Your Investments: Have you had the 'retirement' conversation with your spouse?

Certainly a 40-year-old doesn’t need to have a mapped-out retirement, but having a general idea of what retirement may look like is a good idea

cute old couple 521 (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
cute old couple 521
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
“To get the full value of joy
You must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain
Not all of us men are big on the “communication thing” with the spouse. For some, a deep conversation may revolve around which reality show to watch or whether they can take the last two meatballs. I have heard that there are some men who like to communicate their feelings (what are those?) to their wives, but I have yet to actually meet one.
Lucky for me that I am not writing a relationship-building article rather than a personal-finance column. Aside from child-rearing issues, the one topic I do think it pays to talk about is retirement planning. I realize that couples in their 30s to 50s are very busy with work, kids, etc. and don’t want to think about retirement, but it’s imperative that couples speak about this from time to time.
Start talking
I sit with middle-aged couples all of the time, and for the most part they have never spoken about retirement with each other. Interestingly enough, this goes against results published from a telephone survey conducted by Capital One ShareBuilder. According to a USA Today report about the survey: “People know they aren’t saving enough for their golden years, but at least they are talking about retirement with their significant other. Couples say they discuss retirement planning an average of 14 times a year.”
I find that hard to believe. How many of you non-retired speak 14 times a year about retirement with your spouse? Dan Greenshields, president of Capital One ShareBuilder, describes the apparent disconnect: “Couples may believe they’re talking about retirement planning 14 times a year, but that may mean they’ve mentioned the word retirement or simply talked about finances. Not enough people are having in-depth retirement discussions.”
It’s important that couples start trying to define their retirement goals. Certainly a 40-year-old doesn’t need to have a mapped-out retirement, but having a general idea of what retirement may look like is a good idea. While there are planners out there who believe you need to have a concrete retirement plan when you are 40 years old, I think that is over the top. Living in Israel for many years has taught me that I don’t even know what to expect tomorrow, let alone 20 or 30 years down the road! What is crucial is that the couple be on the same wavelength as to what they want to do during retirement. Do you enjoy travel? Are you blessed with a large family, and do you want to help out and spend a lot of time with grandchildren? Whatever you come up with now is helpful because you can guesstimate how much that type of lifestyle may cost, and you can start planning accordingly.
Blame game
I can’t emphasize enough the need to discuss these issues civilly, without blaming one another for overspending. It’s common that one person in the relationship may be focused more on saving while the other does a lot of the family’s spending. This means that from the get-go there is potential for conflict. Go out to a restaurant and start discussing these issues calmly. This way you can get a better understanding of where each person is coming from and reach middle ground.
Start defining goals and agree to a spending plan that will enable you to achieve your dream retirement.
This method also helps get the couple on the same page and creates a team-like approach to handling money, as opposed to an adversarial relationship. If the couple works as a team, then there will be more discipline on the spending side, which will free up money to go into savings.
Enough communication – it’s time for Master Chef!
The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc., or its affiliates.
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Aaron Katsman is a licensed financial professional in Israel and the United States who helps people with US investment accounts. He is the author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing.