Retirement looks pretty distant when you start your career until it’s suddenly around the corner. Dedicating more than half of your life doing your dream job, pursuing your passion, or just working to sustain your daily needs, it is not easy to turn off the ignition and hand over the key to someone younger.
Well, some may object to the previous statement and would happily and gracefully make their exit. But the same question follows in either case. What happens next? And oh, an even bigger question. Are you and your spouse ready for it?
Retirement is a period of adjustment, but the bills will keep coming. Opportunities may still come knocking at your door, and the uppermost portion of Abraham Maslow’s pyramid will probably still be waving, your self-actualization waiting to be fulfilled. However, it’s not only the new retiree who has to adjust.
When one spouse or partner retires before the other, both must work together to adjust to the retiree’s new rhythm. Otherwise, it’ll put an unnecessary amount of strain on the relationship. In this post, I’ll share seven tips for getting into the same rhythm when you or your spouse decide to retire first.
Tip #1: Plan your retirement.
You might think this is a no-brainer, “retirement naturally comes. There’s no need to plan it.” Others may say, “Who doesn’t plan for their retirement?”
Good for you if you’re in the latter group. However, even though they know they should plan for it, some wake up one day and find themselves a few months or a few decisions away from retirement.
So even before either of you reach the age eligible for early retirement, hand your partner a steaming cup of coffee and lay down each one’s expectations for when the time to retire comes.
You may consider the maturity of your mortgage, the completeness of a project that you have been working on, or the age you intend to retire before tendering your notice of retirement. There is no such thing as premature plans regarding preparing for a future that affects both your lives.
If you’re retiring first, discuss with your spouse their expectations. Be clear on what they expect from you and what you expect from them. And work on those expectations to plan for the future. It’s essential to manage your expectations through planning; this means preparing emotionally, physically, and financially. Timing may not be everything, but it helps things to settle down.
Tip #2: Assess your finances.
Your finances take the most significant hit upon retirement. Your income changes and the status of your finances largely influence your subsequent plans and decisions.
Assessing your finances means answering questions like, do you have enough buffer funds to explore other possibilities and interests? The answer determines your next steps as a retiree.
Basic economics tells us that we should manage scarce resources. Your spouse’s income remains constant. However, your pension and other retirement benefits may not be enough to supplant the foregone income attached to your previous position. While some think they can cover the difference by getting a new instant approval credit card when financial problems arise, this is no smart move. You’ll be forced to carry a balance every month, so you’ll be plugging one whole in your finances but opening a new, bigger one because of interest.
This is also why tip #1 is essential. Your finances should be one of the biggest priorities in your retirement plan. Having a sound financial plan helps you prepare for the inevitable. You must be able to identify if there is the need for additional income to meet your daily expenses or grab opportunities that may present themselves later on.
You should manage both your finances and your spouse’s well, but it’s also important to be supportive of your spouse if they retire first. Let your retiring spouse decide what they want to do with their pension. If they want to invest it in something they’re passionate about, make it grow by doing business, or use it to finance a new venture or hobby, help them make it a reality. That way, they’ll feel understood and know it is okay to take a risk now and then, which could open the doors to great opportunities.
Tip #3: Manage your time wisely.
Another aspect of life affected by your or your spouse’s stepping down from your position is time. When you retire first, you must acknowledge that your spouse has a different timeline from yours. You’ll likely have more free time on your hands while they don’t.
This can put unnecessary strain on a relationship, especially if, from one day to the next, you’re not commuting together to work anymore or aren’t sharing the same activities you used to. But this is nothing a little compromise can’t solve.
You can manage your time easily during retirement, so you can join your spouse during breakfast before they leave for work or make sure to be there when they come home for dinner. The truth is that you will now have more time to accompany your working spouse. You can now go with them to their dentist’s appointment or general checkup. You can also accompany them when doing groceries or even on their coffee or tea break without it disrupting your new daily activities significantly. Far from becoming a burden, this can help you become closer as a couple.
Tip #4: Distribute household chores fairly.
Another frequent source of argument between couples during retirement is chores. Who is expected to do the chores and take care of the house now that one of the two is retired? The expectation usually falls on the retired spouse since it is presumed that they have all the time in the world.
However, this shouldn’t be the case. You can schedule chore assignments that fit each one’s available time to establish that you are a team and nothing changes after retirement. You can assume more chores than usual now that you have more available time, but that doesn’t have to mean you’ll take care of everything around the house. This also gives each spouse a few moments to have the equally important “Me Time.”
Tip #5: Venture into New Projects
Humans have the natural need for growth in whatever stage they are in their lives. So a retired spouse may feel a lack of advancement and development if they are stuck at home and forced to “rest.”
Working spouses should encourage their retired spouse or partner to do and learn something new. This will help them feel motivated and give them a good reason to get up in the morning.
Your spouse may have set aside certain personal projects or renounced certain ambitions in the past to be a good team player in your relationship. Therefore, retirement can be a time for the new retiree to rediscover themselves. As their spouse or partner, you should support them in this process so it doesn’t become a source of distancing in your relationship.
Investing in new projects requires support from the working spouse, not necessarily in the financial sense but more on the emotional level. This may be risky, but since you should have already planned for this and assessed your finances, your retired spouse should be able to work on a new project without breaking the bank.
In short, let your spouse take a risk. It’s an excellent way to stay active, mentally and physically. Besides, a successful venture on a new project will positively impact your financial stability as a couple.
Tip #6: Learn New Hobbies
“You have a new project! Great!”
However, “all work and no play makes John a dull boy,” so encourage your spouse to learn new hobbies as well. This will help your spouse cope with the change in their routine. Does your retired spouse want to learn how to ride the bike or bake cakes? Or are they busy knitting that lump of yarn they call a sweater? These things may seem boring to you but not to your partner. It is another avenue for growth; it’s another thing to look forward to every day.
Appreciate your retired spouse’s new hobbies by being supportive and recognizing their progress, no matter how small. It’ll keep them motivated and enjoying their new hobby. Being supportive may not bring in additional income (although it might), but if it makes your partner happy, it’s time well spent.
Tip #7: Keep the flame burning.
“I’m too old to be in love.”
As cliché as it may sound, age is just a number regarding love. As a retiree, you can spare enough time to make your partner’s heart flutter all over again. What adds more color to a person’s golden years than reminding them that they are and will always be loved?
So, go out on a date as you used to when you first met, or dance under the moonlight.
Experience having a vacation on the beach or the mountains, or visit another country and enjoy their rich culture, traditions, and flavors while having fun together. Ask your retired spouse what their most treasured moments in your travels are and what they love most about your relationship. Make them feel loved and cared for.
Your partner deserves more passion than what you poured into your previous job.
The bottom line
We can’t define every relationship based on a single set of criteria. Every relationship is unique, and no formula can solve every issue that comes up. The easiest and shortest way to do it is to communicate openly with each other to understand and be understood.
Retiring is not about taking a rest from everything; it’s more an opportunity to live anew, enjoy your life more, take care of, and even learn more about yourself.
Retiring is a high time to appreciate and enjoy the moments you did not have a chance to experience when you were working. It’s an opportunity to move forward slowly.
As a partner of a retiring spouse, it’s crucial always to be supportive since it’s a time of change and adaptation. We go through many phases in our lives, sometimes facing them alone. But if we face them with the support of the ones we love, it makes everything easier and more enjoyable. With that support, we know we can move forward, whatever comes our way.
[Related: Financial Red Flags that Might Be Hurting Your Relationship]