Ask Your Spouse These Nine Questions Before You Retire

Planning Together Ensures You’ll Understand One Another’s Expectations
Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Ask Your Spouse These Nine Questions Before You Retire

Nearing retirement is an exciting time. It’s a culmination of your many years of hard work and smart financial decision-making, and many people find it to be an incredibly meaningful and rewarding phase of life. You likely have a host of retirement dreams – everything from where you’ll live to how you’ll spend your days and with whom – but do you know if your spouse has different expectations?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s time for some open discussion. If your spouse’s plans for retirement are different from your own, it’s important to find out long before you cut the retirement party cake. Many couples are blindsided when their partner’s retirement dreams don’t line up with their own, and it’s a possible factor in rising rates of gray divorce – splits among couples age 55 and older.

In order to avoid conflict and confusion, sit down with your spouse and ask the nine questions below. Doing so will help ensure you’re on the same page as you near retirement and bring your plans into sharper focus.

Question 1: Where will you live?

This is a basic question, but a very important one. Knowing whether you’ll stay put, downsize to a smaller home or condo or even move across the state or country, will inform many of the answers to ensuing questions on this list. If you and your spouse are on the same page – great! If you need to compromise or look for common ground, consider practical matters such as state tax rates, proximity to medical facilities you may need as you age and whether family and friends are close by. Discussing your options out loud is a great way to come to a consensus.

Question 2: How will you spend your days?

Ask your spouse what an ideal day in retirement looks like, and share yours, too. Your spouse may want to visit the farmer’s market daily and try new recipes, while your priority is lounging on the beach reading a novel. Your interests don’t have to line up perfectly – in fact, it’s healthy for you to have both joint ventures in retirement and some solo interests – but it’s a good way to gauge whether you’re on track for a retirement that serves you both.

Question 3: Who will you spend your time with?

If you plan to stay put and continue to prioritize the family and friends near and dear to you both, this may not be a necessary discussion point. However, if you have grandchildren in another state and you’d like to be nearer to them, make sure you share that priority. If your spouse prefers to move to a remote island and rarely see family and friends in person, you’ll need to work toward an agreement that allows you both to have meaningful social connections in retirement.

Question 4: What are the financial implications of your shared dream retirement?

The answer to this question is highly dependent on what you and your spouse discussed for questions one, two and three. Knowing what your planned retirement will cost you is of the utmost importance. This dollar figure will tell you whether you can retire at your earliest opportunity, or whether you need to save for another 5-10 years. Any plans you and your spouse make need to be compatible with your financial abilities, so don’t gloss over this crucial question.

Question 5: Where will your living expenses come from?

Once you’ve evaluated the cost of your retirement, you’ll have to determine where the money will come from. More than likely, you’ve got a mix of assets – personal savings, Social Security benefits and a 401(k) or pension. Some accounts won’t be accessible without a penalty until you reach a certain age, so be sure to take that into account if you’re planning to retire before then. In order to truly ensure you can cover your monthly costs, it’s worthwhile to meet with a financial advisor who can discuss your options and guide you on how to maximize the assets you have. After all, your dream retirement will come to a crashing halt if it’s not financially sustainable.

Question 6: What is your timeline?

For some couples, this is easy – retire as soon as possible! If you can’t wait to leave the daily grind behind and you’ve got the resources to do it, then this won’t require much discussion. However, if you or your spouse derive a lot of fulfillment and meaning from your work, it can be difficult to think about letting it all go. In such a case, you might think about a phased retirement. For those who find their preferred timeline can’t be supported financially, practicality may answer this question for you.

Question 7: What are your health care needs?

When you’ve reached retirement age, it’s important to begin planning for potential future health and long-term care needs. Are you and your spouse both healthy and physically fit, or do you require certain health care services? Do you have family histories or life expectancies that could impact your needs in retirement? This discussion isn’t necessarily a fun one, but it’s vital to your planning. As you talk with your spouse, it may become clear that you need to live near particular medical services, or that you need to further invest in life insurance or a long-term care policy.

Question 8: Do you have any concerns or fears about retirement?

Many people view retirement as a dream lifestyle, and it can be. However, you shouldn’t overlook the fact that it’s a major life transition. Change isn’t easy, and you’re likely to face social and financial differences in retirement that you may not be completely prepared for. Do you have concerns about moving, leaving behind coworkers who have become friends, or something else? It’s normal to have some retirement fears and talking about them openly with your spouse is important in moving forward together.

Question 9: What priorities remain on your bucket list?

Is there anything you absolutely want to do before the end of your life? If so, retirement is a great time to accomplish goals and seek out experiences that you’ve been meaning to focus on. As we age, many of us begin to have regrets about the things we failed to do, so spend some time thinking intentionally about how you and your spouse can avoid that fate. There may be things you want to do together, as well as solo pursuits, that can bring you meaning and satisfaction in your retirement years.

As you answered the above questions, did you find your dreams and expectations were mostly compatible? Or, do you have major differences to work out? Either way, it’s smart to keep your discussion going so that you and your spouse can solidify plans, reconcile differences and move confidently toward a retirement that will bring fulfillment to you both.

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About the Author

Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA

Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA

Kathy Longo brings over 25 years of expertise and experience to Flourish Wealth Management. Kathy is wholly dedicated to improving the life of each client and finds joy in making complex matters simple and easy to understand. She excels at asking the right questions, uncovering new possibilities and implementing the most advantageous strategies for success. Playing such a pivotal role in her clients’ lives remains an honor and a privilege. After earning a degree in Financial Planning and Counseling from Purdue University, she began her career at a small firm in Palatine, Illinois where she worked directly with clients while learning to build a viable, client-centric business. Over the years, she gained extensive knowledge and wisdom working as a wealth manager, financial planner, firm manager and business owner at notable, various sized companies in both Chicago and Minneapolis.

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