Opposites Attract: The Marriage Dynamic in Retirement Planning

In Articles, Estate Planning, Income Planning, Investment Management, Weekly Articles by Adam Cufr

A wonderful blessing and a curse of marriage is the joining together of two very different people. While their values are likely the same, the challenges of living life together have caused many a couple to struggle with financial decision-making. One spouse may obsess over every penny, while the other spouse is a never-ending party, spending money feely, because “Hey, you can’t take it with you, right?”

While different approaches to money can make for plenty of heated discussions over the years, the most critical decisions often happen as retirement age approaches. Without a shared approach to financial matters, new retirees can find themselves laboring over decisions that have huge consequences later in life, when the opportunities to correct course may be very limited.

For the couple that is nearing retirement or has recently retired, there are a number of questions to address as a couple, to ensure a unified approach. After all, the numbers are bigger than ever and the consequences are significant:

  • Do we both feel comfortable that we have enough savings to retire?
  • How much risk do we intend to take with our investments during retirement?
  • Have we decided how to handle money left after we pass away?
  • Do we both feel comfortable with our advisor?
  • How do we plan to handle decisions about pensions, and the timing of Social Security benefits?
  • If one of us dies before the other, do we both feel comfortable taking on the financial role?
  • How do we plan to handle long term care and medical expenses later in life?
  • Do we plan to retire fully, work part-time, volunteer?

This partial list illustrates the vast number of decisions to consider when approaching retirement. Because spouses generally think very differently than one another, it’s extremely important to consider each person’s views before large decisions are made.

Couples who have been married for many years will likely admit that it’s their differences that keep life interesting, yet those peculiarities are frustrating at the same time.  We wouldn’t want it any other way, but it sure would be nice if things were a bit easier. Asking one another the above questions is likely to lead to better decision-making and a happier, more successful retirement. In fact, an impartial third person may be able to shed light on the nuances of spouses’ needs, allowing for a retirement plan that serves both people very well, regardless of how long each spouse lives.

For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer…these are the moments when the vows become very real. Making the most of retirement can be an incredibly fulfilling endeavor. Being deliberate in retirement decisions that reflect both spouse’s needs is imperative, so make the most of this exciting opportunity.  

All the best,
Adam Cufr Signature
Adam Cufr, RICP®