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Five Topics to Discuss With Your Spouse Before You Retire

You may have a vision for your retirement, but does your spouse share that vision? Spouses often disagree about many key retirement details. It is important to work together to come up with a plan you both can accept.

A 2011 study by Fidelity Investments found that many husbands and wives are not in accord about retirement. For example, the study found that one-third of couples disagreed or don’t know where they were going to live in retirement and 62 percent didn't agree on their expected retirement ages.

Here are some important things to discuss with your spouse as you get ready to retire:

  1. Timing of retirement. There are many factors that can go into a decision about when to retire, including job enjoyment and financial needs. But couples also need to think about how best to maximize their Social Security benefits. Because Social Security doesn't just pay benefits to a worker but also pays benefits to the worker's spouse, couples need to work together to figure out how to get the most out of their Social Security benefits. For example, a husband can wait until his full retirement age to take benefits on his wife's record. When he does, he can get half of her full benefit. The husband can then wait until age 70 to file on his own work record. At that point, the wife can file a spousal benefit on his record. Each circumstance is different and couples should talk to a financial planner about the best strategy for them.  For more on Social Security’s spousal benefits, click here.
  2. Finances.The first hurdle is that both spouses need to understand their financial situation. The Fidelity survey found that wives were much less involved in retirement finances than their husbands. Both spouses need a clear understanding of their finances and whether they are working in sync.
  3. Type of lifestyle. What do you expect to get out of retirement? Do you want to travel? Do you want to volunteer? Or do you want to relax on a beach somewhere? It is important to have a conversation about your hopes and dreams for retirement. You can start the process by creating individual wish lists and then comparing them.
  4. Health care. Make sure you and your spouse have adequate health care coverage either from Medicare or an employer-based plan. You also need to understand the rules regarding Medicare coverage. For more information about Medicare, click here. For more information about when to sign up for Medicare, click here.
  5. Long-term care. Unfortunately, most couples are going to need some type of long-term care for either one spouse or both spouses at some point. There are things you can do to make it easier on yourselves if this need arises. Talk to your elder law attorney about putting a plan together. Doing it early will save lots of headaches and expense later.

To read about the Fidelity study, click here.

For a retirement planning checklist from Fidelity, click here.