The Third Act: Preparing For The Retirement Years Together
Retirement is something many professionals look forward to after a long career. Retirees have romantic dreams of traveling the world, possibly starting a new career, volunteering, pursuing other personal interests, and spending more time with their family and significant other. However, transitioning from work to retirement can bring about many emotions and financial strains that can affect personal relationships. Couples need to be prepared for the potential challenges and have these discussions in advance of leaving the careers behind. Don’t assume everyone is on the same page about how to spend the future together. Communication is very important throughout all stages.
When someone has worked for 40 or more years much of their identity has been wrapped up in their profession. They grew into this position over many years and it’s hard to let that very prominent side of their life go. Many feel an identity loss when they retire. As a professional they had purpose and importance. Many had status in managerial or entrepreneurial roles. They put in their time and were very successful. Relationships were established with colleagues and clients. Some retirees struggle with this new phase and how to spend their time while still experiencing the need to contribute and feel valued. It may take time and patience to find that routine and purpose again which could be simply getting comfortable with and enjoying the extra free time, leisure activities, volunteering, exploring other careers, traveling or finding other opportunities.
Set expectations. Work as a team. Communicate.
There are many articles and discussions about preparing financially for retirement. Couples need to understand their investments and the changes to income and expenses before retirement actually occurs. No matter the size of the income, living on a budget can be a hard adjustment if this is something new. It’s important to plan how much money will be needed to live during the next possible 25 plus years. Changing our spending habits can be a big challenge. Consider expenses such as travel, health, insurance, property taxes, mortgage, lifestyle, second homes, any money to be left to children and grandchildren, and life expectancy. These financial details should be discussed in advance of retirement and during various stages throughout as circumstances can change. Hiring a financial advisor or other investment professional can help guide a couple through the planning process.
Other expectations to discuss are how to spend the retirement years and what the routine looks like with each other. The COVID-19 pandemic gave many couples a taste of 24/7 togetherness, how to share the home and workspace all day, manage household responsibilities, and divide up the chores. Be prepared for similar changes after leaving the workforce and discuss establishing any boundaries and shared responsibilities. Some couples are happy spending every moment together and others need to plan individual time and space. The retiree may also have a very different vision from what their significant other has anticipated. Whether the other partner is a stay-at-home spouse, retired or continues to work it may be important to designate separate areas of the house for privacy. Discuss the arrangements with each other and collaborate on responsibilities such as paying bills, pet care, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other household chores so everyone is clear on their roles. A partner can’t assume that the new retiree will have a sudden abundance of extra time and will just step in to help in these areas without talking about it.
During retirement it is important to maintain a balance as a couple and as individuals. Couples need to maintain a sense of intimacy and have date nights with each other to keep the connection strong. Find similar interests and do them together. Go to dinner, concerts, exhibits, take classes, go on walks, or do whatever it is that both partners enjoy. It’s important to remain affectionate, respectful and be kind to one another. Continue to be social and do things with other couples.
As individuals, it’s healthy to have different interests and friend circles without being codependent on each other. Spouses should not count on their partner to always entertain them. Planning activities independently of one another is beneficial to one's individual wellbeing. When a partner wants to pursue a new career or other interests, those ideas and plans should be shared with their spouse.
Marriage is a partnership. Communication and planning are important to success in retirement - and most everything else in life as well. Be prepared for changes and keep the dialogue open even if the topic is uncomfortable.
The Silver Lining: By communicating and planning the next phase of life together you will enjoy the new opportunities retirement brings and be prepared for changes and challenges that come along with it!