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Don't Let Retirement Numbers Numb You To Your Marriage

| August 15, 2016
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Retirement

The other day I was speaking with the owner of a video recording studio – let’s call him Dennis – who was very keen on retiring. We talked about his goals and made sure he was on track with his investments. Then I asked him about what he planned to do with his time.

“Well,” he said, “I’m looking forward to more time with my wife. And more chances to see my grandkids.” He chuckled. “And I’ll have more opportunities to fish.”

I chuckled too, but then I got serious. “Listen, Dennis, jokes aside, you should really plan out your retirement. And I mean more than just the numbers. You’re planning your second life here. Are you and your wife really on the same page?”

That made him pause.

Most small-business owners are a lot like Dennis. For them, retirement planning is about making sure there’s enough money. But the social aspects are just as important. In my column last month, I discussed the importance of friendships in retirement. The story of Dennis here highlights an even more important relationship: the one you have with your spouse or partner.

All too often, couples have different visions of what retirement will be like, and so they approach decisions differently. Those might include financial decisions, travel plans, civic activities and health care decisions. This can lead to frustration if the two parties are not on the same page.

(Health care decisions are particularly important because health challenges are more common at retirement age. Revisiting your health insurance plan with your spouse and maybe considering long-term care insurance or other types of chronic care coverage might not be a bad idea.

Even when couples agree on plans, little details can cause strife. Take personal space. Dennis admitted to looking forward to spending more time with his wife. That’s a good thing. But even people who love each other deeply need to have personal alone time. Both partners need to recognize the (perfectly healthy) need for space.

Social opportunities matter too. Many times a nonworking spouse will rely on the working partner for social contact via the working partner’s workplace. While the retiring spouse relishes the chance to get away from office politics, his or her better half may well miss those opportunities to socialize. I’ve seen many spouses become depressed or bored after their wife or husband retires.

After our conversation, I worked through some of these issues with Dennis – and his wife. It was eye-opening. We found that, though they both looked forward to more time together, they had different ideas of how that time would be spent, when and where. (For example, he imagined more close time and more conversation while at home; she imagined he would now be available for more travel.) But once they began talking, the planning was easy – and it made the financial decisions much easier too.

While it might be obvious to include your spouse or partner in your retirement plans, remember: There are many aspects of retirement to discuss beyond just the mere numbers. I will discuss a third and final aspect next month: how retirement is shaped by your relationship with your children.

Read this article on Small Business Monthly here

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