When your retirement is coming closer to you and your partner, you might consider retiring at the same time. You’re probably wondering if this is a good or bad idea? In this article, I share in-depth information about the key factors and details that can affect your decision to retire as a couple at the same time or at different times. So you can make a decision that’s right for both of you.
1) Retirement Financial Planning
The most critical question for pre-retirees is: did we saved enough for retirement?
As a couple, you need to have a clear understanding of the monthly amount, net of taxes, that you need for maintaining the retirement lifestyle you desire. The income in retirement has to cover the fixed costs of basic needs, housing, health care, and long-term care. And as well as the costs for retirement plans like travel, hobbies or other ideas. And of course with taking into account: inflation (3% annually), the possibility of higher health costs later in life, and long aging of both or one of you.
The life expectancy of men in the United States is 76, and women are 81, according to Statista. So you need to be prepared for the fact that on average, women live longer than men and calculate this into your financial retirement plan as well.
Income for most retirees is a combination of the following:
- Social Security retirement benefits
- Employer pension plan(s)
- 401(k) or traditional IRA savings
- Personal savings
- The income of a retirement job (if necessary or desired)
- Income through investments
Apply The 80% Rule
A way to get a rough estimating figure on how much you need in retirement is to apply the 80% rule. So for example, if your annual income is now $50,000 according to the 80% rule, you’ll spend about 80% of that income in retirement, which is $40,000.
You can use the 80% rule as a start-off point, but you need to get more into detail to generate a relevant estimate of your retirement expenses as a couple. And think about your retirement lifestyle, mortgage, health expectations, and all the other costs to fine-tune your budget and retirement income plan.
Use A Retirement Calculator
You can also use a retirement calculator to get a rough estimate of how long your current savings would last and go through different scenarios. The calculator from your 401(k) provider, pension fund or one of these online retirement calculators, that you can find on Nerdwallet.com or Smartasset.com
As a reference for your annual expenses, you can also take a look at the Consumer Expenses Survey from the BLS. According to the survey, from which the most recent data is coming from 2018, people from 65 years and older spent, on average, USD 50.103 annually.
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2) Get A Financial Advisor
To get a better answer on how much you need in retirement, you need to get advice from a finance professional who can calculate the numbers for you. Because everyone’s financial situation is different and everyone’s needs in retirement are different too. And it’s best to gain advice as soon as possible, because the more time you have to work on bettering your finances for retirement, the better.
Financial advisors can evaluate your savings and run the numbers for one person or two persons retiring. This way, you’ll have a better understanding of what happens to your financial situation if you retire at the same time or at different times. Check out financial advisors at Napfa or FPA. Or ask for a financial advisor through your company.
3) Consider Age Difference and Career Path
It’s important to know if you both are financially ready to retire. One spouse can be more ahead with building their pension fund, IRA or 4019(k) than the other. The reason for this can be age, started working earlier or having worked more years. Maybe your partner took time off to take care of the kids and needs a few more additional years that can make a massive difference for your retirement income.
If you have a younger partner who still wants to pursue a career, that source of income is a great reason why you want to retire at a different time. A health care plan from a second job can also reduce the costs of health care for both of you.
The desire to retire at the same time can be your ultimate retirement dream, but it can have substantial financial consequences. One of you working longer for a couple of months can even have a significant effect on your future retirement income according to a paper of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
To make a decision on when you as a couple should retire, you need to be informed and updated about your financial situation. This is the most critical factor to prepare for your retirement, so make sure you’re up to date and thoroughly informed. But there are more reasons why you should or shouldn’t retire at the same time that you can read below.
4) Social Security Benefits
Social security benefits can be an essential factor for a couple to retire at different times. When there’s an age difference, as the younger spouse, you might want to wait out before collecting your social security. Because the younger you start collecting your social security, the smaller your monthly benefit will be.
You can start collecting social security from the early age of 62. But you’re entitled to your full Social Security benefit at your full retirement age. And your full retirement age ranges from age 66 to age 67 depending on your year of birth (see table below). And the benefit grows (approx. 8% per year) with each year you put off your claim for social security (differs per person). And you’ll receive even a higher benefit if you collect social security later than your full retirement age.
Check out the chart of the Social Security Administration that lists reduction amounts for age 62 here.
Your social security benefit is based on your 35 highest-earning years. So if you worked fewer than 35 years than your average earnings will be reduced by the zeros during the years, you didn’t work. How much social security payment you’ll receive depends per person, but the average social security benefit was $1,461 per month in January 2019.
If you want to have an estimate of your social security retirement benefit now, you can use the calculator of the Social Security Administration here. And make sure you create a My Social Security account. You want to check your Social Security statement annually and see if your earnings history and taxes have been recorded correctly.
If you have an older husband and you want to retire at the same time than you might lose out on peak earning years that boost your social security benefit. Or if you took care of the children a couple of years, you also have reduced benefits because of your shorter career. So it can pay off if one partner keeps working and wait a bit longer to collect their social security benefits. That extra income can even allow a delay for both your social security payments.
Tip: To maximize your benefits as a (married) couple, you can claim social security benefits for one spouse at full retirement age. And delay collecting the other spouse’s social security, so that the second benefit can grow.
Check out this video to learn more about what the best time is to start collecting social security:
How To Boost Your Social Security Payments:
- Work at least 35 years
- Increase your income by asking for a raise
- Work until your full retirement age
- Delay claiming until age 70
- Claim (ex) spousal payments – You can claim benefits from your (ex) spouse up to 50 percent of the higher earner’s benefit, whichever is higher. So, for example, if you were married for at least 10 years, you can also claim social security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record.
- Include your family – When you have dependent children under age 19, you’re able to get additional social security payments for them. This can be worth up to one half of your full retirement benefit (to certain annual limits).
- Don’t earn too much in retirement – Retirees with social security benefits under their full retirement age can be withheld from their payment. Check out information about how much you can earn in retirement here.
It’s best to have a clear understanding of how social security works and how your social security situation is before you decide when to retire. It’s often difficult to understand, and a lot of people make mistakes which causes them financial problems in the future. So to avoid all this, you want to have in-depth knowledge about social security. And therefore you can learn more about social security with the book Social Security for Dummies which you can buy on Amazon here. It’s written in a way that everyone understands.
5) Prepare For Healthcare In Retirement
Another factor in whether you should or shouldn’t retire at the same time is health care. Healthcare is one of the highest expenses in retirement. It’s also one of the major stress factors for retirees. Therefore you want to make sure it’s taken care of so you can relax and enjoy your retirement instead of worrying all the time.
The easiest way is that both of you are the same age, and you have health care coverage through work, and you retire at the age of 65 or later. Medicare kicks in at age 65, but what if your spouse is younger than you or if you want to retire earlier than 65? These are all valid questions to ask yourself and your spouse before you decide when to retire.
Keep in mind that Medicare plan is free for most people over 65, but there are still out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance, to factor in. Get information about Medicare here so you can estimate what extra costs you need to take into account.
If you retire earlier than 65 and lose your job-based health plan, you can buy a health plan at the Health Insurance Marketplace. Check out more information about health care for retirees at Healthcare.gov.
To enjoy your retirement, you need to make sure you don’t have to stress about healthcare. You get older so the chances of you or your partner having health issues are getting bigger by the year. And it’s important to discuss the possibilities of healthcare with your partner. But also the different scenarios what can happen in the future to you or your spouse and discuss longterm care so you both are prepared and on the same page.
6) Prepare For Lifestyle Change In Retirement
Retirement is a lifestyle change that many retirees underestimate. To be successful in retirement means that you find satisfying and fulfilling replacements for work and find happiness in (new) interests, relationships, and activities. This way, your life continues to have meaning after your job has ended.
Also, each person handles this life change differently. It can be a reason to not retire at the same time for you as a couple. So that each partner within the relationship has enough time and space to adjust to their new lifestyle independently.
How you want to spend your retirement as a couple is very important to live a happy retired life together. You need to communicate your dreams, plans, and goals for retirement to get on the same page. Most retirees are focused on the financial part of retirement, which of course is important. But a lot of retirees forget to make plans on how they want to spend their time in retirement.
The biggest mistake for couples is not communicating properly of what they want out of retirement. Many people assume what their view on retirement is without talking to their spouse. And this can lead to conflicts once you’re retired and sometimes even lead to depression or divorce.
If you’ve gotten used to your independent lifestyles, it can be a massive adjustment when you retire together. When you’re used to only seeing each other 3 hours a day to, all of the sudden being around each other 24/7 is difficult. Even if you love your spouse very much, you are not used to being that close all the time. And sometimes you’ll be faced with the fact that you have very little in common and no longer feel compatible.
You can also be mentally ready for retirement, but your partner isn’t. Maybe your partner wants to continue working because they love their work, and you would like to retire. Or the other way around. If this is the case, then it’s not a good idea to retire at the same time.
To make the most out of retirement, you need to be in-sync with the expectations of retirement as a couple.
7) Learn To Accept Your Spouses Wishes and Ideas
So to find out what your spouse wants in life, you need to talk about it and listen without judgment. The talks can be tough if one or both of you are not used to communicating openly with each other. And it can also be disappointing to hear if your spouse has a different view of retirement or the future than you have. But it’s better to know now than not knowing.
From that conversation, you can start creating a new lifestyle together that both of you can enjoy. And that meets both of your emotional needs and also take the other person’s feelings into account. This is the best strategy to have an enjoyable retirement together. Where you prioritize your own goals in life and the goals you have together. As a couple, you can find a balance between togetherness and having some time apart in retirement.
A way to resolve conflict or make a decision as a couple about life in retirement, you begin with the goal of a mutually enthusiastic agreement. So that means if one or both of you isn’t enthusiastic about something you keep negotiating until you can find a mutually enthusiastic agreement. It forces both of you to develop a deep understanding and respect of the other person to come to an agreement. Which ultimately helps to better your relationship.
Here are a couple of guidelines for negotiating as a couple:
- Set rules to make negotiation for you and your partner pleasant and safe.
- Show respect and communicate without anger
- Identify the conflict from both perspectives
- Brainstorm with no boundaries
- Look for mutually acceptable solutions
- Stop the negotiation when one or more of the rules are violated and come back later to address the issue with a different mindset
When you find it challenging to communicate, you might want to follow the Masterclass where Robin Roberts teaches Effective and Authentic Communication.
8) Create A Retirement Lifestyle Plan As A Couple
When the ultimate dream of retiring together is financially possible, and you have the same plans for retirement together than it can be a great idea to retire at the same time. Especially when you want to travel together or have other projects in retirement, you want to do together.
If you know each other’s wishes on how to spend time in retirement, it is much easier to create a lifestyle plan that fits both your dreams. So I recommend planning a brainstorming session with your spouse. Maybe with a good bottle of wine, and start sharing ideas on how you want to spend your retired life together.
You can quickly end up creating a retirement bucket list with things to do as a couple. This list can also contain individual activities, of course. Like we discussed earlier, one of the most important things to successfully retire as a couple at the same time is accepting each other’s wishes and ideas on how to spend time as a retiree.
If you’re planning on traveling in retirement, check out our recommendations for the best travel resources and the best travel gear here. We’ve been full-time traveling for many years now, so we put together a list of helpful booking recourses and travel gear we use all the time and can recommend without any hesitation.
When you find it challenging to come up with ideas for how you want to spend time in retirement, I recommend reading some of these articles that I wrote, 101+ Ideas For Your Retirement Bucket List or What To Do When You’re Retired? 65 Ideas
9) Know The Stages Of Retirement
Transitioning into retirement means rediscovering your new identity and find a new purpose in life that is fulfilling and satisfying. This is a process and a lifestyle change that takes time to adjust. And everyone handles it differently.
Having knowledge about the retirement transition process helps you to understand what’s ahead of you and your partner. And also helps you to decide whether it’s better to retire at the same time or separately.
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Phase 1: Pre-Retirement – This phase is where people come to the realization that retirement is coming soon. And that it’s not something far away anymore. Probably you and your partner are in this phase right now where you prepare for retirement and getting ready to stop working.
It’s a crucial time because, in this phase, you have the opportunity to prepare for your retirement financially and emotionally, the best way possible. You can figure out if it’s best to retire together or separately. And if you prepare this major life change thoroughly, you have a better chance of transitioning into retirement more smoothly.
Phase 2: Honeymoon – This is the phase where you just retired. The first couple of weeks where you really feel the sense of freedom and celebrate your retirement. But this phase can trigger mixed emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety. Many retirees go into this phase cold turkey, without any consideration or plans for their long-term needs in retired life. You want to enjoy this time but also have a long-term plan ready for how you want to spend your time in retirement.
Phase 3: Disappointment/ Disenchantment – For some retirees, the honeymoon phase is followed by a period of disappointment. The reality of retirement hits in. And the dreams they had for retirement aren’t matching the reality of their retirement. For them, retirement can feel disappointing and an anticlimax and can sometimes lead to depression. This can happen to you or your partner, so be aware that this phase can be part of your process.
This disenchantment phase mostly happens to retirees who weren’t prepared enough for their time in retirement. Or didn’t communicate their view on retirement with their partner. It’s an uncomfortable phase, but you can get out of it if you take proper action in turning your life around and start communicating with your partner.
This phase allows you to re-invent yourself and your relationship. And it also to re-define your goals and purpose in life as an individual and as a couple. Which can be viewed as an exciting time too.
Phase 4: Reorientation. This phase is where retirees are actively developing ideas and move towards a more balanced life. You’re orientating, thinking, and exploring new routes as a person and as a couple. You take action to the life you want to live. And a combination of mentally, physically, and social activities and routines in retirement is one of the best ways to live a happy retired life.
Phase 5: Stability – This is the stage of “retirement.” You’re not planning, preparing, and moving towards retirement; you’re living it. You’re satisfied and happy with who you are as a person and with your relationship. You love where you’re at in life, and you’re satisfied with all the activities you’re doing in retirement separately and as a couple. The free time is converted to self-fulfillment.
I explain these stages of Retirement more in detail, in my article, What Are The Five Stages Of Retirement?
10) Accept That Roles In Your Relationship Can Change
Also, the dynamics at home are changing when you’re retiring. Your role is changing, and maybe you’re partner needs time to adjust to that fact that you’re home more often. Or you expect from you’re retired partner to take on more household activities, and he or she isn’t performing to your expectations and needs. These are all topics you need to discuss beforehand or directly on the spot before it becomes a more significant issue, and you take your frustrations out on each other.
The retirement process has an emotional impact on each partner and on your relationship as a couple. Retiring at the same time and struggling to find your new identity and your new paths simultaneously can create friction. When you expect one or both of you need time to adjust to the process, it can be wise to retire separately.
Reasons Why Couples Decide To Retire At The Same Time:
- When your finances are in order and as a couple, you have saved enough for both of you in retirement
- When you’re the same age
- When you’re in the same health conditions
- When your healthcare is arranged
- When your lifestyle ideas for the future are on the same page
- When you both are mentally ready for retirement
- When you both want to retire together so you can travel or dive into your shared retirement projects
Reasons Why Couples Decide To Retire Separately:
- When your finance retirement plan isn’t in order
- When you’re not the same age
- When you have different health conditions
- When healthcare for one or both partners isn’t arranged in retirement
- When you have different lifestyles ideas or plans for retirement
- When one partner isn’t mentally ready for retirement
- When you want to retire separately, so you create space for both partners to adapt to the new lifestyle independently
With this article, I hope you’ve gained more clarity about your retirement decision as a couple and whether it’s a good or bad idea to retire at the same time. But to help you out, even more, on preparing for your retirement you can read these other helpful articles: