Couples and Retirement: Creating a Shared Vision

A few years ago my husband started talking about retirement. Although he left the corporate world after many years, he continued an intense work and travel schedule as a consultant. He was ready to slow down and enjoy a different lifestyle with more time and space to pursue personal interests, volunteer a few days a week and for us to spend more time together. At the time I was in the middle of writing my first book, focused on personal and professional growth and reinventing myself. Totally engaged in my work, retirement was not on my agenda. In fact, I’m one of those people who is fueled by being involved in a creative process, working independently as well as with others. Retirement has never been my goal.

My husband and I knew that we were not on the same page in terms of timing and we had a different vision for where we would live and how we would spend our time. However, we have similar values and we’ve always shared chores and responsibilities, enjoy spending time with friends and we’ve supported each other through various health related issues.

Life changes may not be predictable and often bring up dramatic new issues for us to face. Until recently I couldn’t imagine leaving the Boston area, my children and grandchildren, friends, clients and the community I’ve enjoy. But things are shifting. My son and daughter-in law are planning to move to Portland, Oregon with our two year old granddaughter. My daughter, who lives locally, has three teenagers who will be leaving the nest for college over the next few years.

In addition my husband and I have had some challenging health issues. Although we’re not ready to make any decisions about moving, I’ve been more open to possibilities

Life inevitably brings pressure to change which triggers transition: the process of moving from one phase of life to another. We go through numerous transitions in life: graduating high school and college, job changes, getting married, having children, losing a parent or other loved one. Although we know that change is inevitable, we don’t necessarily plan for it. This seems to be particularly true when it comes to couples who have differing visions for “what’s next”. Unfortunately when there is no planning for retirement, decisions are frequently made by default rather than choice. Often when couples do start to talk about retirement, they discover that they’re not on the same page and communication may abruptly shut down.

Fidelity Investments has focused on couples and retirement for the past several years. In February, 2014, they released the fourth Couples Retirement Study which found that “38% of the working couples polled cited some disagreement on what kind of lifestyle they would retire to, 32% disagreed on how much they would need to work in retirement, and 38% hadn’t planned to manage retirement health care costs.”

Couples need to be talking about and planning for retirement before they get there. It can be quite a shock to discover that you and your spouse have different dreams and goals for the future.

A helpful way for couples to approach retirement planning is to create a “Shared Vision”. A Shared Vision is a plan that describes how you want to live the next part of your lives. It involves integrating what’s important to each of you individually with what you both want for your relationship. The best Shared Vision reflects each partner’s values, goals, desires and individual vision. If your vision for the future is not the same, compromise and negotiation can be helpful.Trying to balance your own needs with the needs of the relationship can be a challenge. Working with a coach or therapist may be helpful.

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1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed this essay very much and plan to use this topic in my next column retirement 101 in the Cape Gazette in Lewes, DE where my husband and I retired in 2010.

    My husband and I struggled with this issue somewhat. We are moving to a new home this November–a vision I wanted but he worried about as financially sound. Only time will tell.

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