Most Baby Boomers are ill-prepared for retirement, which may be the most significant life transition they have ever made. And most who have done some planning have focused almost exclusively on the financial aspects. Although financial security is important, it is but one of the 10 key factors that make up a full and fulfilling retirement.
This lack of retirement preparedness is a problem for each individual approaching retirement, and it can be an even greater issue as a couple approaches the end of their primary careers. For 30-plus years, much of their focus has been on building those careers and their family. Now their children are out of the house and soon, their careers will be behind them. What will they do now that they will be home together all day?
The answer to this question is not trivial. “The divorce rate among adults aged 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010,” according to a 2012 study from Bowling Green State University. Here are three examples of how this new relationship phase might play out.
1) As we described in our article Retirement Plans: Crucial Conversations, scenarios like the following can happen when you don’t first discuss your retirement plans with those closest to you. At one of our seminars, a man announced that the reason he had attended the event was he was considering retiring in the next few months, and he wanted to learn what he should be thinking about. The woman seated next to him glared and said to him, “You’ve got to be kidding. This is the first I’ve heard about it.” The woman turned out to be his wife. They had obviously not talked about retirement at all. Surprisingly, only a small percentage of couples do to any extent.
2) A couple came up to us after another seminar and the husband said, “We were having relationship issues while we were working, but we were able to ignore them, because we went off to work each morning and didn’t have to deal with it. Once we retired, the issues quickly came to the surface, as we were together all of the time. Thankfully, we’ve worked through them, but it took a lot of effort.”
3) One couple we interviewed as research for the book told us they had been so excited about retirement, partly because they had been looking forward to spending every moment together. That lasted about a month, until they realized that only some of their interests were common, but each of them had hobbies and volunteer efforts they wanted to pursue individually. They concluded they had married each other “for sickness and health, but not for lunch every day.”
Although these stories are different from each other, there are some common themes that run through each of them and other stories we have heard. We have shared the following guidance with many couples approaching retirement, regardless of whether they retire at the same time or on staggered dates.
- Develop a holistic and written life plan incorporating the 10 key elements of a fulfilling retirement (learn more about the key elements in the book Your Retirement Quest). A life plan that you continually renew as life circumstances change is critical to living the retirement you deserve.
- Make sure that each partner has a plan and that the couple has a plan together. Doing so will help ensure that each individual is pursuing his or her personal interests while also identifying what the couple will enjoy doing together.
- Have the crucial conversations about your plans to ensure you enter retirement with agreement to both the big and little things that will be important. We have encountered couples who have struggled because they had not talked about or settled decisions as large as where they will live to as small as who would get the mail every day.
- Begin practicing retirement, bringing the things you plan to do in retirement into your life today—as much as you can, given that you are still working. Doing so will help you know if your individual and shared retirement plans are right, which should enable a smoother transition into retirement.
In summary, retirement can and should be a great time in life for both individuals and couples, but it takes some worthwhile effort (by making plans, having those crucial conversations and practicing retirement) to increase your odds of making the rest of your life the best of your life.
About the Authors
Co-authors Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence wrote Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement based on a decade of research and interviews with more than 200 retirees. Alan Spector is the retired Director of Worldwide Quality Assurance for the Procter & Gamble Company, author of four books, and a management/quality assurance consultant for companies and nonprofits. Keith Lawrence is the retired Director of Human Resources for the Procter & Gamble Company and Founder and President of Sustaining Success Solutions, consulting with major companies worldwide. They co-founded LifeScape Solutions™ to conduct retirement life planning seminars for prospective and current clients of financial advisors; experienced employees of companies; and the faculty, staff and alumni of universities.
The 10 key elements described in Your Retirement Quest can be a guide to getting started when it comes to having crucial conversations and practicing retirement. For more about their book, Your Retirement Quest, go to www.YourRetirementQuest.com.
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The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of the BAM ALLIANCE. This article is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice.
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