Almost a decade ago, I was in a retirement life planning workshop. Everyone was asked to share their name and why they were attending the workshop. When it came his turn, one gentleman stood and said, “Hi, my name is Joe Smith. I’m here because I’m retiring in three months and I want to get some perspective on how I could be best spending my time.”
That made sense—his quest for knowledge was perfectly aligned with the session’s subject matter.
But within a second, we heard, “You’re what? You’re going to retire? That’s the first I’ve heard about it!” The woman next to Joe had also stood, faced him, and was clearly indignant. Yes, it was his wife, and her volume knob was definitely on high.
Over the course of the workshop, Mrs. Smith calmed down, and the couple was able to take full advantage of thinking about their retirement plans together for the first time. It was a teachable moment for the couple and for the others in attendance.
It is not at all unusual for couples to be misaligned about their retirement plans, and it is also not uncommon, as in the case of the Smiths, for them not to have talked about their plans at all. This issue is not just about married couples. Your retirement will significantly affect all of those closest to you, spouse, partner, friends, aging parents, adult children. And they will have an effect on your retirement.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to figure out retirement by yourself. Have the “crucial conversations” with those who will interact with your retirement. An investment of your time to do so, despite the fact that some of the conversations might be uncomfortable, will pay huge dividends.
Here are just a few examples of the conversations we’ve learned have been helpful to retirees and sadly, have been harmful when the discussions did not happen.
Many people use the retirement life transition as an opportunity to reconsider their living conditions. Where will we retire? Which city? Which neighborhood? Will we have a second home? If so, where? How often would we go? Will we downsize? House, apartment, or condo?
I asked a friend if he was thinking about retirement. His shoulders slumped, a sadness came over his face, and he said, “I’ll never retire. I want to stay in town when I retire, and my wife wants to move back to the East Coast. We know it’s such a big issue for us, that we don’t even talk about it.”
As difficult as the conversations might be, the consequences of not having them and not aligning to retirement plans can be devastating.
There is a series of conversations about financial planning. What is our financial plan? Do we have a thorough and common understanding of it? Do we have the right financial advisor? What do we need to do to make sure either of us could manage our finances if need be?
I learned of a couple who was supporting their adult son’s ever-growing financial needs. It was eating into their next egg to the point where their retirement plans were in jeopardy. They finally decided to confront the issue, because they had to. Their son was furious, having come to expect the support—it permanently damaged the family relationship. What if they would have had the crucial conversation with their son while they were planning their retirement? It might have set expectations early enough to ensure the son did not become dependent on them or at least ensure he understood their expectations earlier.
A few other questions to prompt “crucial conversations” are—In what order might we retire and why? What will our daily routine be? What will our retirement relationship be with our parents, children, and grandchildren?
A final example for now—as you know from my previous blog posts, I’m a great believer in having a well-thought out retirement life plan before you actually retire. And you can tell from this discussion about crucial conversations, that I’m a believer in giving others the opportunity to influence and align with your plan.
Here are questions that will frame the right crucial conversations with regard to planning. What is my plan? What is your plan? What is our plan? What is on my bucket list? What is on your bucket list? What is on our bucket list? Will either of us work in retirement?
Don’t try to figure retirement out by yourelf. Have the crucial conversation.