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Are Your Retirement Plans Still Muddled?

Ten “must-have” conversations regarding retirement 


Seventy-eight million baby boomers, and many more on the older fringe, are pioneering a new life stage characterized by living and working longer, developing encore careers, and taking advantage of opportunities for growth in the second half of life. In the twenty-first century, we are being challenged to redefine retirement and reinvent ourselves in order to live our version of “the good life”—­having financial security, access to adequate health care, and enjoying a sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging as we get older. We are experiencing personal change and questioning how to continue to grow as individuals, and as couples, in this new life stage. The question for each of us is: “How do I want to live the next part of my life?”

We believe that, ultimately, what you are retiring to becomes more important than what you are retiring from, and that it involves a process of letting go of what is no longer necessary, while opening the space for creating what will come next.

What does this mean for couples? How can couples continue to grow and redefine themselves, and their relationships, as they transition to the next part of life together? How do dual-career couples make decisions about when to retire, whether to retire together or separately, or if they can afford to retire at all? And how do individual needs, desires, and dreams fit in?

Realizing we couldn’t answer those questions for every couple, we developed a list of ten discussion topics, drawn from our experience as clinicians, that we believe all couples—and individuals—need to have when it comes to retirement planning.

Ten “Must-Have” Conversations regarding retirement 

  1. If, when, and how to retire: Twice the husband, half the income
  2. Let’s talk about money: Finances without fighting
  3. Changing role and identifiers: I don’t do windows
  4. Time together, time apart: I love you and I need my space
  5. Intimacy and romance: Love birds
  6. Relationships with family: The theory of relativity
  7. Health and wellness: Will Medicare pay for the spa?
  8. Choosing where and how to live: Staying put or exploring new frontiers
  9. Social life, friends, and community: I signed us up for hip hop
  10. Purpose, meaning, and giving back: What’s it all about. 

Obviously, these conversations will be as unique as each couple, so we suggest you begin by completing the Couple’s Quiz: Are You Ready for Retirement? (see below) and then work your way through the 10 conversations. Remember to be patient with each other and to be honest and open. Happy transitioning!

The couple’s quiz: are you ready for retirement?

Are you and your partner on the same page when it comes to retirement, or are you reading different books? This simple quiz will help you get a quick glimpse into how each of you views your communication.

Instructions: Put a T before any of the statements below you believe are true. Notice the areas that you may want to talk more about. Do the quiz separately, and then share your results.

— We have talked about our timetable for retirement.

— We make financial decisions together.

— We know that our roles may change as we go through transition.

— Having time together and time apart is important to both of us.

— Intimacy and affection are an important part of our relationship.

— We agree on our obligations and responsibilities to family.

— We have planned for future medical and healthcare needs.

— We talk about lifestyle and where we may want to live.

— Social and community connections are a satisfying part of our lives.

— We have shared values and know what’s important to each other.

Where do you fall on the scale below? How many T’s do you have in common? Remember, this is meant to be a helpful tool for opening up communication. It’s not a measure of your relationship. Once you’ve figured out where you are in the process, you can work on the areas that need attention.


10  Give each other a big hug. You’re ready to write the “how-to” book for couples.

7–­9 Sounds like you’re in sync. Ongoing communication is important as you plan for “what’s next.”

4–­6 You’re on the right track. Practice listening to each other and share what’s important to each of you.

1–­3 You’re not alone. Many couples need help being able to talk about important issues related to retirement and “what’s next.”

We hope this helps you begin the in-depth conversations needed to un-muddle your retirement plans—and that together you figure out what’s best for both of you in the coming years.

Reprinted courtesy of Sourcebooks, Inc.

Roberta K. Taylor RNCS,MeD and Dorian Mintzer, MSW,PhD are authors of The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must­Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together, a user-friendly guide for couples transitioning into their next phase of life.


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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