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Kiplinger: How Older Couples Can Defuse Their Money Battles

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Among married couples who disagree about finances, which age group seems to bicker the most? According to this article on the Kiplinger financial website, the answer is baby boomers – and the reason seems to involve disagreements about retirement.

The recent article is called “Older Couples Face Money Battles.” It cites two studies, one by Fidelity Investments and one Harris Interactive, reporting that “baby boomers had the highest level of disagreement about how much they need to save in order to maintain their lifestyle in retirement.” The Harris poll showed that more than one-third of couples in the 55-64 age group said money matters triggered arguments between spouses compared with just 15% among married couples aged 18-34.

Kiplinger reports that there are four categories of retirement planning and money management that seem to provoke the most spousal conflict: how much to spend, how much to save, how to invest and how much to help adult children financially. “Such disagreements,” says Kiplinger, “can turn the estate plan into a battlefield.” A big part of the underlying cause for these quarrels is the loss (either sudden or planned) of a steady paycheck. But there are other factors that ratchet up the tension.

One problem is persistently low interest rates, which have kept the returns on retirement investments low. These “underwhelming” returns (to use Kiplinger’s term) can cause spouses to disagree over how aggressive or how conservative the couple’s retirement investment portfolio should be. A related dilemma that causes financial fights is combination of the slow pace of economic recovery and the increasing life expectancies that put more and more boomer couples in the tight spot of managing their own resources and helping their own kids while they also care for aging parents. Talk about pressure!

The Kiplinger article gives some helpful tips on how to overcome a few specific conflict triggers. For example, you might be fiscal opposites. “When it comes to financial personalities, opposites attract,” says Kiplinger. “People who consistently spend more than they should are attracted to people who spend less than they should — and vice versa.” To make matters worse, “this spender-versus-saver conflict often grows more intense in retirement.” In this case you and your spouse may want to consider a combination of separate and joint accounts, along with some mutually-adopted spending guidelines. In a similar way, deciding how much to help your adult kids may come down to understanding each spouse’s underlying motives for their point of view. You may also be able to think of some non-financial ways to come to the aid of family members who need support.

The Kiplinger article provides valuable insight into some of the financial friction couples approaching retirement can experience. But of course there’s much more to retirement than finances. Here at AgingOptions we will be happy to meet with you and your spouse to review finances plus all the other aspects of a comprehensive retirement plan: your health care needs, your housing options, your legal affairs and your family communications. We call this type of plan a LifePlan. Putting this type of plan in place will help any couple enter their retirement years with confidence, not conflict.

The best, easiest way to start the planning process is by attending one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website for a listing of seminar dates, times and locations. Space is limited for these highly popular information packed events, so we urge you to register online. Then whether you’re about to retire, already retired, or planning years ahead, you and your spouse will be able to concentrate on the years ahead – and find it easier to keep conflicts to a minimum.

(originally reported at

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