of your choice.