Six Questions to Ask Your Spouse About Retirement

Throughout your marriage, you and your spouse have likely talked—and reached decisions together—about the big choices in your life: whether to have children, your career paths, the kind of home to buy, and where to live. So why does the idea of discussing life after work and planning for retirement generate emotions from anxiety to excitement for the experiences ahead?

Questions to ask Your Spouse
Perhaps it comes down to this: While most couples like to think they communicate with their spouses about retirement issues, in reality, they may not be on the same page with respective retirement goals—making it difficult to open up about what they want later in life.

Uncovering your different perspectives and deciding how to handle them is a critical first step to building a retirement plan. Having an open discussion with your spouse—and answering the following six questions honestly—is a good start.


Clearly understanding what retirement will look like for each of you individually is just as important as how you view the future as a couple. You may be able to finish each other’s sentences at this point in your marriage, but you cannot read your spouse’s mind.

Start the conversation on a positive note—talk about the events, family milestones, and dreams you both agree on. Discuss what is most important to you, and strive to understand what is most important to your spouse. Once you have shared your expectations, talk about how you can work as a couple to make your dreams a reality. Consider where your retirement goals follow a compatible path, and identity where your goals diverge.

Retirement today looks quite different than it did for prior generations, who generally left the workforce between ages 62 and 65. Nowadays, many individuals continue working in some capacity after traditional retirement—some out of financial necessity, others because they enjoy their careers or wish to start a new business. In fact, 60% of people who start small businesses are between the ages of 40 and 60. If you want to work after you retire, talk about the time commitment it will take to do what you would like.

Deciding when to retire may be the more complex part of the conversation, as your retirement may be longer than
you think. According to Social Security, about one out of every three 65-year-olds today will live until at least age
90—and one out of seven will live until at least age 95. Also, there is no “best age” for retiring. It is a personal
decision for you and your spouse based on a variety of factors: individual and family financial circumstances, cash
needs, health situation, and family longevity—and when you want to start receiving Social Security benefits.²

Many couples find that without work and family obligations to tie them down to their location, retirement is time
to finally explore new places either by moving or traveling. Some couples are choosing to move to a lower-cost state
or country with a lower income tax rate or cost of living. Between 2007 and 2017, the number of retirees who drew
Social Security outside the U.S. jumped 40% to more than 413,000. You may think your spouse will naturally feel
this option is a good move if you do—however, he or she could be just as excited to settle into a quiet life in your
home, age in place, and live near family and loved ones. Discuss your priorities and try to find a solution that works
for both of you.

Only 44% of surveyed workers say they and/or their spouse has estimated how much income they would need each
month in retirement.³ Don’t assume that building your nest egg stops at retirement. The likelihood of a long retirement means you may need to grow your assets for 30 years or more.

Being on the same page with your spouse is critical to avoid surprises and to make the most of your financial situation.
You should prepare for the very real possibility of a significant market decline during your golden years. Your
spending habits may have to change, and one or both of you may need to consider part-time or self-employment.

When couples surveyed were asked this question, four concerns¹ rose to the top of the list:
■ Having enough money saved for retirement
■ Paying for health care in retirement
■ Saving enough money for a child’s college education
■ Paying off outstanding debt

Discussing your concerns now is a good start to determining how you would handle these situations should they arise in the future.

Only 40% of adults in the U.S. have a will, according to AARP. Without this legal document in place, your spouse may not know or be able to carry out your wishes in the event of incapacitation or when you pass away.

It is also important for both spouses to know where assets are stored and how to access accounts. Compile a
comprehensive list of the contact and access information—names, phone numbers, account numbers, beneficiaries,
and passwords—for each asset you own, individually and jointly.

Finally, make it a point to discuss your retirement plans on a regular basis. Things change—giving the retirement
portion of your life the proper attention now can help you negotiate compromises for disparities and prepare for an
enjoyable retirement.

Contact us to learn more about other important retirement topics you should consider and discuss as a couple.

1 “The 2018 Fidelity Investments Couples & Money Study,” Fidelity Investments Institutional Services Company, Inc., April 2018.
2, “When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits,” Publication No. 05-10147, January 2020.
3  Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald and Associates, 2020 Retirement Confidence Survey.

The opinions and other information in the commentary are provided as of July 17, 2020. This summary is intended to provide general information only, and may be of value to the reader and audience.

This material is not a recommendation of any particular investment strategy, is not based on any particular financial situation or need, and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified attorney, tax advisor or investment professional. While Commerce may provide information or express opinions from time to time, such information or opinions are subject to change, are not offered as professional tax or legal advice, and may not be relied on as such.

Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be
guaranteed, and is subject to change.

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