Rear view of a senior couple holding hands on the beach. Mature couple standing together on a seashore at sunset.

Are You and Your Marriage Ready for Retirement?

Retirement can spark both stress and disagreement in an otherwise contented marriage. After years of happy, healthy, wedded bliss, sometimes one or both spouses are surprised to find themselves less than fulfilled once retirement comes. Negotiation and compromise are key elements in a successful marriage—long-time spouses already know this and practice both well. It can be difficult for spouses to enjoy their later years if each wants to sail in their own direction. Marital stress in retirement can be linked to two primary sources: one, the difference in timing on when each spouse retires; and two, different expectations for what life in retirement will be like.i

When one spouse retires first

Married couples who enter retirement at the same time generally experience less stress and disagreement. Strife is more likely to occur when one spouse retires before the other. And that strife can be different when a husband retires first versus a wife retiring first.ii From a financial standpoint, it’s advantageous for one spouse to continue working after the other spouse retires. The income from the working spouse’s salary can give the couple some flexibility in many ways, including planning for Social Security benefits. However, wives may feel more stress when they continue to work after their husbands retire. Often, wives continue to juggle the dual responsibilities of home and work, even when husbands are home with more free time on their hands.iii

When retirement goals are different

On the flip side, many husbands retire to spend more time with their wives. Yet, these husbands may feel slighted when their wives choose to continue their career over spending time together in retirement. To ease the marital discord when spouses retire at different times, psychologists recommend a triple dose of talk, talk, and more talk.iv Both spouses need to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with each other and setting clear expectations about how they see their lives together in retirement. Talking about the financial issues of retirement may only add to the stress that spouses feel. But these conversations are also an opportunity for married couples to be open and honest about their retirement goals and expectations.

You may not think this is a role for a financial advisor, but facilitating these types of conversations is what many advisors do all of the time for clients. With goals-based financial planning, these discussions are just part of the planning process. And an objective third-party mediator can help resolve differences in goals and expectations between two spouses so they both can look forward to a long and enjoyable retirement together.

If you would like to have a meaningful conversation with a retirement specialist who focuses on the needs of women in all stages of life, career and relationships, contact Karyn Damschen.


i. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2046/dbfc6a09b98453e3db20a5d33f2e305d947c.pdf
ii. https://watermark.silverchair.com/51B-4-P179.pdf?token=AQECAHi208BE49Ooan9kkhW_Ercy7Dm3ZL_9Cf3qfKAc485ysgAAAcswggHHBgkqhkiG9w0BBwagggG4MIIBtAIBADCCAa0GCSqGSIb3DQEHATAeBglghkgBZQMEAS4wEQQMfjjrS_PjuO-pPF_NAgEQgIIBflSifN0xLJirO_6p5H57Q1WEmS7xY16iscP6ym2BBmhcm1NsvfN48Y6FRBBz9UKntOYQr_Pe94e3MvoJNpjwRn2KfJRKcaJxe_0GLHiIiSxFrP17-oW6jDcJDjoyQG-h31Z1bXrHKSJz4WQCfpbUcYDffi5V4pitk5nm1vt7a0k_9NLqWEijSxvYmoX5NQOo0I4Pr1azaoF0w6lPjg3BtQmZEth-zwMpWjX932RVk6T7HGuMNcqPcB7l6VBBpjlCZDzq44dLZfAFqrQTdjoI-WXwkD_oTX7lnHtaQgHza_qHdMZbt8zVujKH29zYLiAyCEARpu3x2U8YGN9cx-n_EDnYudSTgGjh2CXOrJa3MhrJjS_Fi-xp3NNfQn1eZKy0Iey0VsRX_eSdY3YYGgUvBBobwN5uVf-rDGYUIS3t4Raaf_lGYMa_fq90Ns2QDRUYBChl1UdsiXJwrsmwXJ_DdjW_3yw7fub0lqFbJd4f8w1BGB-cxxZju3tbwxxI6tQ
iii. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertlaura/2013/09/30/when-husbands-retire-first/#7caaafea371a
iv. https://bpl.berkeley.edu/docs/43-Long-Term%20Marriage93.pdf