What do you fear about retirement?

Jan 6, 2008

Retirement Planning Wisdom — Don't Forget to Include Your Spouse in Your Retirement Plan

Don't Forget to Include Your Spouse - Part 1

If you are presently contemplating early retirement, it's important to spend many pre-retirement days thinking about what you want to do when you walk out of your workplace for the last time. If you are married, it's just as important that you don't forget to include your spouse in your retirement plans if you want to retire happy.

Whether or not your decision to retire is made jointly or individually may affect your relationship with your spouse when you retire. If your partner continues to work, he or she may feel left out and somewhat resentful, particularly if you didn't consult with him or her before you retire. The dynamics of your relationship may suffer just because you failed to communicate your desire to retire and the reasons behind it. Furthermore, your partner may know more about you than you do, and be able to predict how well you will handle retirement.

Compatibility and the ability to spend a lot of time with your spouse are important because you may be spending a great deal of time together, particularly when both of you are fully retired. The shift in your employment status will influence patterns in how much time you spend together, the types of activities you indulge in together and individually, obligations towards each other, and your plans for the future.

Clearly, your having an active and happy retirement is important for both of you. You have to ask yourself, "How do my spouse and I synchronize our lives so that our time together is a lot better in retirement than it was in our working lives?"

Should it be the case that your spouse plans to work for a few years after you retire early, it's wise to have a retirement plan filled with so many interesting and challenging activities that you won't notice that your wife is still working and you aren't. If your spouse stays in the workforce for another six years, it may be difficult for you to be alone all this time. On the other hand, once your spouse retires, you may find that you actually liked spending time alone, much more than with your spouse. This may wind up being a problem, more to your spouse than you.

Indeed, early retirement can create other interesting problems such as the one experienced by Frank E. Douglas III, and his wife, Ana Maria, of Centerville, Ohio. After Mr. Douglas took early retirement at age fifty-six, he suggested to his wife, a professor at Wright State University, that she get rid of the cleaning lady: "It seemed to me like I ought to do it," Mr. Douglas later recalled. "After all, I was going to be home." Unfortunately, it wasn't long before Mr. Douglas discovered that his house cleaning wasn't up to par. "My work didn't meet the manager's standards," he admitted. As is to be expected, to resolve the problem, the couple rehired the housekeeper.

Married retirees must be aware that each spouse's retirement represents an important life event for couples, requiring adjustment on the part of both spouses. The retirement of one spouse has a tendency to affect the other because the amount of time, and how they spend it together and apart, changes significantly. The quality of a relationship for a retired couple also can be affected by the timing of each partner's retirement, health status of each partner, family relationships on either side, and their overall financial status.

Contrary to popular belief, by no means do all retired couples enjoy their time together more than they did when they were working. The fact is, even two people who have enjoyed a successful marriage for three decades can end up driving each other crazy when one or both retire. Not many wives or husbands will be happy with a stay-at-home spouse who spends hoards of time sitting in an easy chair, for all intents and purposes, waiting to die.

There can be a lot of conflict, especially when the husband retires and has little to keep himself occupied. As one retirement planner stated, ''Since they can no longer boss their staff around, some husbands now order their wives around. The wife will think, 'But you are sitting there doing nothing.' This is when friction starts.''

Being the ''home minister," some women are also irritated when their husbands interfere with their work by trying to help out. The clashes can lead to the men staying out of the house to avoid being nagged and looking for company outside instead.

Barbara Udell, Director of Lifestyle Education at the Florida Pritkin Longevity Center, states, "Before retirement, separateness can be very healthy for togetherness. When a couple is thrown together full-time, an attitude adjustment is needed. Sometimes counseling can be very helpful in assisting the couple with this change in their lives."

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