Retirement and your relationship: 6 steps to get in sync with your spouse

If you’re not on the same page as your spouse when it comes to retirement, it may seem like a difficult road ahead. But according to Nick Holeman, a certified financial planner at Betterment, couples don’t always have to see eye to eye.

“It’s ok for you to have differences, but having that discussion and seeing things from your spouse’s perspective can go a long way,” Holeman says.

Holeman shares his six steps for getting in sync with your spouse about retirement.

STEP 1: Set goals for yourself first

Holeman says it’s important to know your own goals for retirement.

“We found a lot of people haven’t clearly articulated what retirement means to them, and there’s a whole different range of things it can mean for a lot of people,” he says. “If you don’t have clear goals for yourself when it comes to retirement, it will be hard to articulate what you want to anyone else.”

STEP 2: Make your goals clear and specific

Holeman says people find retirement planning daunting because it’s too broad of a goal. Instead, he suggests honing in on exactly what you want and how you plan to spend your time.

“Instead of saying, ‘I want to save for retirement,’ say, ‘I want to retire at age 60, I want to spend $80,000 a year, I want to be able to visit my grandkids and go on vacation,’ ” Holeman says. “That’s a much more concrete goal that you can set concrete steps to achieve.”

“Having clear and well-defined goals really helps you internalize what you’re saving for,” he says.

STEP 3: Share your goals with your spouse

Once you know what you want, you can start the discussion with your spouse and see where your goals match and where you may need to compromise, Holeman says.

“That whole retirement discussion with your spouse comes down to a lifestyle choice: Where will you be living, what kinds of activities will you be doing? Those things determine how much you need to save,” Holeman says.

Holeman recommends having the conversation early and often so you can work on ironing out your differences long before you actually retire.

STEP 4: Implement a plan

Holeman says that once you’re aligned on how you’ll spend your retirement and how much you need to save, it’s time to decide how to start planning.

“How much you save is only one of many levers you have,” Holeman says. “You can increase how much you’re saving today, you can retire later, you can work part time—there are all these different variables you can adjust to compromise and make sure you’re on track.”

STEP 5: Decide where you compromise

If you’re having difficulty finding common ground or are arguing over what you should be doing to save, Holeman recommends discussing each of your priorities so you can decide where to compromise.

“Not everybody is going to see eye to eye on everything, so it’s better to be upfront about the things you really aren’t willing to compromise,” Holeman says. “Then you can focus your time and effort and money on other tasks.”

This might mean adjusting expectations for where you’ll live and how much longer you’ll stay in the workforce, Holeman explains.

STEP 6: Keep communication open to retirement and beyond

Holeman says it’s important to remember that financial discussions don’t end once you reach retirement.

“You still have a lot of financial decisions to talk about, and you have to maintain that openness and transparency,” Holeman says. “Make sure that talking about money isn’t an off-limits discussion in your household.”


How to convince your reluctant spouse to save for retirement

Here’s how to calculate your full retirement age

Retirement mistakes to avoid in your 20s and 30s