After years of the “for better or for worse” that comes with every marriage, you already know that you and your spouse won’t agree on everything. And you have probably worked out ways to compromise that are unique to you as a couple.
Now is the time to put that compromise to work as you plan retirement. Start by talking about it—a lot.
When will you be ready to quit work? Where do you want to live when you retire? How do you expect to spend your days? What contribution can you make to a greater good? How will you use your talents and skills to feel fulfilled and useful?
And most importantly, how do your spouse’s plans align with your plans? The husband and the wife should agree, because they both will experience the consequences of the decision. Even if their choice proves to be disastrous, there are no grounds for an “I told you so” to drive a wedge in their relationship.
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” Genesis 2:24
Talk about everything, including your expectations for retirement, what your new schedule will look like, how you’re going to divvy up household tasks and how your identity is going to change.
Each of you should commit your ideas about retirement to a list. Before making the list, define the areas your list should cover: where to live, fun activities, volunteer activities, exercise, cultural experiences, places you want to travel, ideas about being near family members, and sporting events.
There are endless potential ideas each of you may have. Once you each develop this long list of possibilities, go through it together noting what is the same on both lists and where the differences are.
You both need to have your own things you like to do and you also need to spend time doing things together. When you discover those areas where your ideas are significantly different, have “a give-and-take” discussion where each of you compromises to some extent. The exercise of making lists, talking about them and compromising should lead you in a direction for retirement.
Another way to get good ideas about how to prepare for retirement is to talk with family and friends. We always encourage people to seek godly counsel and this is one place where you want to do that. “Do nothing without deliberation; then once you have acted, have no regrets.” Sirach 32:19
Many of your retirement decisions will be based on your financial situation. Some people may have enough money to do what they’d like, while many others are going to struggle to maintain their quality of life.
The bad thing is that most people really don’t sit down and calculate how much money it will take for them to do whatever it is that they are dreaming about. If you don’t have a working budget now, you are only guessing how much your monthly budget will be in retirement.
Sometimes, even when we have planned carefully, life changes. What happens if you can’t work to the age that you expected? Corporate restructuring plans have a way of reducing the older employees. Severance packages might not last as long as you would hope.
Be sure you have a realistic picture of the income stream available to you in retirement. When will you be eligible to take Social Security? How much is it? Do you have a 401K or 403B and how much income will it provide? What about a pension plan or an IRA?
Everyone understands the stock market rises and falls in cycles over the years. Yet this basic fact can be very hard to deal with when you are planning to retire. If the market drops right before or after you retire, you could find yourself with a far smaller retirement nest egg than you anticipated.
It is important to reallocate your retirement savings and move to more conservative investments as you get closer and closer to retirement. Retiring well takes effort and dealing with unforeseen circumstances makes it even harder.
Nevertheless, with some forethought, you can put yourself in the best position possible to deal with unexpected surprises and come out on top. Concentrate on paying off all credit card and consumer debt as quickly as possible so that you are not taking this debt with you in retirement. Work hard to get your home paid off before you retire.
Finally, realize that your retirement dreams at 50 may be vastly different from your plans at 60. And whatever you plan at 60 will probably need adjustments at 70, or when a health issue arises, or when there’s an irresistible new grandchild to visit.
Recognize that the retirement that each of you wants and needs will evolve over time, and create an environment where you’re both comfortable letting the other know when something isn’t working or when a change needs to occur.
Retirement can be one-third of your adult life. Having a purpose and being engaged is a sign of wellbeing. Giving your time and talents to a worthy cause is one of the most fulfilling things you can do in life. There are an unlimited number of worthy causes that need volunteers to help achieve their mission.
Work gives us a reason to get out of bed every day. Most people feel needed at work as they contribute to the purpose of the business where they work. When you stop working, how can you use your time in retirement productively? Humans continue to thrive when they have a purpose and are contributing to something. Find a worthy cause that could use your talents and skills.
Explore a passion you never had time to get involved in when you were working. Retirement offers you the chance to do what you always wanted to do, and no longer focus on simply going to work and earning a living.
So plan in advance, retire well, and enjoy it!
Checkout the Manage Your Money God’s way podcast for more on retiring well.