Whose retirement is it anyway?

Isn’t it one of the most romantic dreams of couples everywhere…the chance to grow old together and bask in your retirement years now that the children are grown and you’re finally free of the demands of your career?

In a word, yes. But nonetheless, like every other phase of marriage, preparing for retirement requires work, planning and communicating about each other’s expectations—which can be fun, rewarding and exciting if you approach it with flexibility and a good attitude. On the other hand, failure to talk about your plans for retirement ahead of time can lead to serious disappointment and frustration.

Retirement is a big step whether you’re single or married, so it’s probably a good idea to start by taking inventory of your personal expectations even before talking them through together. There are people who’ve taken great pains to earn, save and invest the money they’ll need to provide for their retirement years without giving much if any thought to what they actually want out of those years. Maybe those decades of nose-to-the-grindstone career dedication left little time to cultivate outside interests, and you need time to create a mental image of what you really want your retirement years to be.

Once you have a grasp on your own expectations, for many couples the harder part may be sharing those hopes and expectations with each other, and finding a way to make them work even if they initially seem to be at odds.

Maybe she wants to start a new business, while he wants to spend as much time as possible traveling to exotic locations. Or he wants to start the amateur jazz band he always dreamed of, but she wants to retire to the beach.

It’s never too soon to start talking about it. Many people begin entertaining retirement fantasies years before the time comes yet never communicate them to their partner. After all, x, y or z sounds like paradise to you; how could he or she not feel the same? But you won’t know until you ask, and if it turns out you harbor different visions, then the sooner you talk about it, the better—not only about the dreams themselves but the practical steps you’ll need to take to make them possible.

And if your dreams seem impossibly different, don’t give up. Now is the time to negotiate and compromise. Be creative. In the first example, maybe the wife who wants to start a business could create one that involves sourcing products from those exotic locations where he wants to travel. In the second, they could buy the beach house but keep a place in the city and negotiate how much time they plan to spend in each. That’s not to say they need to spend every waking moment together—there’s nothing wrong with pursuing separate interests, as well—but everyone should have realistic and well-defined expectations.

The bottom line is that all kinds of new possibilities are going to open up for you, but if you can’t enjoy them together, then instead of growing old together, you could find yourselves growing apart at a time when you least expected it. So when discussions get tough, remember the tremendous advantage you have over the newlyweds you once were, at another time in your life when you had so many great adventures ahead of you: You’ve already faced your share of marital conflicts and challenges and lived to tell the tale. By now, you’re old pros at this.

So remember: When it comes to retirement, dream, plan and compromise, and last but not least, enjoy. You’ve earned it.

The staff at the Relationship Center of Orange County want to help you to get along better and be happier—whether that is with yourself, your partner, at work or with your family.  Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 393-8662, or text us.

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