Let’s start off today’s post by asking a couple of questions:
- What’s your vision for retirement?
- Does that vision align with your spouse or partner’s outlook?
Making the leap to retirement can be challenging enough for one person, but married couples tend to face other unique changes to their lives and relationships.
Suddenly, your spouse is home far more, and you have to navigate them rearranging the pantry, leaving the car keys in random places, keeping all the lights on, etc.; and quirks can turn to problems far more quickly than you may realize.
Even couples in happy, fulfilling relationships can face frictions if they haven’t communicated their dreams, goals, and visions for this next phase of life. The key?
Boundaries help spouses prioritize their needs as an individual and as a couple, so both people feel confident and excited about the next step.
We want to help married couples build purposeful retirement plans. Let’s explore 5 fundamental tips for married couples to set healthy boundaries and make their retirement the best it can be.
Clarify And Communicate Your Vision For Retirement
If there’s one piece of advice that rings true no matter what stage your relationship is in, it’s,
Your spouse can’t read your mind—even if you think they can.
They couldn’t intuitively know that leaving the toothbrush sitting on the bathroom counter irritated you when you first got married, and they won’t know how you want to spend retirement if you don’t tell them.
Many couples are surprised to learn that they have different ideas about their ideal retirement. Here’s an example.
Drew and Jenny have been happily married for 30 years and can’t wait to retire in just under five. Drew loves his work but is ready for a relaxing retirement where he can golf as much as he wants, take long lunches at the country club, work part-time, and spend time with his grandchildren.
Jenny’s wanderlust never dulled throughout their relationship, and she has lofty travel goals, like spending extended time abroad, immersing herself in different cultures, learning new languages, and exploring new places.
Needless to say that a retirement plan of golf and relaxation is far different from a globe-trotting adventure, both personally and financially.
Before they retire, it will be critical for Drew and Jenny to align their visions and build one that’s fulfilling for each person. Maybe Jenny will arrange to take a quarterly trip with friends while Drew stays home, works on his golf game, and spoils the grandchildren. The couple may also plan to take an annual trip together that includes an amazing golf opportunity for Drew.
Walk through these questions with your spouse.
- What’s your vision for retirement?
- Why are you excited about that plan?
- How does that plan align with your personal goals and values?
- Where do you see your spouse fitting into that vision?
It’s critical to note that there’s a massive difference between vision and reality. While a beach retirement may sound fantastic in theory, if in practice you hate the sand, are scared of the ocean, burn easily, and will be far away from a support system, the beach looks further and further away from paradise.
How will you know if your perceptions for retirement line up with reality? Check out this quiz for unique insights on building a retirement plan that works for you. Be sure each spouse takes this assessment independently and compares notes afterward.
Do you want additional insight into your results? Let’s talk about them together.
Discuss Your Relationship Expectations Freely and Openly
Going from full-time work to full-time retirement can feel like stepping on the breaks to avoid an accident—alarming, stressful, and startling, especially for married couples.
While you love and care for your spouse, spending 24 hours a day 7 days a week with them can feel overwhelming, making it critical to establish relationship expectations.
This step is essential for all couples, especially those who retire at different points. If one person is still working full-time and the other retires, they undergo these significant lifestyle changes separately.
Here are a few questions to help you sort through your expectations for your relationship moving into retirement.
- How will you divide household responsibilities?
- If one spouse typically shouldered more tasks throughout the marriage, the other spouse may expect that to remain the same in retirement. Remember, try to avoid assumptions! Make a concerted effort to divide tasks evenly and fairly for your relationship, so resentments and annoyances don’t poke their way in.
- How much time do you want to spend together?
- Here’s a little tip: make the time meaningful. Simply living together doesn’t nurture a relationship. Go on dates, pick an activity you both love, learn something new together, etc.
- Think about it like this: “I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch.”
- What activities do you want to do together?
- Would you or your spouse be unhappy if you missed the TV show you always watch on Tuesday nights? Do you want to keep your weekly workout classes just for you? Be sure you make a plan for the time you want to spend together. Maybe you have a weekly date night, share an activity, walk the dog in the morning, share a pew at weekend religious services, etc.
- What adventures do you want to embark on? What are you curious about? Take some time to list out the different things you’re interested in pursuing.
- What activities do you want to do separately?
- Yes, you’re partners for life, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment together. It’s important for yourself and your relationship to nurture your own interests. Perhaps you love yoga, but your partner thinks down dog is something reserved for your household pet—that’s okay! Leave room to protect your personal space and interests—it will lead to a happier, more well-adjusted transition.
Setting expectations upfront is an excellent way to ensure you’re both on the same page when it comes to your relationship. It’s always best to have these conversations early to avoid misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and disconnectedness.
In addition to setting expectations with your partner, you must also set clear boundaries with the other people in your life. If your adult children expect you to babysit five days a week, but that’s not what you had in mind, you need to talk with them about an arrangement that works best for you.
The same is true for your health as you age. What are your personal and financial expectations for your adult children’s involvement? Do you plan to move into their house? Have you had these discussions with them? How involved do you want them to be in any care you may require? These conversations may not be easy, but they are essential. Make a point to establish an open, honest line of communication between the people in your life.
Carve Space For Individual Goals and Pursuits
As a married couple, you’re used to sharing so much of your lives together, and while that can be a beautiful thing, it’s just as essential to prioritize your time, space, and interests.
Retirement opens the door for intentional “me time.” And that may be strange, especially at first. But once you get used to it, your “met time” can be invaluable. How can you make the most of it?
Start by setting realistic goals. While the first few months of retirement may seem like a honeymoon period, the luster of cleaning your closet and organizing your inbox will lose its sheen, and what will you have left?
Create goals you’re excited to pursue in retirement. Maybe they’re intellectual, physical, social, etc. No matter what, be sure you have them and communicate them to your spouse and encourage them to do the same! That way, you both know what the other person wants to do and can help them along the way.
It’s also important to remain social outside of your relationship. For example, grab coffee with friends, attend an exercise class with a group, try an activity you love, but your spouse doesn’t.
Say one of your goals is to write a book, but your spouse has no interest in doing the same. Perhaps you’ll join a local writers group to keep you on track, provide inspiration, and meet a community of people who share your interests.
You and your spouse don’t have to be doing the same things all the time for you to have a fulfilling relationship. Engage in activities that interest you and help you reach your goals.
Know Where Money Fits Into The Plan
Married couples need to be true partners in their financial lives. Once you both understand what the other person wants for retirement, you can see how your finances support those goals.
Think about the following questions:
- Do you have enough money saved to do the things you want? If not, how can you make up the difference?
- Do you know how much you and your spouse actually spend every month? If you plan to cut back on spending, how will that impact your lifestyle? Is the budget you set realistic? When you have extra time on your hands, that can translate to excessive spending.
- Have you made a plan for your and your spouse’s health? Be sure you have proper medical coverage and additional insurance to protect yourself as you age.
Sometimes fitting your finances and ideal retirement lifestyle together can feel like a 1,000 piece puzzle, but we’re experts at helping you bring the pieces together.
Be Honest About Your Retirement Readiness
Are you really ready for the retirement transition?
Consider your preparedness in these twelve critical areas that make up a fulfilling lifestyle. Have each spouse record their own responses.
- Sense of Identity and Purpose
- It’s not uncommon for people to attach their self-worth to their jobs. So when that aspect of your life has changed, it’s challenging to find a new medium for purpose and fulfillment. Here’s an exercise to try. Come up with a “retirement title” or “bumper sticker” that could define the next stage, such as inspired not retired.
- Physical Health
- How do you plan to stay (or get into) shape? Perhaps you’ll take on Saturday yoga, daily walks, a team sport, train for a race, etc.
- Mental and Emotional Health
- Be sure to protect your mental health throughout retirement. Many retirees feel listless or lost during this time. Check-in with yourself and build a routine that consistently fills your cup.
- Social Networks
- One of our best tips here is to be the friend/spouse/parent you’d want to have. Nurture current relationships, and don’t be afraid to make new ones. Take this time to try something new, like enrolling in a class, doing group exercises, joining a group that shares a hobby, etc.
- Leisure Plans
- Where do you want to travel? What big-ticket items are you itching to scratch off your list? What activity are you excited to try, like golfing, boating, etc. Here’s where you can get excited about those plans!
- Spiritual Life
- This is a profoundly personal area that may look different for each person. Consider what spiritual nourishment makes sense for you, like weekly services, volunteer work, etc. While religion is part of your spiritual life, it isn’t just about religious practices. Prioritizing spirituality is about your connection to yourself and the world around you. The definition of spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than yourself and gives you meaning and purpose.
- Marriage or Partner
- How will your relationship adjust to retirement? How can you spend intentional time together and apart?
- Home(s) Location
- Where you live sets the stage for your entire lifestyle—where you go, what you do, your favorite activities, etc. Whether you want to move to a new area, snowbird for the winter, or remain where you’re at, be sure you choose a place that enables you to do the things you love.
- Retirees find so much purpose in giving back. Find an organization that means a lot to you and commit to regular volunteer time, whether weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.
- Part-time Work
- You may love to work—that’s amazing! So, why stop? Take this time to pursue an encore career, begin a part-time job in an interesting field, engage in a passion project, start your own business, etc. Your part-time job may also be a valuable social outlet. Try to do something that doesn’t really feel like “work.”
- Financial Security
- Can your finances support your ideal retirement lifestyle? Create a flexible, realistic plan so you can enjoy your life without pinching pennies.
- Attitude on Aging
- Aging is a complex and challenging process. Are you prepared to age? What provisions do you have in place—healthcare, insurance, estate plan—to help?
You can each “score” your readiness in each of these areas via the Retirement Transition Wheel and discuss your answers with your partner. Are there areas where you have a disconnect? Did you surprise yourself or your spouse with any of your responses? How can each of you use this tool to better support and care for one another?
The Retirement Transition Wheel is a wonderful exercise to get you thinking about your retirement lifestyle comprehensively. Moving through these areas will help you understand where you thrive and which areas need more attention.
When you “score” these areas on the wheel, gauge your satisfaction levels with that area of life. Don’t put what you think you should or what others may want you to indicate, be true and honest with yourself; that’s the only way to make measurable progress.
Strengthen Your Relationship To And Through Retirement
Working with a retirement planner and coach can help you, and your spouse understand your big dreams and goals for your golden years.
Are you ready to make your retirement extraordinary?
Set up a time to connect with us today. We love working with married couples to help them build a retirement plan they love.