Let’s Talk Retirement

The years prior to retirement are full; full of saving and working and managing the day-to-day.  For some individuals, their dream of retirement is simply a matter of turning off the endless stream of full days.  Their goal is to get out of the rat race and they haven’t thought beyond that last day of work.  Others envision very specific retirement days filled with golf, travel, volunteering and spending more time with grandchildren.  Considering that retirement is a time of numerous transitions and the post-retirement stage could last 30+ years, it only makes sense to plan ahead and communicate with your significant other about your envisioned retirement to help make this stage of your lives as successful and fulfilling as possible.

Consider what might happen if you don’t communicate ahead of time:

John was a corporate executive, traveled frequently for business, but concentrated on providing for his family’s needs and saving to secure their future.  His wife Jane, worked in advertising, managed the home, their kid’s schedules and volunteered with her favorite causes.  John arrives home one night as his 62nd birthday is approaching and announces his decision to retire.  Jane is somewhat surprised, but excited about the future she can now share with her husband.  She has always envisioned the trips they will take together and the adventures they will have.  John is thinking that retirement will mean he can finally be at home and not have to live out of a suitcase all the time.  He is looking forward to enjoying Jane’s delicious home-cooked meals and quiet nights at home.

Can you see where each of these individual visions for their future might collide and cause great discontent for both of them?  Deep discussions in the years leading up to retirement could have helped them find common ground upon which to build their dream retirement.  Communication is key to a shared vision for that future.

If this is a scenario you’d rather not experience with your significant other, it might be time to begin a conversation.  It will take time and energy to form your shared goals for retirement, but it is a critical piece of your pre-retirement planning.  These shared goals will also allow you to both be more engaged with your Financial Advisor in discussing and planning financially for retirement.  Having these conversations in advance will allow you to adequately anticipate lifestyle and spending expectations as a couple in retirement.

So how do you start a conversation about what retirement might look like?  First, make it fun.  Each of you should spend some time individually thinking about your vision for retirement.  Be as specific as you are able, maybe including a typical week and the activities that would fill each day.  Then set aside some time, share those visions with each other, understanding which things are most important to each of you, and begin to look for common ground.  These are likely to be enlightening discussions, as you each share your thoughts and expectations for that time in your lives.  These may also be difficult discussions, as you work to meld two different views of your future.  Each spouse certainly will have activities and passions which are uniquely theirs, just as you do today.  There may also be things that you will want to take on as a couple; new adventures, new causes or volunteering.  There are no right answers in what “retirement” should look like, so it is really working together to figure out what’s right for the two of you.

If doing this type of planning and dreaming is tough to fit into your current schedule, weekend seminars are offered throughout the country. These will give you the opportunity to spend a weekend with others exploring many aspects of what retirement might look and feel like for you.  Get a feel for what’s covered in one such seminar, entitled “Paths to Creative Retirement” by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Asheville, NC.

Whatever tools you use to explore and plan for your retirement vision, it is critical that you do this intentionally and well in advance of your retirement date.  Retirement can last decades for individuals and therefore deserves careful attention and planning to give it the highest probability of success for all involved.  Retirement is simply the next phase in what should be a long future.  Don’t be afraid to dream about it, just follow those dreams up with plenty of conversation and planning so you increase the likelihood of attaining your shared dreams.