What if my partner and I have different retirement goals?

Chances are you and your partner might be thinking differently about retirement.

Chances are you and your partner might be thinking differently about retirement.

Usually, that’s a good thing—until you have vastly different ideas about what to do in retirement.

One of you wants to travel the world, for instance, and the other wants to stay close to home. What then?

That’s why retirement planning shouldn’t be limited to a financial conversation. It’s also a  lifestyle conversation. And talking about how you want to spend your days in retirement is just as important as how you want to spend your dollars.

Whether you and your partner have talked about this for years, or you’re just beginning the conversation, here are some tips to consider as you look ahead to retirement. 

Dreaming vs. Planning

Some couples have the same ambitions in retirement, but they don’t always have equal confidence that they can accomplish their plans.

In most relationships, one partner is often a spender, and the other is a saver. But when it comes to retirement planning as a couple, we’ve also seen our clients express those roles in a different way: Dreamer vs. Planner.

The Dreamer tends to say, “We’ll figure it out as we go!” while the Planner says, “Let’s figure this out now so we can go.” 

Both roles are important. You do need a solid financial plan, but you also need to dream to realize what those numbers are for.

After all, it’s you who retires, not your financial portfolio.

Embrace the gifts that each of you brings to your ongoing conversations about dreaming and planning for your retirement. 

Uncover your unspoken assumptions.

How much have you and your partner talked about your expectations for retirement? Many couples dream of enjoying retirement together, but the reality is the picture you see in your head might not be the same one your partner sees in theirs.

You may want to spend your first years traveling and golfing, while your partner might envision getting a part-time job, volunteering in the community, or going back to school.

So give yourself permission to explore and express what you expect to experience in your retirement years—and get as specific as you can.

For example, “I’d like to go on a 2-week Mediterranean cruise to see Italy and Greece the first year we’re both retired.”  is much more specific than saying, “I’d like to travel to Europe one of these days.” 

“I want to go golfing four days a week is specific. “I want to spend more time golfing” is not.

Take time to communicate with each other as you plan for retirement. 

Stagger your retirements

While it might be a romantic idea to retire at the same time and jet off to travel the world, the reality is that most couples stagger their retirements.

Some couples choose to retire a few years apart for practical reasons, such as when there’s an age gap between you. And some stagger out of necessity for financial reasons.

Others who could financially retire at the same time, choose not to, out of wisdom.

Here’s why.

Most couples spend decades with 8–10 hours apart from one another during the week.

If they retire at the same time, they’re suddenly together 24/7. And that sudden togetherness can bring with it new relationship challenges on top of adjusting to retirement. One or both partners may feel the inclination to attend to the other constantly, and they don’t take the time to focus on things that they might want to do.

By staggering your retirements, even just a year or more apart, it allows each of you to adjust to the change at your own speeds, while still supporting each other. 

Prepare for new identities, individually and together.

After you clock out of your full-time careers and your adult children move away, who do you want to be in this next chapter?

After working with thousands of people entering retirement, we’ve found that the transition becomes a smoother one when couples give each other the opportunity to explore who they are again.

So be prepared to redefine your relationship. Discover who each of you are again, and find out what’s important to both of you now, as you walk through this season together.

And you don’t need to prepare for retirement alone.

One of the benefits an advisor brings to this conversation is helping you get the clarity and confidence you need so that you can do what you’ve planned and dreamed about.

If you’d like help in planning for retirement as a couple, talk with one of our advisors at no cost to you.