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Couples Retirement Counseling


Quick question: How much time have you and your partner spent talking about your respective expectations and hopes for retirement?

If you’re like most couples, the answer is probably: not nearly enough. Here’s a good way to get started.

A new report from Fidelity Investments titled “Top 10 Retirement Questions for Couples” provides, appropriately enough, a series of questions that can help point you and your partner in the same direction when it comes to planning for later life. And many couples are in need of direction.

A recent Fidelity survey of 648 married couples born between 1937 and 1964 found that almost two out of three pre-retiree couples don’t agree on when they should begin retirement, and one in three couples have different ideas about how they should spend their time in later life. (And if you can’t agree on how to spend your time, it’s tough to figure out how big your retirement savings need to be.)

Where to start? Here’s a sampling of questions and why each can help your planning:

At what age do you want to retire? Women, in particular, “tend to reach the peak of their careers later than men, so they may not want to leave work just as they are hitting their stride,” says Laura Carstensen, professor of psychology and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. (Women also typically live longer than men – and might need to work longer to bulk up their nest eggs.)

What type of lifestyle do you envision in retirement? Do you and your partner plan to travel a lot? A little? Do you plan to continue working, in some fashion, in later life? Will volunteer work fill a good portion of your time? Says Fidelity: “Lifestyle will dictate your budget, which will help drive your saving and planning strategy.”

Where do you want to live? This is frequently one of the biggest areas of disagreement between partners. One person might be ready to move to a dream destination – the beach, the mountains, the city – while the other is perfectly content to stay close to loved ones. One possible solution, according to Fidelity: Couples may want to “compromise by taking some affordable trips, but coming back to a home base to spend time with family.”


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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.