Anyone who has been married for a long time knows that there are ups and downs. As is the case with any meaningful relationship, you do not always see eye to eye in every circumstance. Sometimes, that results in a disagreement, but usually, you end up working it out, compromising, or at the very least agreeing to disagree.

When it comes to transitioning to retirement, a fair amount of strain can be put on even the happiest of marriages. With any major life change, there comes an adjustment period and a time to manage your expectations and reach compromises with your spouse about what you see your retirement looking like.

Marital stress in retirement can be linked to two primary sources: one difference in timing on when each spouse retires; and two, different expectations for what life in retirement will be like. As a financial planner, I recommend to my clients that they address these potential challenges before they reach retirement, so that there is a game plan to follow prior to embarking on this next great adventure.

When one spouse retires first

Married couples who enter retirement at the same time generally experience less stress and disagreement. Strife is more likely to occur when one spouse retires before the other. And that strife can be different when a husband retires first versus a wife retiring first.


From a financial standpoint, it can be advantageous for one spouse to continue working after the other spouse retires. The income from the working spouse’s salary can give couples some flexibility, especially in planning for Social Security benefits.

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However, wives may feel more stress when they continue to work after their husbands retire. Often, even in 2017, wives continue to juggle the dual responsibilities of home and work, even after husbands retire and have more free time during the day.

When retirement goals are different

On the flip side, many husbands retire to spend more time with their wives. Yet, these husbands may feel slighted when their wives choose to continue their career over spending time together in retirement.

To ease the marital discord when spouses retire at different times, psychologists recommend a triple dose of talk, talk, and more talk. Both spouses need to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with each other and setting clear expectations about how they see their lives together in retirement.

Talking about the financial issues of retirement may only add to the stress that spouses feel. But these conversations are also an opportunity for married couples to be open and honest about their retirement goals and expectations.

You may not think this is a role for a financial advisor, but facilitating these types of conversations are extremely common when I meet with my clients. With goals-based financial planning, these discussions are just part of the planning process. And an objective third-party mediator can help resolve differences in goals and expectations between two spouses so they can look forward to a long and enjoyable retirement together.

To begin your retirement conversation, you can reach Michael Andersen via email, on the phone, on the radio or at a local event in your area. We are always ready to help you plan for a more confident retirement.


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