How to Handle Retirement When One Spouse is Still Working

Many people think of retirement as a time for pursuing their interests or hobbies, traveling, and bettering their overall lives. However, when one spouse retires before another, that can bring resentment and marriage issues. How can your relationship survive when one person retires and the other is still working?

Retirement can be a relationship killer

The idea that retirement can be detrimental to a relationship is shocking to some. However, with the rise of “gray divorce”-that is, divorce amongst people age 50 and older-you can see a connection (remember: rebuilding finances after a divorce is doable, but can be tricky). When one partner retires before the other, it’s essential that both spouses are on board with the new changes.

How does retirement affect a marriage?

A spouse retiring before their partner can potentially create new issues and exacerbate old ones. Resentfulness can occur, so it’s essential to fix these potential problems before they happen.

You will need to go over a handful of scenarios before someone in the marriage retires including finances and budgeting and adjusting to a new routine. If possible, you’ll want to slowly transition into a new schedule and make budget tweaks.

Transitioning to a different schedule

If it is possible, the spouse who is planning on retiring first should try to ease the transition by slowing down at work, but not fully retiring. This gives time to plan for any schedule changes and what it will look like for you as a couple.

Transitioning to a different schedule can also look like waking up with your partner when they get up to go to work, making their breakfast or lunch, or doing things that make their daily life easier while they are still working. This will help to cut down on any resentment that is building and can make your relationship stronger.

Come up with a budget

You need to know now if you can survive on one spouse’s retirement and one spouse’s income. This will take some tweaks, so it’s something you should experiment with before one of you retires. Take three to six months to live off of what that income will look like and plan accordingly.

Should couples plan to retire together?

With all of these potential issues cropping up, should couples just always plan to retire together? doesn’t recommend it in the following cases:

  1. You’re not old enough to qualify for Medicare.
  2. You don’t have enough income to comfortably cover retirement expenses.
  3. You need to improve your retirement savings.
  4. You want to increase your Social Security benefit.
  5. Your retirement income doesn’t support the lifestyle you want.
  6. Your job isn’t killing you.

Gray divorce and divorce after retirement is not often discussed. Baby Boomers have stuck with their spouses for decades, so the thought of divorcing once it’s time to retire is jarring. However, if other aspects of your relationship are working, you can get through one spouse working while the other is retired-you just need some open communication and budget tweaks.

If you’re concerned about how retirement will affect your relationship, consider speaking with a fiduciary financial advisor. They’ve seen couples go through this and can offer their advice. Finally, keep yourself updated on strategies that increase retirement happiness as that can keep your relationship healthy.

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