Retirement is a major life change which can create emotional challenges. Especially when you and your spouse have different expectations of what the future looks like.
Together these could be the best years of life or fraught with frustration and resentment.
The 9 emotional steps to prepare for retirement with your spouse are:
Almost everyone is excited with the idea of retiring and being able to do whatever they want. Unfortunately, there are many aspects couples never really discuss which can lead to upheaval.
When you consider your spouse is the most important person in your life (or should be), it’s worth taking the time to talk everything through.
1. Maintain A Positive and Supportive Approach
The emotional steps to prepare for retirement requires open and honest communication. This, in turn, means maintaining a positive and supportive approach. You’re probably not going to agree on everything and compromises will need to be made.
Not only is it critical to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, but you need to understand theirs. It’s their retirement as well and they deserve to be heard.
Express Positive Needs
As a hypothetical example of expressing a positive need, you might say “I’d like to retire in Michigan and be closer to our grandson. He’s growing up so fast and I don’t want to miss out on his childhood.”
You would likely elaborate with more details and why this is important to you. Let’s say your spouse had previously expressed a desire to move to Florida.
By stating your desire in a positive manner, hopefully you could discuss further and find a compromise. A less positive approach would be to criticize your partner and why Florida is out of the question.
Situations like this can become emotionally laden. If don’t work things through together, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
2. When Do You Plan on Retiring
Everyone has their own opinion on when they plan to retire. Some individuals want to retire as early as possible, to enjoy the good life.
Others, as we discuss in our post, reasons you should never retire, have no intention of ever retiring. The majority of folks fall somewhere in the middle.
Many couples plan on retiring about the same time. Their intent is to share this next stage of life and make the most of it. Unfortunately, almost half (48%) of Americans report being forced to retire sooner than planned.
This may be due to job loss or declining health. In these situations, their spouse may not be able to retire at the same time.
Others might want / need to work a few more years, thus staggering their retirements:
Your Spouse's Feelings
If you don’t understand their feelings, this can lead to misunderstandings and resentment. For instance, if he / she continues to work, this can create friction. They might be fine with it at first, then resent they’re the one going to work every day.
Alternatively, the one at home can feel bored and restless with nothing interesting to do. As they’re not contributing to the household income, they might feel less important.
Another aspect is they may or may not be looking forward to spending more time together. Our posts, should spouses retire together and why you shouldn’t retire when your spouse does, talk about the pros and cons of both.
3. Where To Live and Lifestyle
The third emotional step to prepare for retirement is deciding where to live in retirement. Previously, this was largely dictated by your job. Now, you have the flexibility to live anywhere you choose. Options could include:
And, keep in mind, your needs will change over time. Our post pros and cons of retiring in Costa Rica uncovered, even as beautiful as the country is, many expats return home after several years.
Vital to the harmony of your marriage will be your lifestyle. All those things which make life pleasant or not as appealing. Just to list a few considerations:
Our post retirement location criteria goes into greater detail of these considerations. Collectively, this all impacts quality of life. Sure, you could live more cheaply in a 3rd world country, but would your partner be on board with it?
Your lifestyle is a major factor in how satisfied and happy your retirement will be.
4. How Much Time Together
How much time to spend together is something few couples discuss. With the average work week being 40 plus hours, potentially, they’ll be spending a lot more time together.
This can be a big adjustment which will, either, strain or strengthen the marriage. Some couples are best of friends and genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
However, if they’re together 24/7 things can grow stale. Therefore, it’s advisable to balance their time together with some outside interests and friendships.
Then there’s some couples who prefer to minimize their time together. They find things to keep themselves occupied so it’s almost as if they still had jobs.
This doesn’t necessarily mean their marriage is on the rocks, rather they may have numerous outside interests. What is important is sharing quality time with your significant other.
Do Things You Both Enjoy
Think about the things you enjoy doing together. Perhaps it’s bike riding or going for a hike. You might try something you’ve never done before such as signing up for a dance lesson, taking a pottery course or playing pickleball.
In addition, plan some special time together. This could be a romantic evening, attending the theater or getting together with another couple.
5. Separate Interests and Friendships
Long before you retire, you should be thinking about what you’re going to do to occupy your time. Popular advice suggests finding a hobby or other interest.
Unfortunately, some retirees never find anything interesting or meaningful. Our post, things to do when retired and bored, provides ideas to help in these situations.
In a healthy marriage, each person will have separate interests and friendships. For instance, she might have her yoga class and get together with the girls for lunch. He might enjoy going to vintage car shows with his buddies.
Besides providing purpose and meaning for each of them, this also energizes their relationship.
Pursue Your Passion
This is the opportunity to pursue those dreams that’ve been on hold for far too long. Take that class you’ve always wanted, start a new hobby or rekindle an old one long forgotten. The world’s your oyster and it’s up to you to make the most of it.
6. Stay Socially Connected
Another of the emotional steps to prepare for retirement is expanding your social network and friends. It’s not fair to expect your spouse to keep you socially engaged.
And, staying at home for extended periods can leave you feeling lonely and going squirrely. One of the easiest ways of connecting with others is through a shared interest.
Examples could include joining a club, taking a course or volunteering. Our post, how to make friends in retirement, provides further insights on expanding your social network.
The number one thing most retirees miss is the day-to-day interactions with all the people they used to work with. Unfortunately, most work friends fade away.
As much as we like to think they’ll be friends for life, often work was the common bond. This is particularly true for men. Often their friendships were intertwined with their careers.
Yet, even women report how much they miss the social interaction. Our post, how to cope with the loss of work friends after retiring, examines this in greater detail.
7. Family Commitments
Family commitments and obligations can create major emotional drains if not addressed. For instance, how much time to spend helping an aging parent.
You might feel it’s your duty to be there for them. Your spouse may have strong feelings and not be in agreement.
Discussing these matters ahead of time goes a long way to avoiding conflict. After a lifetime of work, neither of you may desire becoming caregivers. Maybe you want to travel more and will need to find a compromise you’re both good with.
Share Your Plans with Loved Ones
Once you’ve figured out how to handle these family matters, you may want to share them with those important to you. This helps set boundaries and avoid false expectations.
In the situation of grandchildren, who doesn’t want to be involved in their lives? The question is how much time to give and if you’re both on side with it. This could be holiday visits or becoming the defacto babysitter / after school care.
Considered the “root of all evil”, money frequently becomes a contentious issue. Maybe you love them dearly and overlooked their spend thrift ways. Now, it's going to become a problem.
Becoming miserly and squeezing every nickel isn’t conducive to a happy retirement. Our post how to deal with fear of retirement reveals the greatest retirement fear is of outliving your savings.
Whatever you were able to set aside, now, needs to last the rest of your lives. And, no one knows how long they'll survive or what expenses they might incur. Many retirees fret over finances and what misfortune might befall them.
This is why reviewing your finances and discussing spending habits is so critical. If one partner spends freely while the other is penny-pinching, it’s going to cause problems.
Creating a realistic budget will provide structure to your finances. Not only does it provide peace of mind, it minimizes overspending. In addition, you can better track your expenses before anything goes out of whack.
Another advantage is knowing how much you can afford to spend on those fun things!
9. Expect Things Will Change
There’s an old saying, the only constant in life is change. Even well-prepared couples go through an adjustment period. With so much changing, seemingly all at once, stress is created.
Being supportive and discussing your feelings makes everything a little easier. You or your partner might struggle with the transition. Some things to be aware of include:
Being resilient and “going with the flow” is important in making retirement happy and fulfilling. As well, being open to trying new things keeps you interested and growing.
Closing Thoughts on Emotional Steps to Prepare for Retirement
Retirement can be an exciting new stage in life especially if you’ve prepared, both, financially and mentally. They’re both important to achieving a happy retirement.
Your significant other is absolutely key and you need to be on the same page. Together, you can make this an amazing journey filled with happiness and good times.
By planning ahead, you’re giving yourself the building blocks to handle any emotional adjustments you could be faced with. This will ensure your golden years are, truly, the best years of your life.