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Do You Know Where Your Spouse is (Going to Be When You Retire)?

Posted Sep 12 2008 1:47pm

" Can We Talk?" a Wall Street Journal article, published in September of 2007, asks if couples are talking with each other about their retirement plans. The author mentions a Fidelity Investments survey of 502 couples who were interviewed separately and discovered that couples don't talk to one another about the crucial decisions of when they would each retire, whether one would continue to work after "retirement," whether they want to stay put or move, and what their preferences are about how they'd spend their time after they leave their full-time mid-years' life. Even fewer couples talk about how they'll fund their long futures...assuming, as most experts predict, that we have 3 or 4 decades to live after "retirement."

Jan Fulwiler and Karen Ostrov, retirement life experts, have developed a program in collaboration with Howard and Marika Stone of 2Young2Retire to help couples begin the process of planning, visioning, and decisioning about this next exciting phase of life.

They suggest that with 2-3,000 extra hours to spend together, couples are putting themselves at risk by keeping mum about this. It must be a sensitive topic. Why is that? I can only speculate.

As much as my husband and I talk about everything, and considering that I am a retirement coach, it's surprising, no, shocking! that we have not talked in detail about what we envision for our lives after we leave our full time jobs. We both love our work...most of the we imagine we'll be working this much, or this intensively into our 70's, 80s, and beyond? Are we in denial about aging and believe we'll have the energy and motivation to do this until we die? Are we afraid to face the possibility that we have different agendas or timeframes, as many couples discover once they do retire?

It's a popular belief that most people spend more time planning their next 2-week vacation together than they do their decades-long retirement. If you are one of those couples who has neglected this important topic, here's some thoughts that Fulwiler and Ostrov offer (with my embellishments) to help you start thinking together about how you want these bonus years to be for you:

  • Review what you enjoy, as opposed to what gives you transitory pleasure. Enjoyment is more long-term, challenges your mind and body, and has the possibility of putting you in flow, that wonderfully alert, conscious state where time passes effortlessly.
  • Create a vision calendar of how you'd each like your life to look when you don't have to report for a job 50-60 hours a week. Fill in each time slot separately for an optimal kind of week or month and then share those calendars over a nice dinner in a quiet restaurant.
  • Consider to what extent either or both of you want to give back or leave a legacy of writing, products, experience, or money to the world. How would you do that?
  • Set aside time to try out fantasies that you each have, whether it be living in a different place, working in a different field, volunteering, starting a business together, learning a new activity that you want to deepen your involvement in. Don't assume it'll be as wonderful as you think without trying it first.
  • Give yourselves permission to do things, such as traveling or learning a new sport... separately, alone, with friends, or with a group.
  • Develop Plans B and C, should your plans fall through, because of illness, disability, or psychological need in either of you or your family or because of other conditions, such as not being able to sell your house or not having as much money as you expected to have.
  • Most important of all...Talk about it and Plan. Don't go into this potentially fruitful period with blinders on. I'm going to do it TODAY.

Write to me at or click the "comment" button below this post.

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