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Happy Retired Couples Are Also Financially Healthy

Long before you leave the workforce, talk with your partner about what each of you wants to do — and where to live and what to spend — in retirement

By Christine D. Moriarty

Retirement is full of life upheavals and new activities. Finances also tend to change.

Understanding your options for living in retirement and spending long saved monies may be more complicated than mastering pickleball; yet couples who navigate all of this change together tend to be financially healthier than those who delegate to one person or ignore the financial changes.

A happy couple together eating breakfast. Next Avenue
The first year of retirement for even long-term couples is challenging, requiring two people to adapt to new schedules after a lifetime of working.  |  Credit: Getty

Retirement is a continuously evolving state not a destination with a full stop of life.

The first year of retirement for even long-term couples is challenging, requiring two people to adapt to new schedules after a lifetime of working. Success, both financially and with your mate, is possible by acknowledging this transition and accepting that you will have to work out the kinks as you ease into your new life.

Remember, this is a process. Retirement is a continuously evolving state not a destination with a full stop of life. As a continuing part of life, there will be ups and downs and variations within the retirement years.

What should you do to be sure you navigate retirement as a happy couple? Start the conversations now. Look at the topics that successful couples asked one another in order to become successful retirees:

1. Discuss retirement expectations long before you retire.

Start a hypothetical conversation to get the discussion rolling. Open-ended questions that get to the root of your wishes are helpful to ponder separately and together. By talking about them more than a year before you retire, they can evolve and be shared. Best of all, your vision for retirement together will become clearer.

Here are some questions to get the conversation rolling:

  • How will you spend time together?
  • Will homecare and homemaker roles change?
  • How much are you willing to spend?

2. Regularly discuss current and future income and spending.

Stay atop your finances by monitoring them together. In many couples, one spouse assumes the primary responsibility for managing the household finances. While you are enjoying a regular income from your jobs, it's easy to become accustomed to a high standard of living without much focus on spending. Talk about how much money you have available and how you will adjust your spending if necessary.

Both spouses should understand their financial situation and regularly discuss it. Then, you can deal with changes as they come up. Plus, studies have shown couples with long-term financial happiness have joint financial discussions.

3. Acknowledge differing needs and wants.

Everyone talks about how post-retirement there will be time to relax, practice hobbies and enjoy life more. However, part of all this change is friendships and activities with and without your partner.

Studies have shown couples with long-term financial happiness have joint financial discussions.

You will need to adapt emotionally after spending decades working, when you may have relied heavily on coworkers for a social life. Now, it's critical to reach out to old friends, new friends and neighbors; don't expect a spouse to give all the fulfillment you need.

Partners should not feel they have to spend less time with their friends in order to spend more time with a spouse. Even in retirement, couples take some separate vacations, pursue different hobbies and find time to be home alone. This takes some planning and discussion but contributes to the long-term health and happiness of your marriage.

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One couple certainly has shared vacations but also taken separate vacations. Each year he goes on a golf trip with his cronies, and she travels to a different European city with her women friends. This arrangement acknowledges their differences and instills some new energy and experiences into their lives.

Do not be surprised if your ideas are not perfectly aligned. This is why talking ahead of time matters.

4. Plan for the long-term future together.

Discuss where you want to live long before you retire. Do you like your current community? Maybe you want to downsize? Move to a 55+ community? Near more family?

Do not be surprised if your ideas are not perfectly aligned. This is why talking ahead of time matters. You may think you are on the same page but may have different ideas. The ongoing conversations are to discover the best option for you both. These conversations may also spur some travel to destinations you are considering as you look to retirement.

Establishing where you live is one thing when you're healthy and active. You also need to at least discuss options for what happens if one of you were disabled, or if both of you age beyond caring for your home. Think out loud now about down the road, so you understand what your partner wants if a major physical change arises.

Living, loving and happiness takes time and energy in a partnership. Talks count to maintain your life together as well as build on the trust you have developed. This represents a higher level of commitment than many have time for during their workdays but is critical to your retirement years.

Being together through the "Golden Years" means being prepared financially and emotionally. The most important part is investing in yourself and in your partnership. Starting today will change the future for the better.

Christine D. Moriarty
Christine D. Moriarty 



C.D. Moriarty, CFP, is a Vermont-based financial speaker, writer and coach. She can be found at MoneyPeace.com.
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