When One Spouse Retires First

3 tips for keeping the peace when you’re on different paths


There are many different emotions associated with retirement.  First and foremost, there is that initial sense of freedom. No more waking up and having to go to the office; no longer being bound to your work schedule and all that goes with maintaining your career. There’s time for travel and spending time with your loved ones.

[Related: President Obama Makes Good on Promise to Help Americans Save for Retirement]

Things can get tricky, however, when the person sleeping next to you does have to get up and go to work.  They still have to put in the time to maintain and advance their career, and they are struggling with work-life balance.

Despite the challenges, however, retiring at different times can have benefits, particularly the fact that one partner may still be getting a salary and benefits, taking some of the strain out of the financial difficulties that can often be associated with retirement and allowing you to take less out of your retirement nest egg.

Dan Keady, senior director of financial planning at TIAA shared 3 tips that can help couples keep their stress levels and finances in-check during this transitional time.

  • Compromise: Discuss how you both see this transition playing out, as you’ll likely have to make adjustments. For example, if you still go to work each day, you might expect your spouse or partner to pick up more of the household chores. Meanwhile, your partner may see retirement as an opportunity to travel more, visit the grandkids, and pursue some hobbies he or she couldn’t do while working.
  • Finances and Benefits: Put together a clear and complete picture of your financial situation. Although you may have already planned for retirement, specifically consider how your financial situation will change when one income goes away. Compare all salary and benefits information for both jobs, along with healthcare coverage, life and long-term care insurance, disability, and any other potential benefits. Review all retirement accounts and any retiree health savings accounts, along with a recent Social Security statement for each person, which shows the monthly payout for when you start collecting benefits at different points.
  • Budget and Schedule: Work with your spouse and come up with a projected post-retirement budget as a couple. That will likely look different than your monthly spending plan while you’re still working. Spending on certain items, such as commuting expenses and clothing, will fall, while others, such as recreation and travel, may rise as you have more time to pursue interests. It may make sense to bring in a financial advisor to help talk you through this, as there are some circumstances that could result in grave consequences if you haven’t carefully planned for them.

Most importantly, be sure to set regular times to discuss these issues so that even though your careers may be on different tracks, you’re on the same page when it comes to your relationship.

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