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Six Things Couples Should Discuss when Planning for Retirement

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Here at AgingOptions we are firm believers in the power of communication when it comes to planning for retirement. Sadly, it has been our observation that too many couples avoid the topic entirely, or else they talk about it in broad, general “wish list” terms, never really getting serious about some of the critical details. This lack of communication and pre-planning is unquestionably a recipe for disaster – or at least major disappointment.

For that reason we were interested to read this very recent article on the financial website Kiplinger. The title is straightforward: it’s called “6 Things Married Couples Should Talk About When Planning for Retirement.” The article, written by investment adviser Steve Fullerton, says the only way to help ensure a “happy ever after” retirement is for couples to get on the same page as soon as possible.

“When they discuss the future,” Fullerton writes, “couples in their 50s and 60s often put the focus on their children and grandchildren or the needs of their aging parents. If they get around to talking about themselves at all, they might discuss an upcoming vacation or something that needs fixing around the house.” But, says Fullerton, these couples tend to leave out the most important thing. “What they tend to skip over is what will happen to them once they retire—and that’s a mistake.”

The Kiplinger article includes at least six questions couples should ask themselves as they look ahead to their retirement years.  It’s essential that couples talk about what will their life together might look like when one or both of them isn’t heading off to a regular job every day.  Fullerton asks, “Do their individual visions match up or is there a complete disconnect?”  This may seem like a completely obvious statement, but we have heard from numerous couples who entered retirement without adequate planning and communication and had an extremely hard time adjusting.

So if you and your spouse decide to sit down and start the conversation, begin at the beginning. Each one of you should answer the question, “What does retirement mean to you?” Does it involve one exotic vacation after another, or quiet times at home with the garden and the grandkids?  You don’t have to have absolute agreement, Fullerton points out – you can make differing visions work if you have a plan. Fullerton, the Kiplinger author, writes, “Talk about your goals and dreams now so you can work toward making them mesh later on.”

The next questions are more technical but equally important. Are you and your spouse in agreement about what age you plan to retire? One of you may expect to keep working well past 70 while the other anticipates an “early out” at age 62. This is something you’ll want to talk about early and often, in order to achieve a compromise before retirement age arrives. You’ll also need to be 100% clear on your fiscal realities:  how much money you have, and exactly where it is. It’s not uncommon, even in this day and age, to have one spouse or the other keep all the financial knowledge to himself or herself with the other left in the dark. This imbalance will create inevitable conflict in retirement when decisions about risk and what happens to your income if one of you dies become critical.

Fullerton writing in Kiplinger concludes with this advice: “Talk to each other about how you want to handle your estate—and then talk to a qualified financial professional and attorney.” It might not always be smooth sailing at first. “When you have these retirement conversations, expect to have some disagreements, but keep looking for compromise.”  Even if your visions of retirement diverge, good open communication is the best place to start. We here at AgingOptions want to be of service to you, and we have two suggestions on how to help make certain you and your spouse see eye to eye when it comes to planning for your retirement future. First, let us schedule a family conference where you and your adult children can gather with one of our professional staff and talk openly and honestly about a full range of retirement expectations. Second, as soon as you can, make plans to attend – together – one of our free LifePlanning Seminars.

At these popular information-packed events, you’ll learn first-hand from Rajiv Nagaich how to make certain all facets of your future planning work together interdependently. It’s essential that your retirement plan, called a LifePlan, include all five key components: your finances, your legal preparation, your housing choices, your medical insurance and communication with your family. Your LifePlan helps ensure that you will be able to maintain your security and your assets in retirement without becoming a burden to your loved ones. We guarantee that a few hours spent at a LifePlanning Seminar will be a terrific step toward the retirement you’ve both hoped for. Click here to register online for the upcoming seminar of your choice or call us at AgingOptions and let us register you by phone. Before you know it, you and your spouse will be on the same page! We’ll look forward to meeting you soon.

(originally reported at

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