Study: Spouses Influence Retirement Decisions — And Satisfaction

Written by: Jack Boylan

A recent study shows that it is important that spouses are in sync when it comes to retirement expectations. While the University of Missouri research is firmly in the “no kidding” category of “scientific” studies, the topic is still worth discussing. When retirement finally arrives, many people may find that their expectations are different than their daydreams about it. One anecdote that is fairly common is that retirees are surprised to find how quickly the extra time is filled with activities. Dreams of golfing every day followed by carefree times on the 19th hole may end up being sparser than imagined. Work around the house, trips to the store, and even just the time to make breakfast and lunch may end up cutting into the day more than one thinks. And of course just lolling around the house and watching television may be more appealing than it used to be. But, however your retirement turns out it is very helpful if your spouse feels the same way as you do:

“Sometimes individuals have unrealistic expectations about what retirement will be like. Individuals can envision retirement one way, but if their spouses don’t envision retirement the same way, it can be problematic. Talking to your spouse about retirement before you leave the workforce is important in reducing conflict.”

Well, there is that “no kidding” factor that I was talking about, but while it may be obvious it doesn’t diminish its importance. It may be even more true if one spouse has already retired (or never formally worked), as they already have a schedule. As the “new” guy (or girl) at home all day it may set up a bit of a conflict. Still and all, it is difficult to believe that most couples haven’t discussed their plans even a little bit. The study goes on to cite such revelations as men with higher incomes were more likely to make plans for retirement. Ummm…yeah. As those without higher incomes may have difficulty retiring, it would seem to be logical that they were making less plans.

While the research seems a bit on the goofy side (though be sure to read it for yourself) it does hit upon a common sense approach. If you love to travel and can’t wait to retire and hit the cruise ship, it may be nice to make sure that your spouse doesn’t have golf or bridge club commitments that are difficult to break. Again, obvious stuff, but it sure won’t hurt to make sure that your vision of retirement matches up with your spouses. Probably more important is that your own expectations are met. Everyone knows a story from a retiree that did not look forward to stopping work who ends up loving it. And the opposite can happen too, although maybe less common, where the retiree quickly gets antsy and must return to some form of work. Whichever direction on that spectrum that you end up in, there tend to be plenty of activities available to keep you busy. And as the research suggests, it will be even that much better if you let your spouse know your idea of what a great retirement will be.


Study: Spouses Influence Retirement Decisions —...

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