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Couples disagree about retirement

By Barbara Whelehan ·
Friday, February 14, 2014
Posted: 9 am ET

Do you and your honey engage in retirement planning together? And are you in complete harmony with your plans?

If the answer is no, you're in good company. According to Fidelity's latest couples retirement study, 21 percent of boomer couples disagree about such basic matters as where they want to reside in retirement, and 38 percent have divergent views on the type of lifestyle they expect to enjoy.

"There could be a financial disconnect if one spouse hopes to travel the world in retirement while the other had planned to spend more time at home," says Lauren Brouhard, senior vice president of retirement at Fidelity Investments. To avoid miscommunication, it's important to understand each other's lifestyle vision and agree on whether savings are sufficient to fund it, she adds.

My husband and I, both in our late 50s, frequently talk about retirement, but we have a retirement-timing issue. After 34 years at the same company, Kevin wants to find a part-time "retirement job" soon so he can play tennis, golf and surf without work getting in the way of his fun. I'd rather hang in the workforce for a few years and take long vacations to exotic places -- both now and during retirement. Yet, I had always imagined that we would retire together.

In search of answers

To problem-solve, I'm reading, "The Couple's Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Transitioning to the Second Half of Life" by Roberta K. Taylor and Dorian Mintzer. It's an interesting read, chock-full of narratives about other couples' problems. The authors, both therapists, offer ground rules for productive communication and also share their own experiences and insights.

Some couples hurl themselves into retirement without communicating much about it. My yoga teacher Stacy and her 47-year-old husband retired recently and moved from New Jersey to Florida. "I can't say there was any real discussion in our house about the logistics of retirement, and that in and of itself has been a problem for me personally now that we are actually in it," she says.

Between their savings and the pension check her husband gets after 25 years of working for the state of New Jersey, they live moderately to maintain their "nucleus" investment account. "Yoga culture encourages moderation, so there hasn't been an enormous adjustment for me in this area. However, remembering the fixed-income part takes vigilance."

In our classes, Stacy often reflects deeply about the journey of life, about finding purpose. She is an excellent and highly credentialed yoga instructor. Yet her husband would like her to quit teaching yoga and just "hang out and have fun." But that wouldn't work for either of them, she says.  "I enjoy teaching yoga and find it so fulfilling. I know I would be like a ship without a rudder if I were to get out of it completely," she says.

Brouhard says couples may not find immediate solutions to retirement conflicts. "It's not uncommon for couples to undergo a transition period as they enter retirement, whether that happens concurrently, or whether one spouse retires before the other. …  Individuals are increasingly returning to the workforce, even if it's just part-time, to remain engaged and fulfill a sense of purpose."

The journey of life doesn't end at retirement; it begins anew with limitless possibilities.

Do you and your significant other have any retirement planning conflicts?



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Barbara Whelehan is a co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters. It is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore and other e-book retailers.

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