Chances are you and your spouse do lots of things together and have throughout the time you've been married. If you are close in age you may be thinking of retiring together.
Good idea? It depends on who you ask. The experts at Investopedia suggest there are emotional, as well as financial reasons couples shouldn't end their careers at the same time. Financially, it may benefit the couple if one person works longer. It increases the amount of Social Security benefits they are entitled to receive as a unit.
Emotionally, joint retirement means two people who have led separate lives during the workday wake up one morning and find they are together the whole day. Sometimes, that can be a bit of an adjustment.
Learning to live with one another
Earlier this year a British study found that when a couple retired at the same time it put a strain on their relationship. Eighty percent confessed they didn't have any of the same hobbies or interests and 40% admitted they had to learn how to live with each other again.
"It is easy to believe that, when couples reach retirement, they might encounter all sorts of problems with their relationship,” said Stacey Stothard, Corporate Communications Manager at Skipton Building Society, which conducted the research. “For the previous 30 or 40 years, they will have been set in a routine – going out to work, juggling looking after the children and pursuing their individual interests. Day to day, they might only have had an hour or two of quality time together, with the rest of their day allocated to other commitments. Suddenly, when faced with the prospect of spending 24 hours a day together, seven days a week, without work or the children to talk about, couples can find it hard to adjust."
The adjustment may be made easier with some planning. Planning for retirement, after all, isn't all about dollars and sense. Timing, and the interaction between two individuals, is a big part of it.
Similar to becoming parents
“The transition into retirement, in some ways, is like the transition into parenthood,” said Angela Curl, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri (MU) School of Social Work. “When couples prepare to become parents, they do a lot of planning for the future. They spend time thinking, ‘How might our relationship change? How will our lives be different, and what do we need to do to accommodate this life change?’ It’s the same way with retirement. It affects so many different areas of life, and by preplanning, couples can make retirement a more positive experience.”
Curl examined data from the Health and Retirement Study, which included information from married couples who were 45 years of age and older and worked full or part time. She discovered that when one spouse planned, the other spouse also planned. Even though husbands planned more often than wives, the spouses influenced each other. She also was able to separate myth from reality.
“On commercials, retirement is portrayed as a life of golfing, relaxing or walking along beaches together,” Curl said. “Sometimes individuals have unrealistic expectations about what retirement will be like. Individuals can envision retirement one way, but if their spouses don’t envision retirement the same way, it can be problematic. Talking to your spouse about retirement before you leave the workforce is important in reducing conflict.”
Curl found that upper income men tended to be most active when it comes to planning for a retirement, both in terms on finances and the social transitioning out of the workforce. She thinks employers can do a better job of helping women and minorities plan for successful retirements.
“Individuals need to plan for retirement in more concrete ways. If individuals want to volunteer when they’re retired, they might ask themselves where and how often they will volunteer. Having specific plans and steps to follow will help individuals enter retirement with more success.”
And talking with your spouse about your retirement plans – and theirs – may also increase the chances for a successful retirement, both financially and emotionally.