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What to Do if You and Your Spouse Aren't on the Same Page About Retirement

By Christy Bieber - Feb 11, 2020 at 4:09PM

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Don't put your marriage at risk over a disagreement.

When you're married, a shared retirement is something both partners should be working toward. This means coming to an agreement about how much you'll save for your later years so you can both contribute the appropriate amount to retirement accounts. It also means you should come to a consensus about when you'll each retire and how you'll spend your time once you're no longer in the working world.

Unfortunately, many married couples haven't agreed on these big issues. An older study from Fidelity found almost half of all partners disagreed on the amount necessary to save for retirement, a third disagreed about how comfortable their retirement lifestyle will be, and half disagreed about the desired age to retire.

This can pose lots of problems -- especially as you approach the time one of you wants to hand in your notice. If this is your situation, these tips can help. 

Wedding cake with bride and groom toppers on opposite sides looking away from each other.

Image source: Getty Images.

Schedule some time to discuss your goals

Many people put off having a discussion about retirement plans, especially if they know it's likely to lead to disagreement. But waiting can affect your ability to save enough. And conflicts aren't likely to just go away as you get nearer to retirement.

It's best to address the situation head-on, so schedule time when you can talk openly about your wishes. It may even be a good idea for each of you to prepare for the discussion by writing down what your vision of the ideal retirement is, so you're ready to communicate your hopes. 

Aim to understand your partner's wants

If your spouse has a completely different vision of retirement, don't just dismiss the idea out of hand or argue for your own plan. Instead, talk about why they're hoping to retire at the age they suggested or spend their later years in the way they've described.

Once you get to the root of what your spouse wants, you may find there's a different approach to achieve the same objective that's more amenable to you. 

Find common ground

Although you may disagree on certain aspects of your plans, there is likely at least some common ground.

You might have different target retirement ages, for example, but may both have a desire to travel once you've left work. Or you may decide you both want to live near your grown children, which could guide you in making a choice about when and where to relocate. 

If you can find even one or two shared desires for your later years, use that as a starting point to make a plan that works for you both. 

Assess your finances to see what's realistic

Money is going to affect when you retire and what your lifestyle will be like.

If one of you has big dreams of traveling the world but the other wants to stick close to home, start by looking at your budget to see just how much traveling would actually be possible. You may find that financial constraints limit how often you can head off on adventures abroad, which can help guide you to a compromise solution of more limited vacationing.

When you are young and looking to the future, your finances can also guide how much you're able to invest in retirement savings accounts. If one partner hopes to retire early, this would require saving a lot more now. But if your budget is already stretched thin, then making the necessary sacrifices to achieve that goal may not be possible. 

Come up with a compromise 

Within the confines of your financial situation, try to fashion a plan that keeps both partners happy. You can build from the common ground you found to sketch out a picture of your post-working life that combines both of your visions for retirement while also ensuring you don't spend your nest egg too quickly. 

Reaching an agreement is essential

If you hope to enjoy retirement with your spouse, you'll have to find a compromise on issues you disagree on. Otherwise, conflicts are likely to persist as you work toward disparate goals or if one of you leaves the workforce over the objections of the other. Fortunately, most married couples can find a solution that works for both partners -- and hopefully these tips can help make that happen for you. 

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